Desi and healthy are considered to be two contradicting statements. Whenever we think of Desi Pakistani food, the first thing that comes to mind is a delicious chicken korma complete with floating oil on top. Or maybe some chicken Nihari and wait some Gulab Jamun with loads of sheera. Not to worry, here are some tips on how to make Desi food healthy. With a few changes in your cooking & eating habits you will be one step closer to adopting a healthy lifestyle – weight loss, increased stamina and fitness will follow naturally.
1. Use HEALTHIER oil and less of it
Yes, the recipe calls for one cup of oil. Do you really need all of it? Can you not skim off the top layer of oil before serving. Of course you can! If a recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, reduce it by 2 tbsp and then cook. You would need to add more liquid and cook on a lower heat so it doesn’t stick but after a few attempts you will get the hang of it. Additionally, start experimenting with healthier oils. Olive oil, coconut oil and Desi ghee are great substitutes. Just remember to keep the quantity low. Even if the oil is healthier doesn’t mean it’s completely fat-free.
2. Substitute hung curd for mayonnaise or cream
Take a kg of yoghurt and hang it in a muslin cloth. After a few hours what remains is a rich and creamy hung curd or greek yogurt. It’s a great substitute for mayonnaise in dips and as a spread for sandwiches. Alternatively it can be used in place of cream in marinades and handi’s. By draining the water, the final texture will be far creamier and richer without all the fat.
3. Fry less bake more
No matter what oil you use and no matter how well you drain your samosa’s they will always have more calories than anything that is cooked in minimal oil. Alternatively start baking or shallow frying. Invest in baking trays, cover with baking parchment or aluminum foil and then use either a spray or a pastry brush to apply minimal oil. Grilled chicken on Skewers, Chicken Tikka, Reshmi Kebab, Tikka Boti, Chicken Kebabs, Mutton Roast and Hunter Beef are just a few of the things that can easily be baked and taste absolutely delicious!
4. Craving a snack – look beyond the samosa
Yes, we all love samosa’s! But there’s far more to Desi snacks than just fried food. There’s chana chaat, dahi baray, lobia and rajma! Not only are they healthy but they a filling snack which will keep you full for hours. And yes, we know Dahi Bara’s are fried but they are also soaked in water which drains out the oil. Experiment with flavors and textures to make sure you don’t get bored – lobia chaat one day, rajma curry the next day, sufaid chole with aloo and tamatar another day and kalay chane on the weekend. Namkeen Dahi baray with lots of chaat for Sunday chai. Just avoid the sweet chutney’s and skip the papri.
5. Incorporate daal & sabzi in your diet
Start incorporating more vegetables and daal’s in your diet. Instead of just eating daal with rice, thin it a little bit and drink it like a soup. Nutritious, comforting and delicious. You can add some vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes & peas are a good) for some texture and add oats to thicken up the daal and give it a creamier taste. Add more vegetables to your diet, and no aloo gosht does not count. There’s okra, spinach, peas, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, capsicum and so many more. Just cook them in a little bit of olive oil with your basic array of spices – no need to bhonofy them till they turn into mush. Eating the basic kachumber salad of finely chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumbers is also a good idea – it’s refreshing, healthy and will fill you up.
6. Learn how to boil and steam
Not everything has to be fried and cooked in a lot of oil. Try out different cooking techniques like steaming and boiling which will also preserve the nutritional value of ingredients. Just make sure you add lots of spices and herbs to add flavor in your food. Boil chicken with lots of fresh ginger, cloves and black pepper. Drink the resulting chicken yakhni as a light snack. Add a pinch of turmeric for color. If you love green vegetables like spinach or cauliflower or broccoli blanch them in hot water for 30 seconds – 1 minute to preserve the color. Sauté them in a little bit of olive oil with spices for a delicious healthy meal. Additionally, you can try semi-steaming. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil, add chicken or vegetables and then cover with a lid to make a steam bath.
7. Eat a healthy breakfast
We know a lot of you will be rushing to school, office or for chores in the morning and sitting down to eat breakfast would be of low priority. But a healthy & filling breakfast will ensure you have the necessary energy to finish your chores in time. Brown bread, eggs (boiled egg or an omelet sautéed in olive oil), porridge, oats, granola, whole wheat paratha cooked in olive oil are just some of the options that you can think of. With all these carbs make sure you have some fresh fruits or maybe some raw munching vegetables. Just remember to keep your lunch light so you don’t feel too lethargic. A tablespoon of Desi Panjeeri in the morning full of suji & nuts is also a quick energy booster.
8. Go whole grain
The easiest way to start with a healthy lifestyle is simple substitution. Start using brown bread instead of white brand – the variety of brands available means more variety and a far greater chance of you finding a brand you prefer. Skip regular aata and start getting chakki ka aata – the additional fibre gives a chewier texture and aids in digestion as well. For rice, get a bag of brown rice and start experimenting. It is an acquired taste but once you start making it a few times you will start appreciating the healthy changes in your life. We know switching to a brown rice biryani might be tough, but that’s the goal. Someday!
Just remember that eating healthy means adopting a healthy lifestyle – making small changes in your eating habits that will lead to a long-term result. Going on crash diets or eliminating something from your diet that you really love will only lead to binge eating and bloating. So start small. If you eat two roti’s for lunch everyday, why don’t you eat 1 ½ roti tomorrow and then next week you can start eating 1 roti with a fresh salad. Similarly, if you drink a lot of chai and you add lots of sugar reduce it just a little bit everyday. Soon you will be drinking no sugar and your cup of tea will be a guilt-free pleasure!