Healthy, Hip, Haute Indian Cuisine

Healthy, Hip, Haute Indian Cuisine

Healthy, Hip, Haute Indian Cuisine

Written by: Candice Currie | Photography provided by: Mia Yakel and Chai Pani Restaurant Group

Chef Meherwan Irani

QFor our vegetarian and vegan readers, what are some non-meat, high protein foods you’d recommend for those wanting to increase their protein levels?

Chef Meherwan Irani: Most Indians are either fully vegetarian or eat meat sparingly. Though the primary driver of vegetarianism is religious and cultural, many non-vegetarians still eat meat sparingly for economic reasons. So, as a country of now over a billion people, Indians have traditionally looked to legumes and dairy as the primary source of protein. Lentils, chickpeas, and beans are transformed into fragrant daals and stews, almost always served with rice. Dairy in the form of milk, yogurt, cream, and ghee (clarified butter) is also a big part of the diet, with ghee used for cooking more extravagant meals, and yogurt used as a ubiquitous heat quencher and digestive. For vegan versions of lentil dishes, skip the ghee and use oil – peanut, mustard, and coconut oils are traditionally used and packed with flavor.

QCarbs sometimes get a bad rap. At Chai Pani Decatur, what are some carb-friendly, healthy dishes that you’d recommend?


  • Daal – we make ours Gujerati style, with a tadka of cumin, hing, turmeric, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, tomatoes, and tamarind.
  • Chole – a chickpea stew with tomatoes, chillies, garam masala.
  • Kale Pakoras – kale dipped in a batter of chickpea flour, seasoned with cumin, caraway seed, chili powder, turmeric.
  • Corn Bhel – roasted corn niblets tossed with fresh cilantro, onion, cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint with a cumin-lime vinaigrette

Q: How did you choose your featured dish (Desi Salad)?

MI: Indians don’t really do salads. We like our greens dark, leafy, and stewed, braised, or fried with spices. But I personally love salads, and came up with the idea of a crunchy, crispy salad that had Indian flavors and wasn’t overwhelmed with spice, but instead is light, bright, and flavorful. Topped with toasted masala cashews and a skewer of grilled paneer (Indian farmer’s cheese) or tandoori spiced chicken, it’s a low carb, high protein dish that’s so delicious you might just forget you’re eating a salad!

Q: What are some health-conscious and unique Irani foods you’d recommend our readers try when they want to mix things up?

MI: Irani’s do love meat and tend to cook heavy. For my restaurants, I took some of my favorites and lightened them to be not only healthier, but more flavorful. For example, Kheema Pav (a spiced lamb hash) is usually pretty fatty and greasy (although delicious) in traditional Irani cooking. I often substitute ground turkey or chicken for lamb, and add tomatoes and lots of fresh cilantro to lighten the dish and add a punch of flavor and fragrance. Serve it over rice, on a low carb bun (sloppy joe style) or in a corn tortilla with lots of fresh herbs, red onion, radish, diced tomatoes and yogurt for a high protein meal that’s tasty and unique. It’s a one pot dish and easy to make in an Insta Pot or slow cooker. It can stay refrigerated for days, is easy to heat up, and versatile for use in salads, tacos, sandwiches, etc.

Chai Pani Decatur’s Desi Salad

Chai Pani Decatur is located at: 406 W Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030

Chai Pani Decatur

Distance to closest LA Fitness: 1.7 mi. (1496 Church St., Decatur, CA 30030)


Cumin-Lime Dressing 

  • 1 T                    sugar
  • 3 T                    rice wine vinegar
  • 3 T                    fresh lime juice
  • 1 t                     salt
  • ½ t                    cumin powder
  • 2 cloves            garlic
  • 2 T                    diced red onion
  • ½ bunch           cilantro
  • ¼ C                  olive oil

Masala Cashews 

  • ¼ C                  whole cashews
  • Pinch                sugar
  • 1 t                     salt
  • ½ t                    chili powder
  • ½ t                    cumin powder
  • 2 t                     oil


  • 4 C                   green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 ½ C               red cabbage, shredded
  • ½ C                  carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 t                     salt
  • 2 t                     toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 T                    cilantro, chopped


  1. Combine all of the above except the olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Set the blender to lowest speed and slowly pour olive oil in through opening in blender lid.
  3. Blend on low until all of olive oil is incorporated and dressing is emulsified.


  1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
  2. Season cashews with all of the above, mixing thoroughly.
  3. Spread on a small pan and bake for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and mix, then bake for an additional 5-6 minutes.


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

  2. Add the toasted masala cashews and blended dressing.

  3. Mix well and let the cabbage marinate for a few minutes.

  4. Serve cold, topped with grilled chicken or grilled vegetables as desired.

Serves: 2-4

Featured Recipes

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Meal Prep For Single Bachelors With No Time | Q+A

Meal Prep For Single Bachelors With No Time | Q+A


I’m a single bachelor, and I work about 60 to 70 hours a week, so I always end up eating out instead of cooking. I was looking for some 1-pot recipes that I can cook and pack up at work and eat at night as well. Any recommendations?

