Go Easy on the Ghee: Healthy Habits to Fight South Asian Obesity

“Obesity to affect 42 percent of Americans by 2030” was the startling statistic that started off my Monday morning. But I’m South Asian–I can’t possibly end up obese. South Asians are usually seen as very lean people, but lately that too is being challenged. Being the five-letter word—obese—is a threat that has actually prompted some South Asians to start measuring their bellies a little closer.

In order to make sure you have a healthy weight, check to make sure your body mass index (BMI) is where it is supposed to be. Using a calculator, determine whether you fall into the “danger” zone of being overweight (between 25-29.9) or obese (30+).

And because traditional South Asian cooking can be loaded with fattening tools, here are a few quick tricks to achieve tasty and traditional, but of a healthy variety:

  1. Instead of cooking with ghee or oils high in fat, cook with unsaturated oils, such as sunflower oil. Make sure to take measurements of the 1-3 tablespoons of oil being used for a family of 4-8–instead of using andaaz (estimating), by just pouring the oil straight into the pan. Tip: Afraid the masala, vegetables, or onions are going to burn by sticking to the pot because of less oil? Just add water or lime juice to both enhance the flavor and replace some of the excess oil.
  2. Instead of frying parathas or samosas, spread a little bit of oil on each side of the patty, and bake. This way you get not only the crunchy texture from frying but also the health benefits of just baking.
  3. Go easy on the salt. Because of the different flavors of the masala we use , by adding some more masala you can actually reduce the need for the extra salt. Fact: Many masalas have cleansing properties that can give your body the daily detox that it deserves!
  4. We love our sugars and with all the mithai and sweet dishes to choose from, it’s a little hard to kick the habit. How about replacing the post-dinner sweets and instead adding a little sugar to your dinner? By having a glass of diluted pure fruit juice, you can satisfy your sweet tooth and catch a cool break from a spicy meal.

    Whether for a quick snack or to accompany your meal, try these stuffed whole wheat parathas for a healthier take on the South Asian staple:


    Munia Islam is a contributing food writer at Divanee.com.

    @munsi13