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Healthy Indian Takeout: 8 Tips For Making Smarter To-Go Choices

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/20/2012 11:39 am

Indian food might not be as ubiquitous as more common takeout cuisines like Chinese food or pizza, but the spicy, South Asian cuisine is on the rise. Sales of Indian food in the U.S. rose by 35 percent from 2006 to 2008, and there are more than 350 Indian restaurants in New York City now, compared to only 18 just 30 years ago, according to Men's Health.

But just because it's growing in popularity doesn't mean you're familiar with all the choices on the menu or know how they stack up, nutrition-wise. We asked Heather Bauer, R.D., C.D.N., author of "Bread is the Devil" and a HuffPost blogger, to take us through some of her favorite tips and tricks for making the healthiest choices when ordering Indian. Click through her suggestions below, then tell us your top tip for making healthier takeout choices in the comments.

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  • Weigh Your Carb Options

    There are a few different varieties of breads or thin, crispy, cracker-like eats you'll see on Indian menus. But one stands out among the rest, according to Bauer. "Roti is the smartest choice, because that's the whole-wheat one," she says. But even a couple of crispy, fried papadums are better than the empty calories in naan bread, she says. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/goosmurf/2196696055/" target="_hplink">goosmurf</a></em>

  • Start Fresh

    "Samosas are delicious, but they're deep-fried," Bauer says, so they're not a great pick for an appetizer. A soup or a green salad is a smarter starter. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bitterjug/789824229/" target="_hplink">Bitterjug</a></em>

  • Don't Overdo It On Rice

    It's easy to eat more rice than you realize when you pair it with flavorful dishes brimming with tasty sauces, but keep in mind that a serving is about the size of your fist, says Bauer. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/raver_mikey/5561835580/" target="_hplink">Gene Hunt</a></em>

  • Go For Grilled

    It may sound obvious, but learn which dish names refer to grilled, rather than fried meats. "Anything tandoori -- that's just oven-grilled -- is always a winner," says Bauer, and there's usually a vegetarian tandoori option, as well as various dishes with lean proteins like chicken or shrimp. <br><br> If you like a little more flavor, try a chicken or shrimp tikka dish, she says, which is still grilled but prepared with tomato flavoring. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/3268339088/" target="_hplink">thebittenword.com</a></em>

  • Skip The Creamy Sauce

    That's <em>tikka</em>, not tikka masala. The classic dish, while tasty, is drenched in sauce that's often prepared with a heavy hand on the <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-tikka-masala/" target="_hplink">butter and cream</a>. <br><br> If you just <em>have</em> to dip your meat or bread in something, Bauer recommends opting for <a href="http://eatthis.menshealth.com/content/10-ways-eat-healthy-indian-restaurant?article=10&page=1" target="_hplink">raita</a>, a yogurt-based sauce similar to tzatziki, <em>Men's Health</em> explains, that's rich in protein. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/saucesupreme/4852025409/" target="_hplink">Ron Dollete</a></em>

  • Spice Is Nice

    Some of the classic flavors in Indian food, like turmeric, cumin and coriander, pack some pretty impressive health benefits -- and add a punch to your meal without extra calories. Turmeric may have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/spices-health_n_1085099.html#s461534&title=Turmeric" target="_hplink">cancer-fighting properties</a>, YouBeauty reported. Cumin is a surprising source of iron, Health.com reported, and also may <a href="http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410258,00.html" target="_hplink">help with digestion</a>. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/patio/5219410863/" target="_hplink">comicpie</a></em>

  • Pick Paneer

    If you're on the hungrier side, Bauer recommends a <a href="http://www.food.com/recipe/palak-paneer-indian-fresh-spinach-with-paneer-cheese-25348" target="_hplink">palak</a> or saag paneer dish. Both are made with heart-healthy leafy greens (often spinach) and protein-rich paneer cheese. If you're concerned about fat content, you can even ask to hold the paneer, Bauer says. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dongkwan/3453320539/" target="_hplink">VirtualErn</a></em>

  • Careful With Curries

    Curry powder and other spicy flavors in Indian dishes that contain capsaicin, the compound that gives cayenne and chili peppers their kick, are full of antioxidants and can actually <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/04/how-to-improve-your-metabolism-_n_818356.html" target="_hplink">jumpstart your metabolism</a>. In fact, eating a spicy meal can boost your body's burn <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joanna-dolgoff-md/metabolism-boosting-food_b_902121.html#s315856&title=Spicy_Peppers_Jalapenos" target="_hplink">by 25 percent for up to three hours after dessert</a>, writes child obesity specialist and HuffPost blogger <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joanna-dolgoff-md" target="_hplink">Joanna Dolgoff, M.D.</a> <br><br> Sprinkling some spice on a dish is different from using it in a creamy sauce, however, Bauer warns. Saucy takeout curries are often made with added fat and are high in calories, she says. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ayk/" target="_hplink">yajico</a></em>

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