Eat well on a South Asian diet 

Traditional South Asian foods can be high in fat and salt, but with a few simple changes they can be made healthier without losing flavour. Find out how in this video.

More about South Asian health

Transcript of Eat well on a South Asian diet

The traditional South Asian diet can actually be very healthy.

There are so many healthy traditional ingredients,

such as an array of spices, such as ginger and garlic,

the dhals, chana, moong, rice, wholemeal atta

chana atta, jowar or millett or bajra atta,

loads of delicious vegetables such as bhindi and brinjal

and exotic fruits like papaya and mango.

So it's possible to eat really healthily.

The problem is, we eat perhaps too much in terms of portion size

and we need to be careful of our cooking methods.

People from South Asian communities, especially men,

tend to be more at risk of heart disease than the wider population.

Also, when you're more overweight, you're more at risk of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is far more common within South Asian communities

compared to the wider population.

Food plays a huge part within our community structure,

but it is important to be careful to cut down on portion sizes, fats and sugars

to help us lose weight.

If you use ghee or butter in cooking,

it's healthier to swap to an unsaturated oil

such as rapeseed or corn oil or sunflower oil.

We tend to pour oil straight from the bottle

because that's how our recipes have been handed down.

But it's far better measure.

Measure what you're doing now using a tablespoon

and gradually start to use less.

Aim for about one to two tablespoons of oil

for a dish that serves about four to six people.

If you're worried that your onions and spices will burn in the pan

because you're adding less oil,

add some hot water or even lime or lemon juice,

and that will prevent it from sticking.

Traditionally, when we cook a meat curry,

we might fry the onion and spices,

but there is enough moisture and fat in the meat

for you to put everything in the pot together and cook a delicious curry.

After cooking a curry, we often get this oily layer on top.

You can reduce the oil by skimming it off with a spoon

or using a kitchen towel just to dab the excess oil.

Some of the ingredients we use are high in fat, especially saturated fat.

But there are some simple swaps we can make.

For example, swap fatty meats for the leanest meat you can afford

and avoid the skin on poultry.

Foods like paneer which are full fat,

it's very difficult to find low-fat alternative for unless you like tofu.

But perhaps use less or eat it less often.

Swap creamed coconut for a lighter coconut milk.

If you're using cream in dishes like korma,

try a Greek yoghurt or a low-fat natural yoghurt instead.

If you're in the habit of spreading butter or ghee on roti or chapatis,

why don't you try this?

Just spread it on one of the chapatis,

put the other one on top and rub them together.

That way you're cutting it by half.

We tend to fry samosas.

You might have tried grilling them, but that doesn't taste very good.

Here's a tip. Brush some oil over both sides of the samosa

and bake them in the oven.

When they come out, they're brown and crispy

and will have absorbed much less fat

than they would have if you'd deep fried them.

Avoid fried snacks like jeera, gantia, sev.

Try a handful of nuts or some fresh fruit instead.

Sugary foods tend to also be high in fat and calories,

so they're not very useful if you're trying to lose weight.

Within the South Asian community,

there's always an excuse to eat some mithai

like barfi, gulab jamun or penda

because there's a wedding or a religious festival or the birth of a baby.

All this mounts up.

The idea is to choose them less often,

and when you do eat these sweets, eat less.

People often drink glucose drinks or blackcurrant cordial

thinking that they need this for energy.

But it's just pure sugar and can make you put on weight.

Instead, try having diluted fruit juice

or any unsweetened fruit juice once a day with a meal.

Eating too much salt can make you more at risk of high blood pressure.

When we cook, we tend to pour salt straight from the container.

How about measuring it with a teaspoon and gradually using less?

We have so many delicious spices such as garam masala, haldi, jeera, dhania,

that we can use to flavour food.

Even lime and lemon juice can help you to use less salt.

Being active is a necessary part of helping you to manage your weight.

This doesn't need to be formal exercise

like joining a gym or taking up a new sport.

It could be as simple as walking your children to school,

kicking a ball in the garden or doing some vigorous housework.

It isn't that difficult if you take it gradually, if you choose small steps.

Managing your weight can help reduce conditions

such as diabetes and heart disease.

You can do this by making simple changes yet still eat your traditional foods.


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