Is it ok to eat Punjabi Food (or Indian food) on a fitness journey?
Many Punjabis, Indians and others from the Indian sub continent turn away from our own cultural food when on a health and fitness journey. Don’t!
There is nothing wrong with vegetables, lentils and the rare palette of ginger, turmeric, garlic and onions which we use so frequently. Quite frankly the western world is still slow to catch onto such amazing foods.
If protein is a concern for you may I point out this very typical plate has around 35g protein. 100g lentils (25g protein), 3 wholemeal chappatis (9g protein). Protein certainly isn’t a concern to me. There is also plenty of vitality, fibre and some olive and coconut oil for healthy fats.
Just to be clear I’m in no way advocating a pakora and samosah diet 😂
There are some fundamentally wrong things about the way Punjabis and Indians eat. The diets are very similar although regionally alter slightly. Most foods are drowning in oils for cooking and the excessive sugar and salt is another issue. However, the basis of what we eat is amazing and if our plates can be simplified (less oil, less spices, less salt and sugar, more protein) then the meals are quite rounded and nutritious.
- Lightly cook vegetables and don’t black out your thorka and kill off all nutrients.
- Use less oil, you don’t need more than a few teaspoons.
- Thicken out your daal! If I wanted a bowl of brown water I’d ask for it, lentils means lentils.
- Stick to wholemeal flour for chapatis instead of fried patooreh or heavily buttered paronthe.
- Try new fillings in your paronthe (I kind of get this is a staple of Punjabi food). Try lightly cooking with a touch of olive oil and not frying. New fillings might spice things up too, try paneer or soya mince for extra protein. Of course adding greek yoghurt instead of normal yoghurt bumps up the protein content too.
- There’s a reason most people walk away from Indian weddings and restaurants with bad stomachs, it’s so heavy in oil and masalas. Keep these meals for rare treats otherwise stay away from them (fried foods).
1. Oatmeal (or Dhalia) is a staple meal of a Punjabi diet, usually a night-time dessert. I advise thickening it out, eating more oats instead of a bowl full of milk. You can add fruits and cinnamon (pictured) as well as honey for extra benefits.
2. Rice is also common. Here I have a mattar paneer style TOFU Curry with rice. It’s made exactly the same way as paneer but is a vegan friendly option. Simple, tasty and filled with protein! I tend to have set portion sizes of rice (roughly 250g). This gives me 70g carbs and 10g protein. I usually add a tin of mixed beans, lentils or tofu curry making it a high protein meal and excellent for those looking to increase muscle mass and strength.
3. Vegetarian stir fry with meat pieces (QUORN I believe) with 3 wholemeal chapatis and almonds. Peanut butter on the side also for the extra calories. 1 chapati (of course it varies dependant on size and thickness) can contain around 120 calories, 20g Carbs, 3-4g Protein and some fat too depending on how much you butter it.
4. Here’s a delicious meal. 200g of Rice, 200g of Kala Channa with roughly two sweet potatoes and 150g Broccoli (hardly an Indian meal – I know). Just wanted to quickly point out that if you’re not getting everything you need from a meal, whether it’s fats, protein or carbs you can add stuff to a typically Indian meal. Kala Chana and rice is about as simple as it gets. I added a green because I didn’t have enough that day and sweet potato for the extra carbs. Plenty of protein without even trying!
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