What to Eat in India: Healthy Foods for Yoga

Healthy Foods Yoga isn’t simply a form of physical exercise but an entire philosophy.

While you focus on ethical aspects, including the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), non-judgement is equally valued. You’re free to choose a suitable lifestyle and eat foods you prefer.

Healthy Foods

You don’t have to be vegetarian to practice yoga. But, serious students embrace this food philosophy with roots in Ayurvedic principles, as they become increasingly self-aware.

Recommended yogic diet focuses on sattvic or enriching foods like whole grains, fruits, dairy, vegetables, legumes, nuts, natural sugars, spices and herbs, with sparing use of oil and ghee.

You’re expected to eat Rajasic or stimulating foods in moderation. These include vey spicy, sour, salty or bitter foods, onion, garlic, coffee, wine, black tea and chocolate.

You’re advised to sparingly eat Tamasic or passion foods like meat, eggs, seafood, alcohol, and artificially flavoured, deep-fried or processed foods.

Wholesome vegetarian food is said to promote mind and body harmony. This diet is nutritious, tasty and healing, when you combine various nutrient-rich ingredients with spices and herbs.

Here are 15 Indian vegetarian foods that follow food principles of Ayurveda and yogic diet. Note that some of the names can differ according to the part of India you are in. 

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 1. Bajra/Jowar Roti – Millet/Barley Flat Breads

These protein and fibre-rich grains were part of Indian diets before rice and wheat took over. Fresh millet or barley flour is transformed into a dough, rolled into rotis and cooked on hot tava or griddle. Plain or stuffed (vegetables spices or herbs) rotis are served with yogurt, curry or chutney.

2. (Masala) Khichdi

The comfort or soul food for many Indians, Khichdi is nothing but cooked rice and lentils with an aromatic tempering of spices. Vegetables like carrots, peas, green beans, potatoes are sometimes added to lentils. This versatile mini meal is considered the inspiration for English Kedegree and Egyptian Kushari.

3. Palak (Spinach) Paneer

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This healthy side dish, served with rice or rotis, is made with spinach and fenugreek leaves. Boiled and pureed greens are cooked with tempered spices, besan (gram flour), paneer (cottage cheese) and garam masala (spice mix). You can make this dish with other greens and tofu.

4. Rawa (Semolina) Upma, also called as Khara Bath

A low-fat and nutritious thick porridge with semolina, tomatoes, peas, onions. Mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chillies are tempered in oil and other ingredients added to form thick, semi-wet porridge. Variations contain broken rice, poha, bulgur wheat, broken wheat and oats.

A sweet pudding version is made with semolina or broken wheat, ghee, jaggery and topped with roasted cashews and raisins.

5. Dosa & Sambhar

A classic breakfast dish from South India is rice-lentil crepe served with tamarind-lentil chowder or stew. Thin pancakes are made from fermented black gram-rice batter. Sambar is tamarind broth simmered with veggies, moringa pods (drumstick), curry leaves, cooked yellow lentil and spice tempering.

6. Dahi/Curd Rice

What khichdi is to others Indians, Dahi (curd) rice is to south Indians. This simple dish is a digestive and cooling agent as it contains fermented milk. Cooled white rice is mixed with dahi, salt and tempering of mustard seeds, split black gram (urad dal), green chillies and curry leaves. It is usually eaten plain or with pickles.

7. Green Mung Dal (Green Mung Beans) Chilla/Pesarattu

Another Indian pancake, chilla or pesarattu is made with soaked mung dal/ beans and rice batter to which salt and asafoetida/ cumin seeds are added. Batter is cooked on a hot griddle, topped with chopped or grated vegetables, and served with chutneys or vegetable stews. Chilla versions contain wheat flour, besan or chickpea flour, oats or broken wheat and.

8. Tadka Dal

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A simple lentil stew with few ingredients. A dal of choice (green gram, red or yellow lentil) is pressure cooked with salt and turmeric. Add red chilli powder or garam masala, mustard and cumin seeds tempering, cilantro or fenugreek leaves, and you have a tasty side for flat breads or rice. Other dal styles have a mix of cooked dals with tomatoes, onions, greens, spices mix, and Indian yogurt or cream. You can find more lentil recipes here

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9. Kosimbhir/Kuchumbar – Salad

The Indian salad – Kosimbhir, a Maharashtrian dish, contains vegetables like cucumber, carrot, onions, tomatoes, green chillies, coriander leaves, lemon juice, tempered spices (tadka) and salt. Variants contain raw mango, bean sprouts, desiccated coconut and peanuts.

10. Vegetable Curry

A must-have dish for vegetarians to meet their nutrients quotient. Sautéed or steamed vegetables are cooked into a thick gravy with spices. Sometimes leafy greens, cottage cheese and corn are added to the mix. Gravy base is usually tomato-onion paste, nut paste, tamarind broth or coconut milk.