If you've ever had counseling from a diet professional, chances are you were told to avoid ethnic foods because they can be high in sodium and fat. However, ethnic foods have become a major part of many American diets, adding new flavors and ingredients to our palates. For some, eliminating ethnic foods can be as challenging as avoiding the local McDonald's!
It is possible to eat ethnic and stay healthy by following the principles of a healthy diet, which are the same regardless of cuisine. Here are some tips to help you enjoy the foods of other cultures and stay healthy:
- Avoid foods that are fried.
- Select dishes that have been baked, steamed, or grilled.
- Avoid foods prepared with sauces and gravies. Instead, select plain, lightly seasoned meats or fish.
- Watch the high-fat sides and toppings!
- Select Chinese menu items that are "jum" (poached) or "kow" (roasted), and choose steamed instead of fried rice.
- Select dishes that have lots of vegetables and ask the chef to use less oil when preparing them to keep fat calories to a minimum.
- Limit your sodium intake by avoiding extra soy sauce and by asking that dishes be prepared without monosodium glutamate (MSG).
- Select Italian menu items prepared with red sauces, "piccata" (lemon), or crushed tomatoes that are lightly sauted. Avoid adding extra cheese.
- Opt for thin crust pizza and limit toppings to vegetables.
- Skip high-fat meats like pepperoni.
- Choose Mexican dishes that use hard corn tortillas and have grilled chicken, seafood, or vegetables, such as fajitas.
- Limit the sour cream or guacamole, which are high in fat, and pick toppings such as salsa instead of cheese to add flavor.
- Stay away from tempura dishes, which are deep-fried and a source of extra fat.
- Limit teriyaki dishes as they will add extra sodium to your diet.
- Ask for sauces to be served on the side.
- Avoid foods prepared with phyllo pastry as they are high in fat.
- Ask for olives and feta cheese on the side as these items are higher in sodium.