Typical Indian takeaway meal for one contains enough food for two people

Monday 16 November, 2015. Eating a typical Indian takeaway meal of a starter, main course and pilau rice can contain far more calories than an adult’s total daily requirements and enough food for two people with approximately twice their recommended maximum level of fat and high levels of salt according to a new report by safefood. In addition, some varieties of naan bread contained almost a third of an adult’s total daily calorie requirement. The research by Ulster University is the latest in the Nutrition Takeout Series by safefood looking at popular takeaway foods and helping consumers to make more informed choices when eating.

Of the side dishes surveyed, the average portion of Peshwari Naan bread contains 748 calories while the average portion size of a Chicken Tikka Masala main course contained 1,249 calories. The top three most popular main courses identified were Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma and Chicken Jalfrezi.

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 adults’ 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 adults 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.”

Indian Main Course Dish

Calories in an average portion

% of Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of 2000 kcal

Total Fat (g) in an average portion

% of Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of 70g

Salt (g) in an average portion

% of Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of 6g

Chicken Tikka Masala







Chicken Korma







Chicken Jalfrezi







One in five adults report ordering Indian takeaway food recently while one in three people say they order a full main size portion for themselves (safeftrak/Millward Brown 2013).

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 www.safefood.eu where there are also a range of healthy Indian recipes featured.

- Ends -

For further information please contact Wilson Hartnell

Amy Pilgrim, Tel: 01 669 0030 or Mob: 087 261 3300 or E: amy.pilgrim@ogilvy.com

Emma Walsh, Tel: 01 6690 0030 or Mob: 087 317 0897 or E: emma.walsh@ogilvy.com

Or contact safefood:

Dermot Moriarty, Tel: 01 448 0600 or 086 381 1034 or E: press@safefood.eu

Julie Carroll, Tel: 01 448 0600 or 086 150 3047 or E: press@safefood.eu

Editor's notes

Indian Food survey methodology

The sampling and nutritional analysis of Indian food was conducted among 36 outlets including takeaways and restaurants with a takeaway service in both urban and rural locations. More outlets were sampled in Dublin and Belfast as these had a larger number of outlets than in other locations.  To determine the most popular takeaway foods purchase, 60 establishments (ROI 40 / NI 20) were chosen at random and contacted via telephone. The most popular Indian takeaway foods are shown as follows:

Starter: Onion Bhaji; Chicken Pakora; Chicken Tikka

Main Course: Chicken Tikka Masala; Chicken Korma; Chicken Jalfrezi        

Side dishes: Boiled rice; Pilau Rice; Plain naan; Peshwari Naan;Poppadoms

Consumer survey methodology

safefood/Millward Brown "Safetrak 15" survey of 800 adults on the island of Ireland.

Healthy eating tips for consumers

  • Consider Indian takeaway meals as an occasional food and one portion should ideally be shared between two people.
  • Consider shop-bought options instead of takeaways, as they are generally smaller in size and have fewer calories, as well as less fat and salt.
  • Choose boiled rice over pilau rice and share the portion of rice as the average portion provided enough for two people. Consider not eating both a portion of naan bread and rice, unless they are shared.
  • Avoid nibbling on poppadoms and associated dips – on average one portion of poppadoms contains over 100 calories alone.
  • Dishes labelled deep fried, battered or crispy should be avoided as these are be higher in calories, fat and salt. Items with more vegetables should be ordered where possible.
  • Minimise intake of sauces as they are usually high in calories, fat and salt. Add extra vegetables to your meal instead.