How to Prepare a Nutritious Onam Sadya

Legend has it that Onam marks the day when the revered King Mahabali makes an annual visit to his home state of Kerala. And in India, there is no better way to celebrate the return of a much-loved mythical figure than by preparing a feast worthy of The king.

The Onam Sadya served on this day is a smorgasbord of vegetarian flavors that cover the six rasas, or tastes, as defined by Ayurveda – spice, salt, bitterness, sour, pungency, and sweet. A typical meal consists of up to 20 dishes arranged on a banana leaf, including a variety of appetizers, curry dishes made with coconut and cream cheese, sautéed vegetables, pickles, sambar-rasam, red rice from Kerala and Payasam. The meal is served in a particular order to complement and balance the flavor and nutritional elements. Snacks like Upperi, pickles, chutneys and dried vegetables are placed first on the sheet along with the rice. Parippu, a lentil sauce with ghee, is served before sambar and kalan (a banana curd sauce dish), and is followed by rasam. A variety of Payasams follow, and the meal ends with a cup of curd/glass of buttermilk to aid digestion.

As Onam falls after Karkidakam, the monsoon month when people are advised to consume detox foods to leave their digestive organs take a break, Onam is the true definition of a feast for the less active taste buds and rejuvenated organs.

If you’ve been managing your weight but can’t resist lip-smacking food, try these nutritious, low-calorie menu items.

Olan with White Pumpkin (petha)

A mild stew delicately seasoned, Olan can be prepared with white squash (also known as ash gourd/petha) or yellow pumpkin (kaddu). Both variants being rich in calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, iron, thiamine, niacin, vitamin C, protein and fiber and low in fat and carbohydrates, make it an ideal choice for people suffering from diabetes and/or obesity.

To give this dish a healthier touch, replace coconut milk with almond milk. milk/soy milk/curd.

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  • 250 grams white pumpkin, peeled, cut into pieces
  • ½ cup black-eyed peas (lobhiya/chawli), soaked in water for 2-3 hours.
  • 1 green chilli, sliced ​​lengthwise
  • 25ml of almond milk
  • salt to taste
  • 4-5 curry leaves (kadipatta)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil


  1. Pressure cook the beans until soft and set aside.
  2. Salt the pumpkin pieces and steam until soft and cooked through.
  3. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add the pumpkin, almond milk, curry leaves and green peppers. Stir well and bring the mixture to a quick boil.
  4. Cook until the sauce has the desired consistency (if you want it thinner, add a little water). Add the oil and sauté for a few more minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and let it rest for about 10 minutes. serve with appams (rice pancake) or steamed brown rice.

Nutritional value per serving: Energy 43kcal; Protein 3g; Fat 1g

Payasam brown rice

This traditional sweet can be prepared with brown rice instead of white, as the former is rich in fiber and a good source of manganese and selenium. Using a sugar-free sweetener lowers the calorie count.

traditional sweet


  • 50 g brown rice, washed and soaked for half an hour
  • ½ liter of milk
  • 5 grams of cardamom (elaichi) dust
  • 100 g Sugar-free Natura
  • 1 tablespoon of ghee
  • 2-3 chopped almonds


  1. Cook rice in milk until soft.
  2. Add the cardamom powder and Sugar-Free Natura and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Heat the ghee in a pan, add the almonds and roast until lightly golden. Pour over the rice mixture and serve hot.

Nutritional value per serving: Energy 50.7 kcal; Protein 0.4 g; Fat 2g

watercress seeds (halim) upperi

Upperi, or brown sugar coated banana chips, is a popular snack prepared during Onam. Substituting watercress for raw bananas is a more nutritious option, as the seeds are an excellent source of folic acid, vitamin C, fiber, iron, calcium, protein, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin E.


  • 50 g watercress seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed
  • 100 grams of saffron (God)
  • 50 grams of toasted dry coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee
  • 2 tablespoons of dry ginger powder (coming soon)
  • 2 tbsp Shatavari and Ashwagandha Powder
  • 2 tablespoons of cardamom (elaichi) and nutmeg (jaiphal) dust
  • 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds (khuskhus) dust
  • 2 teaspoons edible gum (dinka or gaund)
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, pistachio, cashews, crushed


  1. Heat the ghee in a pan, add the edible gum and fry until crisp.
  2. Add the brown sugar and let it melt over low heat. When it comes to a boil, add all remaining ingredients, except dried fruit, to the mixture.
  3. Roll out this mixture (similar to rolled chapattis), sprinkle over the crushed dried fruit and roll again to ensure the dried fruit sticks tightly to it. Cut it into square/rectangle pieces similar to chikki and let it cool.

Nutritional value per serving Energy 246 kcal; Protein 4g; Fat 15.6 g

Payasam millet

Foxtail corn (kangni or thiai) are a gluten-free, high-protein, low-fat, low-sugar alternative to white rice. This dish can also be prepared with almond milk.

Foxtail millet
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  • ½ cup Foxtail millet
  • 1 cup brown sugar (God)
  • 2 cups milk, boiled and cooled
  • 10-12 cashews
  • 15-20 raisins
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom (elaichi) dust
  • 1 spoon of ghee


  1. Heat the ghee and roast the cashews and raisins separately. Set aside and, in the same skillet, bake the millet until slightly hot to the touch. If necessary, add another ½ teaspoon of ghee.
  2. Pressure cook the millets with 1 ½ cups of water for three whistles or cook in a pot with a lid (see how to cook corn).
  3. Dissolve brown sugar in ¼ cup of water and strain. Boil the mixture until it thickens a bit and add the cooked millets. Cook over medium heat until blended.
  4. Add the cashews, raisins and cardamom powder and stir.
  5. Add the milk and let it boil on low heat for a few seconds before turning off the gas. Don’t boil it too long after adding the milk.

Observation: When you make payasam with brown sugar and milk, the brown sugar syrup or milk must be at room temperature when mixed. If both are hot, the milk may curdle.

Nutritional value per serving: Energy 124 kcal

Looking for healthy recipe options? Our nutritionists can help you plan your diet.

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