– Robert W.


I’ve tried a few 30-minute meals recipe books and always found that including pre-cooked meats or already-diced ingredients was a bit of a cheat. But you’ve got to save time somewhere, and it often comes at an expense (of money) or in sacrifice of nutrition. My advice is to either prepare your meats and raw produce in bulk when you bring them home from the store, or buy a few already-prepped convenience ingredients.

One big-time saver is pre-cut fresh produce, such as a container of onion and bell pepper strips or a mirepoix mix of diced onion, celery and carrot. Frozen plain vegetables are simple to microwave or steam. No-salt-added canned corn kernels, sliced beets or diced tomatoes are simple to pop open, drain and add to an appropriate dish for a pop of color, fiber and vitamins/minerals.

Simple, healthy and easy-to-prepare meals often mean 1-pot cooking. For example, in a heated large stir-fry or fry pan, you can start by searing chunks of your preferred protein, add chopped vegetables, then pour in a bagged frozen meal and cooking until heated through when sauce is melted and starch (pasta, potato or rice) is soft. Voila two portions become three with less sodium per serving!

Starting a slow-cooker in the morning makes coming home to a finished meal easier. Choosing your recipe and prepping your ingredients the night before means just turning on the cooker and popping in your food before leaving for work. Remember that smaller chunks of food cook faster. You can adjust heat settings and total cook time for larger items like whole chicken breasts or pork loins.

See our article Inexpensive Meal Prep | Q+A for more tips.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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Meal Prep For Single Bachelors With No Time | Q+A

Meal planning can be daunting task if you’re unsure of where to begin. It’s even worse when there seems to be no time to get it done! Our registered dietitian offers some helpful advice for those looking to meal prep quick.

10 Surprising Food Combinations You’ll Love

10 Surprising Food Combinations You’ll Love

Aaah, the pairing of two foods that harmoniously go together like peanut butter & jelly, or macaroni & cheese, both pleasing to the soul and the palate. Kudos to the first person to combine each of those classics, BTW. Here, we offer our suggestions of more unusual tasty duos that work into a healthy diet. Most items are basic grocery staples that you can find at the corner market. Warning – taste buds beware of surprise!


Blue Cheese & Pear   

The slightly bold sharpness of blue cheese balances the mild sweet acidity of pear for a hearty and robust combo.

Examples: Anjou pear, crumbled blue cheese and chopped walnut salad drizzled with honey. Roasted bosc pear halves filled with Stilton, cranberries and slivered almonds. Bartlett pear and gorgonzola flat bread pizza with arugula.


Coffee & Meat

Coffee adds a rich earthy tone to meat, plus it contains natural acids that tenderize. Coffee accentuates the savory flavor of meat while balancing the pepper, chiles and sugars common in meat recipes.

Examples:  Fresh coffee grounds and spice dry-rubbed pork loin chops. Add a shot of espresso to lean ground beef chili for a punch. Skirt steak marinated in chilled strong coffee overnight.


Eggs & Green Veggie 

Breakfast marries dinner in this combination of protein, fiber and vitamins that can serve as a dish its own right.

Examples: Spinach and poached egg atop 7-grain toast w/ feta. Soft-cooked egg and potato-zucchini hash. Scrambled egg and asparagus with whole wheat noodles.


Figs & Pistachios       

This match made in heaven jazzes up plain old bread or crackers and soft cheese for a filling snack with WOW appeal!

Examples: Diced figs and pistachios mixed with honey atop warm brie on a baguette. Fig jam with goat cheese and pistachios atop toast rounds. Fig halves filled with ricotta cheese and toasted pistachios, served with crackers.


Peanuts & Chilies  

The heat and crunch from this duo add boldness to plain/mild items like tofu and starches. The intense spicy flavors fade while the satiety of peanuts last.

Examples: Peanut butter and sriracha sauce on a side dish of noodles.  Finely diced peanuts and jalapeno with cayenne over a scoop of brown rice.


Pomegranate & Meat


The sweet-tart aspect of pomegranate plus the umami flavor of meat make for excellent sweet and savory entrées.

Examples: Glaze roasted chicken with reduced pomegranate juice. Beef chuck roast braised with pomegranate juice and dry red wine.


Prosciutto & Melon 

Another sweet and savory blend that is a flavorful snack on its own or an addition to green salads.

Examples: Prosciutto wrapped honeydew slices with mint leaves. Caprese-style stacks of prosciutto, cantaloupe and mozzarella slices with basil leaves drizzled with balsamic vinegar.


Sauerkraut & Cheese


The creaminess of cheese with the bite of sauerkraut make for a tangy pair with crunch.

Examples:  Grilled Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on rye sandwiches. Layered al dente egg noodles, shredded part-skim mozzarella and sauerkraut, baked as a casserole. Quesadillas made with low-fat cheddar, well-drained sauerkraut and thin Granny apple slices.


