How to Succeed at Eating Low Carb Desi Food

low carb desi food

Like many of you, one of my goals for this year is to get healthier and lose some weight. And again like many of you, I’ve tried ALL.THE.DIETS and nothing seems to stick. Except the weight, that is.

Ultimately, I decided to give the low-carb thing a shot again, mostly inspired by seeing others’ results and motivated by the fact that cheese would remain a part of my life. Not could, would.

I decided that this time around, instead of trying to become someone who effortlessly eats salads and grilled chicken breasts and all the typical diet-y meals (because I’m not), that I was going to incorporate more of the foods and meals I liked that were already low-carb friendly, especially desi foods. Yes folks, I was going to go on a low carb desi diet.

Now, you are probably thinking that low-carb and desi foods don’t belong in the same sentence, let alone on the same plate. After all, rice, bread, lentils and potatoes are mainstays. Pulao, biryani, roti, paratha, dal and aloo are all part of our desi food vocabulary. And yes, you’re probably going to have to limit or eliminate these foods, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to starve.

For instance, these are just a few examples of desi dishes that are already low-carb:
  • Chicken Karahi
  • Tandoori chicken
  • Keema (try this with broccoli slaw or shredded cabbage cooked into it!)
  • Eggplant bhorta
  • Seekh kabab
  • Sabzi (just watch it with potatoes and carrots)

Just add some veggies and a salad and you’ve got yourself a healthy low-carb meal! See, that’s not so bad!

low carb desi

Okay, but you’re used to having rice or roti with your dinner and it’s just not the same without them. This is where you find a low-carb substitute for your low carb desi diet:
  • Swap the roti for a low-carb tortilla or low-carb pita bread (Joseph’s makes a really good one).
  • Or try cauliflower rice, which is all the rage right now. Here’s a tip — buy the already-made frozen cauliflower rice, I’m lazy and don’t feel like doing the prep work.

Cauliflower rice doesn’t taste like rice, but it has the texture and sometimes you just need something to sop up all that yummy gravy from your mom’s chicken curry (which is also low-carb!). I think it tastes best if you saute it in a pan with some oil and spices (like this) rather than steaming it in the microwave.

The point is that you don’t have to give up everything you like in the name of healthier eating. Find a way to incorporate traditional recipes you love and make a few tweaks here and there. I still make my son dal and rice balls for dinner (hiding some chicken and veggies in there), but my plate contains chicken and veggies and maybe some cauliflower rice. Or if I’m in a hurry, I grab a few keema kababs from the fridge and put them in a low-carb tortilla or pita with some lettuce and I have my very own low-carb kabab wrap! Does that sound like deprivation? No!

So how’s the low-carb thing going, you ask? My diet began at the end of January, but in the few weeks I’ve been doing it, I’ve noticed I feel a LOT less bloated, my jeans aren’t trying to kill me anymore, and I’ve dropped a few pounds. I haven’t had too much of a hard time with carb cravings, mostly because I’m focusing on eating foods that I genuinely like that are low-carb desi foods. I am not 100% strict and have a few treats here and there because I’m human, but it’s all about progress and not perfection, right? So here’s hoping I can stick with it and pick up some healthy eating habits!

Farihah Ali is a contributor at The South Asian Buzz and blogs about food, travel, and other random musings at Spice's Bites ( She lives in the metro Atlanta area with her husband, toddler, and their crazy cat Chloe. You can find her on Facebook (@spicesbites), Twitter (@spicesbites), and Instagram (@spicesbites).