March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Eating right is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. A healthy plate can include foods from all corners of the globe. In fact, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans says, "Healthy eating patterns are adaptable ... Any eating pattern can be tailored to the individual's socio-cultural and personal preferences."
Regardless of your heritage, follow these guidelines: make half your plate fruits and vegetables, with the rest of the plate including protein, such as lean meat, poultry, seafood or beans, and grains, preferably whole grains. With each meal, add calcium-rich foods such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages.
With increasing varieties of food available today, nutritious meals can fit within any cultural preferences. Examples of healthful menu items from cultural 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 including 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 global cuisine 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)
- Dal (Asian Indian)