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How to Eat Healthy Ethnic Meals

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How to Eat Healthy Ethnic Meals

Ethnic flavors are a growing trend on restaurant menus throughout America. In fact the National Restaurant Association (NRA) published an article in August 2015 that found consumers embrace global cuisine by exploring a wide range of international dishes. The NRA shared the following statistics:

  • 66 percent eat a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than in 2010
  • 80 percent eat at least one ethnic cuisine per month
  • 75 percent prefer restaurants with ethnic cuisine options

The fact is ethnic cuisines make up a large part of our diet, but are we paying attention to our food choices? Use these suggestions as a guide for what to order the next time you visit your favorite restaurant.

Greek

Greek food is based on the popular Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest of all cuisines, emphasizing a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Try some of these options:

  • Lathera, a casserole of vegetables such as green beans, okra and eggplant sautéed in olive oil, garlic, onions and tomatoes. These ingredients provide ample amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Baked or grilled fish such as mackerel, swordfish or snapper. These offer benefits to cardiovascular and brain health from their high omega-3s.
  • A seasonal salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Olive oil, along with other fat sources such as nuts and seeds, contains unsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory effects.

Japanese

When we think of Japanese food we instantly think of fish. If we take a closer look at the diet of some Japanese populations, we find they follow a heavily vegetarian based diet consisting of vegetables, legumes, unprocessed soy foods and small amounts of fish. Try some of these options:

  • A vegetable and tofu stir-fry with bell peppers, carrots, broccoli and onions. The green, orange and yellow vegetables are packed with antioxidants and provide vitamins C and A.
  • Brown rice instead of white rice for extra fiber.
  • A veggie sushi with shiitake mushrooms, avocado, cucumber, burdock and natto (soybean food that contains isoflavones to help prevent diseases).
  • Sashimi topped with salmon, tuna or mackerel packs a punch with omega-3 fatty acids.

Italian

Italian cuisine shares some of the Greek’s star ingredients such as tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, oregano and parsley. Try some of these options:

  • A whole wheat pasta dish with vegetables tossed in a freshly-made tomato sauce with a healthy dose of parsley. Tomatoes, a key ingredient, contain lycopene, which has shown to help prevent cancer; and parsley provides vitamins for a strong immune system.
  • A large salad with a variety of vegetables and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. The more colorful components in your salad, the greater the benefits from a variety of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Mexican

Mexican food offers flavorful dishes; the key is to find the healthiest ones on the menu. Try some of these options:

  • Chicken breast or beef tenderloin fajitas with roasted vegetables such as onions and bell peppers. Ask your server to prepare this dish with less oil.
  • Instead of ordering guacamole, ask for avocado slices. Restaurants may prepare their guacamole with sour cream or cheese which adds unnecessary calories and fat.
  • Ceviche is a seafood dish made with fish marinated in citrus juices, cilantro, chile peppers, tomatoes and onions. This is a low-fat meal bursting with antioxidants from the vegetables.

World Food Day is October 16, 2015. There’s no better time to choose nutrient-rich foods while still enjoying your favorite ethnic cuisines. Opt for meals that provide volumes of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and a variety of whole grains. 

To learn more about choosing healthy foods or to schedule a nutrition consultation, call Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services at 972.560.2655 or visit cooperclinicnutrition.com

Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.