Wednesday 28 September 2016

Is it possible to order a healthy Indian takeaway in Ireland?

With a chicken korma containing a massive 1,250 calories, the average Indian meal far exceeds healthy guidelines, so Emily Diebold took the challenge of ordering a takeaway that didn’t break the calorie bank

Emily Diebold

Published 25/11/2015 | 08:44

Emily Diebold, her husband David and children Jessica, Sammy, Zackery and Jonathon who divided an Indian takeaway for three among the whole family.
Emily Diebold, her husband David and children Jessica, Sammy, Zackery and Jonathon who divided an Indian takeaway for three among the whole family.

A new report came out last week about the calories, fat and salt content in Indian takeaway.

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It was conducted by Ulster University on behalf of Safefood and it isn’t pretty.

According to the report, the average order of a main course, rice and a starter contains far more calories than an adult’s daily requirements and twice the recommended maximum level of fat and salt. It recommends that a typical portion of korma, or any cream-based sauce, should be shared by two and that peshwari naan bread should be divided by four.

I didn’t think this would sit very well with my family. We all like Indian food as our local Indian takeaway (Bombay House in Skerries) is excellent. Usually, we would order five meals between the six of us and maybe five portions of rice/pilau rice and a few other extras.

If we were to order the usual and stick within the recommended amount of calories, we would have to eat nothing else for the entire day and very little the day after. To reduce the calorie count, we would all have to share. This is not greeted with approval.

After the initial (unresolved) arguments about who would agree to share with who, and who actually gets to decide what to order, the dispute then switches to how many calories is the actual recommended amount.

As they are all stick skinny, this has never really come up before. But after a little research, the eldest triumphantly announces that everyone else is allowed more than me as I am a female in the 31-50 age bracket. He also points out that, in just a few years, I’ll be in an even worse age bracket and allowed even less food. However, the allowances are not just determined by age, but also by how active you are.

“What’s sedentary?” pipes up the youngest boy. The oldest reads the google definition from his phone: “A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle with no or irregular physical activity. A person who lives a sedentary lifestyle may colloquially be known as a ‘slob’ or ‘couch potato’. It is commonly found in both the developed and developing world.”

“Well that’s you lot then. Sorry about that,” I pronounce.

As they all spend most of their time lolling around on computers and I walk the dogs and go to the gym, I deduct some calories from all of them and raise my own, making us all almost exactly the same. According to my new revised calculations, an evening meal for the six of us should be about 6,500 calories.

This severely restricts our choices for ordering. We decide to go with the options in the report. These are the most popular dishes ordered at Indian takeways. There are three starters — onion bhaji, chicken pakora and chicken tikka; three main courses — chicken tikka masala, chicken korma and chicken jalfrezi; and there is also an assortment of side dishes — boiled rice, pilau rice, plain naan; peshwari naan and poppadoms.

We order one of everything. This would be an average order for three people and (according to the average portions in the report) totals 6,531 calories.

Verdict

When the food arrives, it looks like quite a lot. The discussion over who would eat what was never resolved, so I divide everything into six. One portion of boiled rice divided into six does not take up much room on the plate, but with everything together, it doesn’t look so bad.

However, when we are finished eating, the only person full is my 14-year-old daughter. She has even left some on her plate. Of the others, the eldest says he’s alright, for now.

The youngest boy says he could eat more but is satisfied. The middle boy just gives a shrug. It turns out he had only had his lunch about an hour or so beforehand as he tends to get up late on Sundays. My husband says he could eat the same again.

Usually, we have quite a lot left over, but this time, there is nothing. The cost, however, is considerably less, so from my point of view, that is a good thing.

Generally, we all know that takeout food is not a healthy option. This is fine, as long as we don’t order it all the time. It seems that Indian food is not really any worse than other takeout food.

Over the past three years, Safefood has done reports into other takeaway foods and they are all about the same: a typical Chinese takeaway, consisting of a portion of vegetable spring rolls and sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice, provides approximately 2,184 calories. An average 12” deep-base pepperoni pizza is 1,800, and a quarter pounder, chips and medium soft drink would be about 1,480 calories.

The Safefood advice is not to avoid takeaways, just order less often and in moderation.

Overall, I don’t think the report on Indian takeaway will actually have any affect at all on how our family orders Indian food — except that we are quite likely to order onion bhajis again. We hadn’t tried it before and all decided we liked it.

Maybe when I do get into the next age category, or give up the gym, I might have to reconsider.

Herald

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