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Calorie Counter: Idli Sambar vs Pav Bhaji

Samreedhi Sharma
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October 12, 2006

When we are hungry and on the move because of a hectic schedule, fast food seems to be the most tempting food option.

However consuming fast food daily, especially at restaurants or roadside joints, can make you gain weight and will take a toll on your health.

We already analysed the nutritional content and calorie count of Vada Pav and Khaman Dhokla. This week we dissect two more hot favourites, Pav Bhaji and Idli Sambar.

Pav Bhaji

1 plate with 2 Pav (600 calories) (20 gm fat)* = Cycling for 80 minutes!
Pav Bhaji is a popular and well-liked snack, and a special of Mumbai. How and where your Pav Bhaji is made, can make all the difference. 

The Pav Bhaji we end up eating, at most fast food outlets, is usually made first thing in the morning and is reheated several times before it is served to you. This practice destroys all the vitamins and minerals you would otherwise get from the many vegetables added to it. It is also definitely made with extra helpings of fat (usually saturated, a harmful kind of fat for the heart) and topped up with excess butter usually more than is really required.  

The amount of spice added too, depending on the eatery, usually exceeds the amount we use at home. The pav too is slathered with plenty of butter again in quantities more than required.

How to cut calories

If you are ordering this dish and want to save on calories, ask for it without the butter on the bhaji as well as the pav.

Indulging in it once in a while is alright if you just can't help it! But if you must make it at home.  

Home cooking allows you to use the right kind of fat (vegetable oils which are poly-unsaturated or olive oil, both are heart friendly).

You need not fry the pav in butter/ghee you can just apply a bit once you have roasted it on the tava.  

You can also make it a healthier snack by adding half the quantity of potato and substituting the remaining with rajma.

Once the spices are added you will never know the difference.

Idli Sambar

1 plate (312 calories) (9 gm fat) * = 52 minutes brisk walking @ 3.5 miles per hour  

These figures as be broken up as follows:   

2 big Idlis: 132 calories, 2 gm fat 

Sambar: 180 calories, 7 gm fat

1 tablespoon of coconut chutney (90 calories) (9.1 gm fat) = Running for 20 minutes

Idli is the top food on this list for "eating healthy while eating out". For the uninitiated idlis are made from a combination of rice and urad dal which is fermented and then steamed.

Both these processes are very good for the digestive system and involve cooking with no oil at all. Most restaurants however use baking soda to speed up getting the idli batter ready and while too much baking soda does destroy nutrients and affects the digestive system in the long run, eating idlis is definitely a better choice than eating most other food loaded with excess fat.

How to cut calories

Avoiding the coconut chutney completely is a good idea as coconut is rich in saturated fat and since it is served at room temperature in restaurants, it may be loaded with harmful bacteria, which cause food poisoning.

In conclusion try choosing Idli Sambar minus the chutney more often, over the Pav Bhaji while eating out. It is a wiser choice.

* depends on method of cooking and ingredients

-- The author is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist. She runs Size Wise, a training studio, and also conducts fitness workshops. Besides training with the International Sports Science Association, USA, she has a PG Diploma in nutrition and food technology and writes for a number of publications. You can e-mail Samreedhi.

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Number of User Comments: 26

Sub: I have a Question

Hi, If we are on the move are we not burning calories? If we take all the calories into consideration, we will have to be ...

Posted by Hrushikesh

Sub: Upma

Can you please post similar articles on upma and poha ?

Posted by Mayur

Sub: Make it clear

Author has forgot so many important points or has little knowledge. When you give an example make everything the same. Instead of using running, cycling ...

Posted by Ramesh

Sub: Most Relished & Healthy foods

Idli Sambar and Pav Bhaji are most relished and common food enjoyed by the people. When compared to Pav Bhaji, Idli stands better in terms ...

Posted by BVSR Mohana Rao

Sub: Idli sambar

Idli sambar is a very good and tasty food.I think you had taken the sambar and chatni in mumbai.If you go to south india then ...

Posted by rajesh hegde


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