Guest Blog: Boost Your Favorite Desi Meals with Nutrition

Samina Qureshi is the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Wholesome Start. Her nutrition counseling practice is based in Houston, Texas and she provides virtual nutrition counseling sessions to clients across the country. Schedule your FREE 15-minute nutrition session today!

Mifra Yaseen

Guest Blog by intern Mifra Yaseen:

Mifra Yaseen is currently a senior at the University of Houston, studying Nutrition. She is looking forward to getting into a dietetic internship to begin working towards her goal of becoming a registered dietitian.

Growing up in a desi home, my go-to comfort food naturally became traditional Indian/Pakistani dishes. These dishes are woven so deeply in me, it’s almost as if they are in my DNA, and there’s nothing like a hot n’ spicy sizzling curry with steaming naan to complete my day. All foods are nutritious and have their own specific nutritional profiles, but there are ways to boost the nutrition provided and maximize the nutrients you give to your body. This can easily be done by making your meals balanced by including a serving a vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein. It’s not only a balance of macronutrients that makes your meals healthy, it’s the variety as well. Variety is key to achieving this balance, as the more colorful foods you consume, the more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you are providing for your body. Here are my favorite ways to boost my favorite desi dishes with quality nutrition to ensure a more balanced diet.


1. Side Dishes – The use of side dishes such as raitha or kachumber salad are excellent ways to diversify the food groups in your meal. They also go well with many different dishes, making them exceptionally versatile. Raitha is usually made with yogurt, cucumber, cilantro, green onions, and seasonings. Greek yogurt could be used to further enhance the nutritional content, and unique in that it contains protein, probiotics, vitamin B12, and calcium. On the other hand, kachumber salad is usually made with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon juice, and spices. For both of these side dishes, the ingredients can be personalized to preference.


2. Whole Wheat Flour - Naan or roti is one classic source of carbohydrates in our cuisine, and using whole wheat flour is a great way to incorporate more nutrients to any meal. This type of flour is high in nutrients that are essential to health, such as B vitamins, iron, zinc, as well as fiber.


3. Brown Rice – Similarly to exchanging out the main ingredient in naan or roti, changing from basmati rice to brown rice or quinoa is also a great way to enhance nutrition. Brown rice is highly nutritious and high in fiber, which will keep you fuller longer, increase the vitamins and minerals in your diet, and can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It contains phytochemicals, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium, which all have health promoting properties. Red and white quinoa can also be swapped out for rice and provides you with a boost of protein, vitamins, and minerals, such as iron, phosphorus, and riboflavin. This may sound like a simple swap, but it can have a powerful impact to the quality of nutrients you provide your body.


4. Avocado Oil - When cooking at home, you could switch to using avocado oil for any dish. Avocado oil is high in heart-healthy fats and is also a great source of an antioxidant called lutein that is good for eye health, and enhances the absorption of nutrients. Fat is an important component of our diet, and trying to eat a type with a more robust nutritional profile is beneficial, instead of completely cutting it out.


5. Nuts & Seeds – While I was visiting family in Pakistan, my cousin’s wife made the most delicious chana masala with sliced almonds. It was so unique, and the almonds added a bit of nutty flavor and complimented the dish. You could virtually add any sort of nuts or seeds to any curry such as cashews, pistachios, walnuts, chia or flax seeds, as well as almonds. Nuts and seeds contain protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins and minerals, making them a nutritious option. Additionally, nuts make a great snack as well, and you could spice them up with a combination of cumin, chili powder, and salt to get the flavors you enjoy.


6. Baking/Roasting – Baking or roasting foods in the oven reduces the amount of oil that is needed for frying. Frying foods in oils that have a low smoke point (olive oil, coconut oil, butter, sesame oil) can be harmful to our bodies as the oils deteriorate over time. You could try roasting your source of protein or vegetables in the oven and then adding them to the curry mixture to avoid using so much oil.


It’s common for people to think they need to cut out their favorite comfort foods to be healthy, but as you can see, all foods can fit into a healthy diet. Learning how to nourish your body without stress or guilt, and developing a healthier relationship with food is vital for mental and physical health. Overall, keep simple cooking techniques in mind, enhance your dishes with nutritious ingredients, and use side dishes to boost your nutrition. Healthy eating doesn’t mean getting rid of your favorite dishes. It’s all about eating a variety of foods and finding the balance that’s right for you!

Not sure how to nourish your body without stress or guilt? Schedule your FREE 15-min nutrition consult today to learn how to ditch diets for good, get back to enjoying your favorite foods, and reclaim your health! Be the first to know about the latest in nutrition and wellness by joining the Wholesome Start Tribe!