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If our great-great-grandparents had been told that Americans today would regularly eat dim sum, pad thai, souvlaki, tikka masala and arroz con pollo, they might have looked at the messenger with a look of complete disbelief - if they even knew what those foods were! As the melting pot of the U.S. has continued to bubble, Americans have been exposed to exotic cuisines from all around the world.
While exploring new flavors and sometimes even fusing very different flavors together, it can be tempting to overindulge. If the old adage is true and we are what we eat, limits probably need to be drawn. How can we continue to enjoy culinary adventures while maintaining a healthy diet?
One judgment made about ethnic cuisine in the U.S. is that it’s been overly “Americanized.” Critics note the large portions of many Americanized dishes, as well as the high fat content and tendency to overuse oils.
However, Mediterranean food—Greek, for example—is famous for its use of olive oil, yet is often considered some of the healthiest food in the world.
How can a variety of ethnic foods be incorporated into a diet in the most healthful way? Here are 5 guidelines to help keep calories and fat content in check while still allowing the taste buds to enjoy an adventure.
- Limit the oils. Olive oil does indeed provide beneficial omega-3s. However, at 120 calories per tablespoon, it should be used in moderation. Other oils, as well as butter, should also be used sparingly.
- Skip the “fries”. Fried food tend to be much higher in calories than food cooked in any other way. While they may taste good, they’re probably not the healthiest choice.
- Go for low-fat dairy. Cream, butter and lots of cheese add loads of flavor . . . and loads of calories and fat.
- Incorporate color. Brown rice, which contains fat-burning resistant starch, is a healthier choice than white rice, which can spike blood sugar.