South Indian foods are known for their simple preparation methods and high nutritional value. These foods are usually made from simple and healthy ingredients. A lot of rice and lentil is involved in the preparation of these dishes and we already know that rice and lentils are super healthy foods. The flavouring includes but is not limited to coconut and curry leaves which leave a tantalizing taste in our palates. The cooking methods involved are more towards the healthy side as they usually use steaming, sautéing, stewing or pan-grilling for most of their preparations. A recent study conducted by the researchers of college of home science, Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai have found that out of the four metro cities, Chennai was found to be the most nutritionally balanced when it comes to traditional breakfast habits.

The thing to be wary of when watching calories is the addition of coconut in the form of oil, milk or grated plain coconut, adding ghee, peanuts or using deep-fried preparation methods can increase the fat content and overall calories of the dishes.

Now, let’s look at some of the healthy south Indian snack foods and analyse their nutritional facts.

1.Idli These are steamed cakes made from seasoned rice-lentil batter. As these are steamed, and the overall use of oil is minimal, they are low on calories and high on nutrition. It packs a good blend of carbohydrates and proteins. Adding sprouts or vegetables to batter can increase the nutritional value. Avoid coconut chutney; instead have mint or tomato chutney. These are perfect for breakfast with sambar or as an evening snack with chutney.

- 1 medium Idli has 39 calories, 2 gm protein, 8 gm fiber, zero saturated fat and zero cholesterol.

2.Upma It is one of the common and staple breakfast options. It is made by dry roasting semolina and cooking with sautéed vegetables. It is light on the bowel and is quite filling as well. Semolina is a refined grain but adding vegetables adds fiber and makes it a wholesome meal. - 1 cup home-made vegetable upma contains about 280 calories, 11 gm protein, 59 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, and zero cholesterol.

3.Adai This is a popular south Indian snack. Batter is made with rice and a mix of 2-3 whole pulses with vegetables, curry leaves and spices. This mixture is then cooked on a non-stick pan just like pancakes. Nutritionally it serves as a balanced source of carbohydrates, proteins and fiber. - 1 medium Adai pancake has 165 calories, 2.5 gm fat, 15 gm carbohydrates and 1 gm protein.

4.Rasam It is a light, moderately spicy soup prepared by making a base of tomato, tamarind pulp, black pepper, spices and adding steamed vegetables and lentils as per choice. It is best for winters and monsoons and is also beneficial in cold, cough and fever. It is good for bowel health and aids in digestion. This can also be consumed with steamed rice as a spicy curry. - 1 cup of Rasam can contain 45-60 calories, 2-3gms fat, 4-6gms carbohydrates, and 1-2 gms protein depending upon the vegetables or lentils added.

5.Sundal This is an easy to prepare, healthy and nutritious snack. The dish is prepared by lightly sautéing pre-boiled legumes with green chilies, mustard seeds, and coriander in 1 tsp oil. Grated coconut is also a part of this preparation, which is high in calories, so, it is advisable to skip the same to keep the calorific value to a healthy range. Sundal is a good source of soluble fiber and lean protein. It is a filling snack and can be included as a mid-afternoon or evening meal. - 1 cup of chickpea sundal contains 280 calories with 4gms fat, 49gms carbohydrates and 15gms protein.