Cooking low calorie meals is easy if you keep your kitchen stocked with these 20 ingredients. Not only will you find yourself using less salt, sugar, oil and grease, you'll find that each dish tastes better as well. So let's get started - presenting, the 20 best ingredients for low calorie cooking in the Indian kitchen.
Cinnamon: We know cinnamon as dalchini, and use it to add flavour to Indian curries. But grind those cinnamon sticks, or better still just buy ground cinnamon, and you've got a great natural sweetener for baking, teas and snacks.
Coriander: Loaded with vitamins and minerals, coriander is ever-present in Indian kitchens. Use coriander to lightly flavour dishes after cooking, without relying on greasy spices to do the job.
Olive oil: Replace your ordinary vegetable oil with Olive oil and you would already have taken the first step toward low calorie cooking. Olive oil helps you keep the dish's overall calorie count low.
Portion cups: Don't let sensationalist health news rob you of common sense. Clever portions can make or break a good weight control plan. Invest in a good collection of spoon and bowl measures, now available in every neighbourhood kitchen store.
Whole wheat: Every Indian kitchen has this important ingredient. The difference is in making its use more versatile. Use whole wheat in dishes that call for refined flour or maida and your dish will be lower in calories and higher in nutrient power.
Honey: While honey is still a type of sugar, it is infinitely healthier than white and powdered sugar. Lower the calorie count in each dessert and sweet snack by using honey as a substitute for unhealthy sugar.
Brown rice: This is an excellent alternative to fried cereal accompaniments, white rice, and refined flour cereals (readymade dosas, idlis, etc). Not only will your overall calorie count go down, brown rice will also add extra fiber to your meals and help in better digestion.
Powdered spices: Cutting down on salt will also help cutting back on unnecessary calories. Powdered spices help you do just that. Another plus point lies in the fact that you no longer need to stir any whole spice in oil. Just add vegetables or leant meat and add powdered spices on top.
Water: Yes, you read write - water should be your best friend if you plan on doing some low calorie cooking. Substitute extra oil with water, but do it cleverly. Instead of adding it right in the beginning, add it when the ingredients sweat a little.
Yogurt: Yogurt or curd is an excellent addition to Indian curries. And when it comes to keeping the calorie counts down, yogurt trumps even low-fat cream.
Fresh fruits: Love fruit flavours and don't want to spend your calorie budgets on sugar-heavy preserves and canned syrups? How about trying some fresh fruits? Use fresh peaches, pears, mangoes, plums, berries, and oranges for healthy, low calorie desserts, and you're building a great calorie track record already.
Fresh greens: All vegetables are great for low calorie cooking, but fresh greens win hands down. They reduce bulk and therefore reduce calories. Add a handful to every dish and you'll feel yourself getting fuller on fewer calories.
Fresh lean meat: Smoked and cured meat in cans and store-bought packages are usually high in calories. Replace these with lean meat cuts. Invest in a steady supply of chicken breast fillets, fish fillets, meat strips, and other such options.
Oats: Not nearly used as much as it can, oats get the third degree in Indian kitchens. We either use oats for tasteless healthy breakfasts or mix with so much cream in desserts that their health benefits vaporize. Use oats instead of refined flour in baking (with a little flour thrown in for the needed gluten factor) and every dish will be lower in calories.
Ginger: When trying to cook low calorie dishes, potent spices that pack a punch with flavour are your best friends. In this department, ginger wins every time.
Garlic: Another great spice that flavours your dishes without needing much oil or salt to help infusion, garlic is a great addition for any low calorie kitchen.
Milk: Craving a fattening milkshake, a cup of creamy cocoa, or some sinful white sauce with that cup of fuseli? Guess what, you can have all that with milk - good wholesome, low calorie milk. All you need is a good blender for the milkshake, a spoon of dark chocolate for the cocoa, and a tablespoon of cornflour with 1tbs butter for a great white sauce.
Natural stock: Stock cubes for meat, poultry, fish or even vegetarian dishes are usually high on calories because of preservatives. Dig out some stock recipes and make your own instead! All you need is some boiling water, flavouring agents like celery, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, bones, shells, etc and your low calorie stock is ready.
Cooking spray: A good nonstick cooking spray can save you many calories in the kitchen. Invest in one that is easy to reload. Many first time cooks make the rookie mistake of buying one-time-use cooking sprays. Make sure what you buy is a dispenser that you can fill on your own.
Eggs: Every kitchen and diet must, at least, include egg whites. If you're a vegetarian, then replace this ingredient with some soy or more, many more, greens. Use boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, whipped eggs, curried eggs, omelets, for nutritious meals and low calorie additions. If you're paranoid about the egg yolks, then discard them and use the whites for their thickening, and otherwise nutritious properties.