10 Healthy Buys at Your South Asian Grocery Store


By Zannat Reza @food4happiness

Healthy foods spotted at a South Asian grocery store


I always experience sensory overload when I walk into a South Asian grocery store. My nostrils are assaulted with the overpowering smell of spices and fried foods. Among the aisles of crammed products, pickles, salty snacks and sweets there are some healthier options. Here are my top ten healthy finds during a recent trip to BJ Supermarket on Gerrard Street in Toronto.

1.     Fresh vegetables

I don’t need to tell you the benefits of vegetables. Just eat them.

fresh veg

2.     Frozen vegetables

How convenient to find already washed and chopped karela and okra. Cook it lightly in some canola oil, diced onion, a pinch of turmeric, ground coriander and cayenne.

Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh. They are frozen at their peak ripeness, locking in nutrients.

frozen veg

3.     Dried fruit and nuts

Go for unsalted nuts. You can flavour them at home.

Dried fruit, such as raisins, make a great snack, especially for kids.

I really like unsweetened, shredded coconut in baking.

I was super excited to find dried mango without added sugar or sulphites (Solar Gold brand). It’s much better than canned mango pulp, which is loaded with added sugar. 

 dried fruit nuts

4.     Spices and seasonings 

South Asian stores are wonderful for buying spices in bulk. While I didn’t need a two cup bag of fennel seeds, I was happy to find them. I really like munching on them after meals. My mom claims it’s good for digestion (while I’m not sure about that, it certainly freshens your breath).

 spices; South Asian

5.     Lentils and other dals

Who doesn’t like the colourful display of different dals?

A great source of protein and fibre, dal should be every South Asian’s best culinary friend.

If you know someone with diabetes, lentils and other pulses do wonders for keeping your blood sugar in check.

 lentils; South Asian

6.     Plain chana

Plain, roasted chickpeas are a perfect crunchy snack. They are very low in salt and calories with a boost of fibre, giving them an edge over the plethora of salty snacks available e.g. Punjabi mix, chevda, moong sev mix.

Sprinkle some plain chana on yogurt mixed in with a pinch of chaat masala. Add a few blueberries for an unexpectedly satisfying snack.


7.     Milk products

Our bones need a daily calcium fix. Milk products are a great way to keep your blood pressure in check, especially when combined with a diet that’s high in vegetables.


8.     Whole wheat chapatti

I like the convenience of ready-made chapattis. The nutrition numbers are decent too. Each whole wheat chapatti is 150 calories and houses 2 grams of fibre (better than a paratha).

Go for whole grain pita and naan when possible.

Another whole grain best buy includes brown basmati rice. If that makes you cringe, try mixing half brown rice and half white rice.


9.     Healthier brands


I was pleasantly surprised to see a few items that were striving to be healthier. The Healthy Tiffin brand from Deep Foods is packed with fibre and the portions seemed decent.

The sodium is still a bit high despite their lower sodium claim, but most frozen entrees are much higher.

The Richealth line from Priya foods offers up an oats version of idli, dosa and utappam mix.


10.  Tea

Tea is packed with antioxidants and can be a stress reliever. I love the range of offerings available. I’m feeling relaxed already.

South Asian; tea

After scoping out the store for healthy offerings, I have to confess to buying a few vegetable samosas. I can’t remember the last time I had them. Remember the 80-20 rule – if you eat healthy foods 80 per cent of the time, it’s okay to treat yourself for the remaining 20 per cent.

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