Nutrition Meets Food Science

Can Street Foods be Healthy?

Indians are fond of street foods. There is a variety of street foods across the country. Literally, no one could resist himself or herself looking at a street food. Every state, every city, every corner of the lane in India has a famous street food which is loved by many people. Even though you plan not to eat out, these mouth-watering dishes will give you a strong temptation that you wouldn’t resist. There are many street foods across the globe, but the variety of street foods served in India is remarkable.

Usually, when we talk about street foods, the first thought that comes to our mind is oily, unhealthy, high in calories from sugar and fat, refined flour, etc. When you are a health freak and a food lover, you can’t eat those street foods which are unhealthy. People are changing their lifestyle after the pandemic and weight loss has become the main goal for most of them and during this process, they have to avoid such foods. But don’t you think they get tempted and feel like eating these street foods? Even a single cheat day can’t satisfy them as they feel to eat a lot but they can’t eat more than their capacity.

The thing is that people consider only those street foods which are unhealthy and contains too much of oil, sugar, salt, and calories, etc. There are street foods, which are healthy, and the ones that are not healthy can be made healthy.

Let’s see what’s in the list of healthy street foods.

A. Sweet Potato chaat – This is assumed as one of the healthiest street foods but also not that popular. Usually on streets, it is served by roasting on coal or the boiled one, sprinkled with some chaat masala and lemon juice. It is a good replacement of aloo chat. Sweet potato is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B Manganese, fibre, Potassium, and Iron. It helps in weight loss too; each sweet potato contains 112 calories and zero fat.

B. Corn Chaat or Corn cob – Corn is rich in Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that helps you to protect your cells from damage. It is also low in calories, low in fat, and is also a good source of carotenoids. It is mostly available in the traditional form which is Bhutta and steamed corn with a pinch of chaat masala and lemon juice.

C. Idli – This is that dish which is loved by all. This dish is basically from south India, people who don’t eat non-veg, this can be a good source of protein and gives you a long-lasting energy. It is made up of rice batter and urad dal. Idli is steamed so there is no chance of using oil or any other added ingredients. It is served with sambhar and coconut chutney, which is healthy as well as nutritious.

D. Parathas – Very famous north Indian stuffed parathas is a delicious, fulfilling, and nutritious dish. It is available on the streets and is counted as healthy street food only if few things are restricted. You can have it in breakfast, lunch or even in dinner. Parathas can be made healthy by using healthy vegetables for stuffing. One can eat parathas by customizing the stuffing and choosing variety of pulses and vegetables like lentils, cauliflower, radish, paneer, corn, capsicum, carrots. Such parathas are rich in high dietary fibre, vitamin and mineral, protein etc. One should remember that this paratha would be healthier if the amount of oil being used is reduced.

E. Sandwich – Sandwiches are the healthier and tastier street food that you will get all over the country. Sandwiches are made with spicy green chutney, vegetables, and various Indian spices. It can be eaten plain as well as toasted and served with tomato sauce. Looking at the current scenario where people are becoming health freak, most of the vendors are making sandwiches using brown bread. You can ask for that. The vegetables used in making sandwiches like cucumber, capsicum, tomato, beetroot, etc are healthy and nutritious.

F. Dhokla – It is the most loved street food by most of the Gujaratis and is made with gram flour. It can be steamed or even baked. The fermentation of dal makes it more nutritious. It also helps in losing weight.

G. Chicken Tandoori – Chicken tandoori is the favourite dish of all the nonveg food lovers and it is easily available on the streets as well. Chicken is high in protein and low in calories. Other chicken dishes require a lot of oil, which is not good for your health, whereas chicken tandoori is prepared without oil.

H. Eggs – Eggs are another highly protein-rich ingredient. This is the most famous and healthy street food which one can afford and enjoy. Not only this but it also has variety like, scrambled egg, omelette, boiled egg.

I. Bhel – The emergence of bhel had happened in Mumbai but it is served across the country now. Bhel is actually a healthy street food. The main ingredient of the bhel is the puffed rice, which is a good source of fibre as resistant starch is formed during puffing process. The other ingredients which go in are onion, tomato, green chillies, potato, coriander which are healthy. It is topped with some lemon juice, green and tamarind chutney along with sev.

These are some street foods which are easily available and are already healthy but what about those street foods which are not healthy, but you can try to make it healthy, below are some suggestions-

A. Healthy Samosa – Samosa’s are not counted under healthy street food but what if we try to make it healthy? You can try to make it healthy by adding healthy ingredients for filling. You can also use whole wheat flour for the dough. Vegetarians can use paneer along with some spices for the stuffing and non-vegetarians can use chicken keema as a stuffing to make the samosa protein-rich, want to make it more healthy? Then you can even bake it in the oven instead of frying.

B. Pani Puri – Pani puri is also not so healthy as the puri is fried. You can avoid the fried puri and bake the puri and for the filling, you can include healthy ingredients like steamed potato, steamed green gram and steamed black chickpeas along with some seasoning. These ingredients are high in protein, calcium and other vitamins.

C. Pav Bhaji – The street-side pav bhaji is not healthy but you can make it healthy for you to eat by making a healthy twist. You can add any nutritious veggies as per your preference to make the bhaji like boiled potato, boiled sweet potato, onion, capsicum, cauliflower, green peas, beetroot, soya granules, etc and for pav, you can have the whole-wheat pav.

There are many ways in which you can try and make a variety of street foods into a healthy one. There are also many healthy foods available on the streets, which can be a good source of protein, vitamins, fibre etc which is needed in our body. One problem with the street foods is lack of hygiene but street vendors have now realised that health is considered more when selecting the food along with the taste. So many have started using the potable water or mineral water. They have also been cleaning their carts and utensils and personal hygiene has improved. Some credit goes to FSSAI which started giving the vendors some training and incentives for improving hygiene.

Time has changed and people are demanding healthy foods to keep themselves fit. They are showing interest in developing new and innovative healthy dishes. So, try these healthy dishes and stay fit.

Dolly G Soni

Executive Digital & Marketing, PFNDAI

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