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Ethnic Foods for a Healthy Plate

Jicama SaladEating right is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. A healthy plate can include foods from all corners of the globe. In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans calls a healthy eating pattern “an array of options that can accommodate cultural, ethnic, traditional and personal preferences and food cost and availability.”

Regardless of your heritage, follow these guidelines: make half your plate fruits and vegetables; about one-quarter protein, such as lean meat, poultry, seafood or beans; and about one-quarter grains, preferably whole grains. With each meal, add fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese.

With increasing varieties of food available today, nutritious, healthy meals can fit within any cultural preferences.

Examples of healthful menus items from ethnic traditions include:

Chinese: Stir-fried chicken and vegetables such as bok choy, snap peas, carrots and bean sprouts; brown rice; and a dish of lychee fruit.

Italian: Minestrone (a hearty, tomato-based soup with, vegetables and pasta) with kidney beans added for folate, fiber and protein; gnocchi (flour or potato dumplings) with chopped vegetables like spinach mixed into the dough and served with lycopene-rich tomato sauce.

Greek: Tzatziki sauce (a creamy dressing of low-fat yogurt, garlic and cucumber) served on pita sandwiches or as a dip with vegetables; and dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with ground meat, vegetables such as bell peppers, eggplant and squash, rice, dried fruit and pine nuts).

Mexican: Jicama (a crisp and slightly sweet root vegetable) peeled, sliced and served on a salad with lime vinaigrette or chopped for a crunchy addition to salsas; and gazpacho (a cold tomato-based raw vegetable soup) made with spinach or cucumbers.

Or, try these additional menu ideas for ethnic foods that add flavor, variety and nutrition:

  • Fruit chutney (Asian Indian)
  • Grilled pineapple as part of a chicken shish kabob (Middle Eastern)
  • Mango or other tropical fruit smoothie (Latin American)
  • Baked pumpkin sprinkled with cinnamon (African)
  • Polish beets (European)
  • Stir-fried greens (Asian)
  • Cactus salad (Latin American)
  • Succotash (Native American or Southern U.S.)
  • Couscous (African)
  • Quinoa (Latin American)
  • Naan bread (Asian Indian)
  • Egg noodles (German)