Strawberry & Tomato

These vitamin C packed fruits are light and refreshing. Strawberries subtly enhance the sweetness of tomatoes.

Examples: Strawberry and heirloom tomato salad tossed with basil and lemon juice. Strawberry tomato gazpacho. Roasted tomato halves topped with strawberry slices, fresh tarragon and oregano, drizzled with apple cider vinegar.


Vinaigrette & Fish


The acidity and herbs from vinegar-based sauces (plus fat from the oil) make for tender, flavorful fish.

Examples: Vidalia onion vinaigrette over seared or pan-fried tilapia and halibut. Citrus vinaigrette works with stronger fish like tuna or swordfish. Soy vinaigrette on chilled leftover salmon.

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March to LA Fitness

March to LA Fitness

Welcome to month 3 of 2018! Congratulations to those of you who have stuck with your New Year’s resolution to make fitness a priority in the new year. However, we know that some of you may not be as focused as you once were.

For those of you struggling to keep the momentum going, or even those of you who feel like you’ve already fallen off the fitness wagon – fear not! Many of you may think that a new healthy habit should begin upon the start of a year new, new month, or new week. We’re here to tell you that you can start at any time – it doesn’t matter as long as you start.

This is why LA Fitness has deemed this March as #MarchtoLAFitness. If you want to see changes, you’ve got to put in the time! Tired? Everyone is. Busy? Most people are. However, being tired or busy and not setting aside the time you need to make yourself healthy is a lose-lose situation. If you’re feeling lousy about excess weight, poor nutrition or a tired mind, starting a healthy habit is what your body needs.

The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests changing one behavior at a time. Swap out that quick fast food meal for a home-cooked one instead. Get an extra hour of sleep or add an extra day spent at the gym to your weekly schedule. Unhealthy behaviors or habits typically develop over the course of time, which means you can’t expect healthy habits to develop overnight. It’s going to take discipline and practice. Worried that you don’t have the willpower or determination to make these changes? Try this:

Set Realistic Goals

Let’s say you want to lose a certain of weight. A reasonable goal is to allow yourself enough time to make this goal come to fruition. Try setting short and long-term goals. For instance, a goal to lose 1 pound a week is a lot more realistic than wanting to lose 10 pounds. Be realistic with yourself and know what fits your lifestyle. Hitting a short-term goal (i.e., losing one pound in a week), will leave you feeling accomplished and will help develop the healthy habits you need to continue working toward your long-term goals.

Involve a Friend

Did you know that having someone to help you along the way can help you stay motivated? Whether that person is a family member, significant other, friend or coworker, you may want to invite someone who shares a similar goal to join you on your way to success! Looking to sweeten the deal? LA Fitness offers a program called VIP Rewards where you can invite a friend or family member to join you at our club while earning points that can be redeemed for LA Fitness gear. (Check out rewards here!)

Habit vs. Lifestyle

Developing healthy habits can lead to a healthy lifestyle, but how long does it take exactly to start a new healthy habit? This number has been debated a lot, with some thinking it takes 21 days to develop a habit while others believe it can take up to 90 days. How true are these numbers and what does that mean when setting a goal to sticking to consistent, healthy habits? An article published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) references an article1 focused on the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. Below is an excerpt taken from the study:

Unrealistic expectations of the duration of the habit formation process can lead the patient to give up during the learning phase. Some patients may have heard that habits take 21 days to form. This myth appears to have originated from anecdotal evidence of patients who had received plastic surgery treatment and typically adjusted psychologically to their new appearance within 21 days.22 More relevant research found that automaticity plateaued on average around 66 days after the first daily performance,9 although there was considerable variation across participants and behaviours. Therefore, it may be helpful to tell patients to expect habit formation (based on daily repetition) to take around 10 weeks. Our experience is that people are reassured to learn that doing the behaviour gets progressively easier; so they only have to maintain their motivation until the habit forms. Working effortfully on a new behaviour for 2–3 months may be an attractive offer if it has a chance of making the behaviour become ‘second nature’.

Uh oh… I Slipped Again

Don’t let a day (or two or three) skipping the gym deter you from getting right back on track! Did you eat unhealthy over the weekend? Perhaps you maybe indulged a little too much on last night’s dinner. Well, this means all your hard work and progress is gone, right? Wrong! A little misstep is no reason to feel like you’ve failed at working toward your goal. Don’t wait until next week, next month, or next year to get back on track – do it today because the time spent waiting to fix what you want to change can be time spent actively working towards your life’s goals.

You’ve got this. We believe in you. #MarchtoLAFitness


  1. Gardner, Benjamin, et al. “Making Health Habitual: the Psychology of ‘Habit-Formation’ and General Practice.” The British Journal of General Practice, Royal College of General Practitioners, Dec. 2012,


  1. “Making Lifestyle Changes That Last.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association,

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