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It is a known fact that type 2 diabetes and other chronic metabolic disorders can be prevented and managed with a healthy diet and lifestyle changes. People with pre-diabetes have an opportunity to improve their health through balanced healthy meals before progressing to full blown diabetes. In today’s society, we are overwhelmed by fad diets and information overload which makes these diets difficult to sustain, when in reality eating a balanced diet that is tasty should not be complicated.

South Asians have a high risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity due to genetic factors and also consumption of a diet high in carbohydrates. Many South Asian Americans eat locally found processed foods in addition to the carbs found in their traditional foods, increasing their risk of chronic diseases. A large proportion of the Indian population is vegetarian and while vegetarian diets can be healthy, they can also be high in carbohydrates and low in protein. These diets traditionally consist of white rice, flat breads, and deep fried carbohydrate loaded snacks made from bleached flour, rice flour or lentil flour and stuffed with potato and peas.

Excess carbohydrates cannot be utilized by the muscles and gets stored as fat. This increases cholesterol production resulting in serious health problems.

However, traditional South Asian diets have many benefits as they are high in fiber and have a rich variety of vegetables and fruits, beans and nuts, and many gluten free grain options which help reduce gut inflammation. These diets also use a lot of spices, some of which have medicinal properties besides enhancing the taste of the food. These diets are typically characterized by a variety of fish and seafood and have little to no red meat.

Traditional South Asian diets can be made healthier by limiting refined grains and choosing whole grains such as brown or wild rice, cracked wheat, whole wheat couscous, barley, quinoa, millets (jowar, bajra and ragi), amaranth and steel cut oats. For those sensitive to gluten, use buckwheat, millets, quinoa, rice or amaranth. Also include fermented foods such as yogurts, Greek yogurt, pickled vegetables, fermented crepes (dosas) and idlis, keeping in mind that these foods still contain carbohydrates and one should be mindful of portion sizes.

It is important to include non-starchy vegetables to your diet to increase natural fiber content, which also helps with satiety.

It is vital to limit fried foods such as samosas, pakoras, chevdas, plaintain chips, spring rolls and egg rolls, which are mostly high in carbohydrates and fats. Eat fruit in moderation, limit desserts to special occasions, and avoid juices and sugary beverages, as they contain empty calories.

South Asians diets can be made to be very healthy, tasty and enjoyable if all the food groups are balanced and grouped together. Here is a chicken dish that can be enjoyed with a side of vegetables and a healthy starch.

Chicken Curry: The word curry comes from the Tamil word “ kari,” which means “ sauce”. Curry is commonly used to indicate a dish of vegetables and/or meat cooked with spices. Curry powder is a mixture of spices like turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, ginger and pepper.

Ingredients:

Chicken Breast: 2 lbs

Oil: 2 tbsp

Chopped Onion: 1 cup

Ginger paste: 1 tsp

Garlic: 1 tsp

Turmeric: ¼ tsp

Coriander powder: 3 tsp

Cumin powder: 1 tsp

Cayenne Pepper: 1 tsp

Black Pepper: ½ tsp

White Vinegar: 1 tsp

Salt: to taste

Cilantro (garnish): couple sprigs

Light Cream: 3 tbsp

Water: 1 ½ cups

 

Method:

  1. Clean and dry chicken pieces. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a pot, add ginger, garlic paste and saute for about 1 minute. In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander, black pepper, salt and white vinegar. Add this mixture to the pot and add a few drops of water if the mixture is very dry.
  3. Add onions and green chillies and saute for 3-4 min until brown.
  4. Add chicken pieces, cover, and cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add cream and a little water and simmer over low heat.

NUTRITION FACTS FOR CHICKEN CURRY:

EXCHANGES: ½ STARCH; 3 LEAN PROTEIN; 2 FAT

CALORIES: 250 KCAL; PROTEIN:21 GM; FAT:15 GM

  1. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with brown rice, Quinoa or whole wheat chapatti.

1 CUP OF BROWN RICE: CALORIES: 216 KCAL, PROTEIN: 5 GM, CARBOHYDRATES: 45 GM, FIBER: 3.5 GM

OR

1 CUP OF QUINOA: CALORIES: 169 KCAL, PROTEIN: 6 GM, CARBOHYDRATES: 32 GM, FIBER: 3 GM

0R

3 WHOLE WHEAT CHAPATIS: CALORIES: 210 KCAL; PROTEIN: 7.5 GM, CARBOHYDRATES: 45 GM, FIBER: 1.5 GM

 

by Asha Gullapalli, MS RD LDN CDE

 

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