When I first went to India, a lot of people asked me why I wanted to go there. “Are you going to India to find yourself?” they say, a little sarcastic edge to their voice. “No,” I’d reply. “I’m going to there to shop and eat”.  And eat I did. India is one of the world’s most amazing gourmet destinations, offering an incredible and varied food culture.

However, India sometimes gets a pretty unfair wrap when it comes to food, with the term Delhi Belly thrown around by any man and his dog who have a crook tummy.  Chances are that yes, somewhere along the road, you might get a little sick from what you eat- but with a little common sense and an ounce of precaution, you can have your masala dosa and eat it too.  Here are the top tips for eating healthy in India:


Go Easy Your First Few Days


Your first few days in India are when your tummy is most vulnerable. You’ve just travelled, your body clock is most likely out of whack and you’re tired. Eat mild foods light on heat and spice and remember- even if you think you’ll manage, in those first few days, don’t ask for it extra spicy (I did, and lived to regret it).


Be Discerning


Look before you eat. Is the restaurant busy or empty? If it’s popular, it’s probably safe. Does it look clean or grubby? Are plates uncleared or is food sitting around? Look at the food you’ve served- if there’s some raw onion or tomato next to it, best to skip that and eat only the cooked stuff. So that chutney on the table? Probably tastes great, but how long has it been sitting there for? In short: the more you pay attention to what you eat, the less you have to worry about getting sick…


Avoid Western Food


It’s going to taste nowhere near the same as back home, and it’s going to be the least ordered dish on the menu, which means chances are it has been sitting there gathering flies the longest. Eat local regional specialities to sample the best, tastiest (and usually safest) food.


Go Vegetarian


The tastiest food in India is often vegetarian food. For one thing, you’ll learn fairly quickly why beef isn’t big on the menu in India. There are also frequent power cuts, so refrigeration is tricky for most establishments to manage. Vegetarian food is also incredibly tasty and nutritious- try something mild like Palak paneer for starters.


Street Food


Street food can often be a far healthier option than what you can get from a restaurant or five star hotel buffets. Eat at stalls that are busy and well frequented, be picky about what you eat, and if you get to watch your food being deep-fried fresh on the spot, it’s generally okay.


Don’t Overeat


Believe it or not, overeating can be one of the biggest culprits of a dodgy tummy. Indian food is often so good, it’s hard to slow down and take it easy on how much you eat. On my last trip to India, this was the biggest mistake I made. I overate on my first day and paid for it dearly for the next week.


Wash your Hands


And not just with that hand sanitiser, either. Wash your hands with water and soap, dry them and use hand sanitiser or baby wipes. Wash them frequently and always before every meal (You’d be surprised how many people forget to wash their hands)




What to eat if you do have the runs


Locals recommend green coconut water- the natural Indian version of rehydration salts. Replenish your fluids when you’re sick. The less fluid you have, the more your body overheats, and the worse you’ll feel. Carry rehydration salts and gut paralysing drugs for diarrhoea in your medical kit. Drink weak black tea, eat curd (plain yogurt), boiled eggs or plain rice and chapatti. And take it easy.


And don’t forget…


The Golden Rule



If you’re to eat with your hands in India (and I would argue this is often the best, and more hygienic way to do it), eat only with the right hand, not the left. Don’t ask why, just trust me on that one.