TRENDS: Ethnic Foods
Written by Alessa Pomerantz | Reviewed by Adiana Castro, MS, RDN, CDN, CLT
Want to learn more about a culture? The best way is through their food! Ethnic foods provide exposure to new ingredients and flavors, and they are a great way to add more variety to your diet. While exploring new foods from different countries is exciting, it is important to choose foods with the best nutritional value. Here are some healthy options of what to love about each!
Greek food is part of a mediterranean diet, primarily based on fresh veggies, fruits, fish and olive oil. Because of this, it is a great way to add a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as essential fatty acids such as omega-3s. Some great choices are, Dolmades, which are grape leaves stuffed with herbed rice and sometimes lamb for added protein. Briam is also a great choice. This dish is simply a medley of roasted mediterranean vegetables such as, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. Another delicious dish is Souvlaki, which are grilled meat skewers, usually served with vegetables and a yogurt sauce. These are great choices that provide essential nutrients. Certain dishes however can be coated with an excessive amount of butter, oil, or salt such as Spanakopita, which is a buttery spinach pie, Moussaka, a creamy meat casserole, and Baklava, a sweet pastry. While they are delicious, they should be eaten in moderation.
Japanese dishes typically consist of whole grains, fresh fish, and distinctive vegetables. This cuisine is good for adding fiber, protein, antioxidants as well as heart healthy fats. Keep an eye out for dishes containing avocado, ginger, and green tea, as these are high nutrient filled ingredients. A great Japanese appetizer is Edamame, little soybeans that are packed with protein. Sashimi and sushi are great sources of protein, Steamed Gyoza are delicious potstickers filled with meat or vegetables. Seaweed and ginger salads are also great for added nutrients. A few things to limit in Japanese cuisine are soy sauce and miso, which are incredibly high in sodium. Similarly, Tempura and Katsu dishes should be limited because these are fried foods. Hibachi style Japanese food can also be a high calorie meal.
Mexican foods are based on fresh produce accompanied with well-prepared high protein meats. Staple ingredients such as, avocado, tomatoes, beans provide essential nutrients like, fiber, vitamins A, C, K, E, B, and omega 3s. While Mexican food is delicious and nutritious, there are many vices that could make healthy eating more difficult. Chips and dips like salsa and guacamole are an example of this. A way to avoid mindless munching on chips is asking them not to bring it to the table, and instead ask if they can give you fresh peppers or soft corn tortillas to dip in salsa or guacamole. A few healthy dishes to note are, Fajitas, a sizzling plate of grilled meats and vegetables, Ceviche, a raw fish dish, as well as Rice and Beans, which are delicious high protein and fiber options. When ordering try to choose dishes that contain chicken or fish and ask for cheese and sour cream on the side so you can control the amount. Ethnic cuisines include drinks, so try to skip the Margarita or Sangria and opt for something with less sugar such as a tequila club with lime.
Italian dishes are scrumptious, flavorful and comforting. Fresh vegetables, delicate meats and pastas are staples in this cuisine. Similar to the Mexican cuisine, dining in an Italian restaurant can feel a little overwhelming when trying to maintain a calorie budget. A way to avoid this feeling is by choosing one: bread from the breadbasket, an alcoholic drink, an appetizer, or a dessert. By choosing only one, you will be able to enjoy a delicious meal without feeling as if you have overindulged. When ordering, try to choose the dish that includes the most vegetables and lean proteins. Limit foods that are fried, creamy, cheesy, or breaded. If you are worried about portion sizes, when ordering you can ask your server to pack half of it to go, that way you have a well sized dinner as well as lunch for the next day!