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What to Eat in India: Healthy Foods for Yoga Students

Yoga isn’t simply a form of physical exercise but an entire philosophy.

While you focus on ethical aspects, including the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), non-judgement is equally valued. You’re free to choose a suitable lifestyle and eat foods you prefer.

You don’t have to be vegetarian to practice yoga. But, serious students embrace this food philosophy with roots in Ayurvedic principles, as they become increasingly self-aware.

Recommended yogic diet focuses on sattvic or enriching foods like whole grains, fruits, dairy, vegetables, legumes, nuts, natural sugars, spices and herbs, with sparing use of oil and ghee.

You’re expected to eat Rajasic or stimulating foods in moderation. These include vey spicy, sour, salty or bitter foods, onion, garlic, coffee, wine, black tea and chocolate.

You’re advised to sparingly eat Tamasic or passion foods like meat, eggs, seafood, alcohol, and artificially flavoured, deep-fried or processed foods.

Wholesome vegetarian food is said to promote mind and body harmony. This diet is nutritious, tasty and healing, when you combine various nutrient-rich ingredients with spices and herbs.

Here are 15 Indian vegetarian foods that follow food principles of Ayurveda and yogic diet. Note that some of the names can differ according to the part of India you are in. 


 1. Bajra/Jowar Roti – Millet/Barley Flat Breads


These protein and fibre-rich grains were part of Indian diets before rice and wheat took over. Fresh millet or barley flour is transformed into a dough, rolled into rotis and cooked on hot tava or griddle. Plain or stuffed (vegetables spices or herbs) rotis are served with yogurt, curry or chutney.

Image source: Jay87.Mehta

2. (Masala) Khichdi


The comfort or soul food for many Indians, Khichdi is nothing but cooked rice and lentils with an aromatic tempering of spices. Vegetables like carrots, peas, green beans, potatoes are sometimes added to lentils. This versatile mini meal is considered the inspiration for English Kedegree and Egyptian Kushari.

Image source: Wikimedia

3. Palak (Spinach) Paneer


This healthy side dish, served with rice or rotis, is made with spinach and fenugreek leaves. Boiled and pureed greens are cooked with tempered spices, besan (gram flour), paneer (cottage cheese) and garam masala (spice mix). You can make this dish with other greens and tofu.

Image source: Radhikamprabhu82

4. Rawa (Semolina) Upma, also called as Khara Bath


A low-fat and nutritious thick porridge with semolina, tomatoes, peas, onions. Mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chillies are tempered in oil and other ingredients added to form thick, semi-wet porridge. Variations contain broken rice, poha, bulgur wheat, broken wheat and oats.

A sweet pudding version is made with semolina or broken wheat, ghee, jaggery and topped with roasted cashews and raisins.

Image source: pc-myshots-at-photography

5. Dosa & Sambhar


A classic breakfast dish from South India is rice-lentil crepe served with tamarind-lentil chowder or stew. Thin pancakes are made from fermented black gram-rice batter. Sambar is tamarind broth simmered with veggies, moringa pods (drumstick), curry leaves, cooked yellow lentil and spice tempering.

Image source: Nadir Hashmi

6. Dahi/Curd Rice


What khichdi is to others Indians, Dahi (curd) rice is to south Indians. This simple dish is a digestive and cooling agent as it contains fermented milk. Cooled white rice is mixed with dahi, salt and tempering of mustard seeds, split black gram (urad dal), green chillies and curry leaves. It is usually eaten plain or with pickles.

Image source: Veeresh Malik

7. Green Mung Dal (Green Mung Beans) Chilla/Pesarattu


Another Indian pancake, chilla or pesarattu is made with soaked mung dal/ beans and rice batter to which salt and asafoetida/ cumin seeds are added. Batter is cooked on a hot griddle, topped with chopped or grated vegetables, and served with chutneys or vegetable stews. Chilla versions contain wheat flour, besan or chickpea flour, oats or broken wheat and.

Image source: Upendra Kanda

8. Tadka Dal


A simple lentil stew with few ingredients. A dal of choice (green gram, red or yellow lentil) is pressure cooked with salt and turmeric. Add red chilli powder or garam masala, mustard and cumin seeds tempering, cilantro or fenugreek leaves, and you have a tasty side for flat breads or rice. Other dal styles have a mix of cooked dals with tomatoes, onions, greens, spices mix, and Indian yogurt or cream. You can find more lentil recipes here

Image source: SouthofIndia

9. Kosimbhir/Kuchumbar – Salad


The Indian salad – Kosimbhir, a Maharashtrian dish, contains vegetables like cucumber, carrot, onions, tomatoes, green chillies, coriander leaves, lemon juice, tempered spices (tadka) and salt. Variants contain raw mango, bean sprouts, desiccated coconut and peanuts.

Image source: Arvind Grover

10. Vegetable Curry


A must-have dish for vegetarians to meet their nutrients quotient. Sautéed or steamed vegetables are cooked into a thick gravy with spices. Sometimes leafy greens, cottage cheese and corn are added to the mix. Gravy base is usually tomato-onion paste, nut paste, tamarind broth or coconut milk.

Image source: Pelican

11. Poha


This breakfast dish cum snack is made with rice flakes. A tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chillies followed by sautéed onions, salt, turmeric, and dry flattened rice makes a poha. Versions include peanuts, coconut, potatoes, cilantro leaves and lemon juice.

Some make a dessert using rice flakes, jiggery, ghee and roasted cashews or almonds.

Image source: Ampersandyslexia

12. Murmur or Bhel Puri (Puffed Rice) Chaat Mix


A light and low-cal snack with chopped tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers mixed with puffed rice. Black salt, ground black pepper, red chilli powder or green chillies, mint or cilantro leaves, lemon juice and crushed peanuts enhance the flavour. Other toppings include corn kernels, bean sprouts, raw mango slices, grated coconut, roasted peanuts or roasted brown chickpeas.

Image source: Subhashish Panigrahi

13. Idli with Chutney


These steamed rice-and-lentil cakes are a favourite breakfast option. Fermented rice and black gram batter is transformed into savoury cakes in moulded steamer plates. Some versions are made with semolina while Kanchipuram Idli has vegetable stuffing. These rice cakes are served with tomato or coconut chutney and sambar.

14. Vegetable Rice and Raita


This wholesome meal consists of white rice cooked with vegetables like carrots, tubers, green beans, capsicum, green peas, cauliflower, squash, salt and spices.

The dish is usually served with vegetable side and raita made with dahi, salt, cucumber and green chillies.

Image source: Divya Kudua

15. Masala Dalia with Chaas


This vegetable dish is made with daila (broken wheat) base. Tomato, carrots, beetroot, cucumber, cabbage, mint, cilantro leaves and greens are cooked into a thick gravy with salt and tempered spices. Serve this with cooling chaas containing buttermilk, rock salt, mint or cilantro leaves and jeera powder.

Image source: Akktapanwar

Do you follow the vegetarian yoga diet? Tell us about your favourite Indian foods.

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