Report shows NI’s typical Indian takeaway contains more than a full day’s calories

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Northern Ireland’s typical Indian takeaway meal has enough food to feed TWO people, a report by Safefood has revealed.

The research by Ulster University is the latest in a series by safefood looking at popular takeaway foods and helping consumers to make more informed choices when eating.

The survey found that many individual portion sizes contain enough food for two people, and contain high levels of saturated fat and salt. It also revealed that some varieties of naan bread contain almost a third of an adult’s total daily calorie requirement, with the average portion of Peshwari Naan bread containing 748 calories.

Northern Ireland’s most popular main courses were Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Korma, both made with rich creamy sauces. The study shows that the average portion of a Chicken Tikka Masala main course contains 1,249 calories (before the addition of pilau rice at around 500 calories for an average portion.) Chicken Jalfrezi, with a tomato-based sauce is in third place.

Commenting on the research, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director Human Health & Nutrition with safefood said “While traditional meals in India are low in fat, high in fibre and rich in fruit and vegetables, chefs here have adapted their recipes to suit local tastebuds favouring foods high in fat and salt and serving bigger portions. These dishes have become very popular, but the Indian dishes tested in this survey were less than healthy.”

The survey analysed 280 Indian food samples from 36 outlets across the island of Ireland and found:

· Major differences in the portion size of starters sold, with a five-fold difference among Onion Bhajis and an eight-fold difference in portions of Chicken Pakoras.

· The average portion of rice contained enough for two people and an average portion of Pilau Rice contained almost 500 calories.

· Salt levels were considerably high; on average, all starter dishes contained one third of an adult’s total GDA for salt.

· All main courses tested contained more than half of an adult’s total guideline daily amount of salt (6g).

· An average portion of Peshwari Naan bread contained significantly more energy, total and saturated fat than Plain Naan; some samples had as much as 168% of an adult’s total guideline daily amount for saturated fat.

· Less than 10% of outlets provided healthier options for their Indian takeaway service.

Ruth Price, of Ulster University, who carried out the research, said: “Ulster University has world-leading expertise in nutrition focused research and in providing advice and guidance that can benefit public health and shape government policy. Information and education are key to good nutrition and helping people to make the best possible choices when it comes to food. Our advice is not that consumers should avoid these takeaway foods, but rather consider consuming them less often and in moderation, by either choosing smaller portions, sharing portions or limiting the added extras such as starters and side orders.”

More than a quarter of Northern Ireland adults report ordering Indian takeaway food recently, while one in five people say they order a full main size portion for themselves (safeftrak/Millward Brown 2013). Encouragingly, over 40% of those surveyed stated that they order a main portion and share with someone else.

The research report “What’s in your Indian Takeaway?” compiled by Ulster University which is part of safefood’s Nutrition Takeout Series, is available to download from where there are also a range of healthy Indian recipes featured.