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How to Eat Healthy Ethnic Meals

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How to Eat Healthy Ethnic Meals

Ethnic flavors are a growing trend on restaurant menus throughout America. In fact the National Restaurant Association (NRA) found consumers embrace global cuisine by exploring a wide range of international dishes. The NRA shared the following statistics:

  • 66 percent eat a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than in 2010
  • 80 percent eat at least one ethnic cuisine per month
  • 75 percent prefer restaurants with ethnic cuisine options

The fact is ethnic cuisines make up a large part of our diet, but are we paying attention to our food choices? Use these suggestions as a guide for what to order the next time you visit your favorite restaurant.


Greek food is based on the popular Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest of all cuisines, emphasizing a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Try some of these options:

  • Lathera, a casserole of vegetables such as green beans, okra and eggplant sautéed in olive oil, garlic, onions and tomatoes. These ingredients provide ample amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Baked or grilled fish such as mackerel, swordfish or snapper. These offer benefits to cardiovascular and brain health from their high omega-3s.
  • A seasonal salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Olive oil, along with other fat sources such as nuts and seeds, contains unsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory effects.


When we think of Japanese food we instantly think of fish. If we take a closer look at the diet of some Japanese populations, we find they follow a heavily vegetarian based diet consisting of vegetables, legumes, unprocessed soy foods and small amounts of fish. Try some of these options:

  • A vegetable and tofu stir-fry with bell peppers, carrots, broccoli and onions. The green, orange and yellow vegetables are packed with antioxidants and provide vitamins C and A.
  • Brown rice instead of white rice for extra fiber.
  • A veggie sushi with shiitake mushrooms, avocado, cucumber, burdock and natto (soybean food that contains isoflavones to help prevent diseases).
  • Sashimi topped with salmon, tuna or mackerel packs a punch with omega-3 fatty acids.


Italian cuisine shares some of the Greek’s star ingredients such as tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, oregano and parsley. Try some of these options:

  • A whole wheat pasta dish with vegetables tossed in a freshly-made tomato sauce with a healthy dose of parsley. Tomatoes, a key ingredient, contain lycopene, which has shown to help prevent cancer; and parsley provides vitamins for a strong immune system.
  • A large salad with a variety of vegetables and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. The more colorful components in your salad, the greater the benefits from a variety of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.


Mexican food offers flavorful dishes; the key is to find the healthiest ones on the menu. Try some of these options:

  • Chicken breast or beef tenderloin fajitas with roasted vegetables such as onions and bell peppers. Ask your server to prepare this dish with less oil.
  • Instead of ordering guacamole, ask for avocado slices. Restaurants may prepare their guacamole with sour cream or cheese which adds unnecessary calories and fat.
  • Ceviche is a seafood dish made with fish marinated in citrus juices, cilantro, chile peppers, tomatoes and onions. This is a low-fat meal bursting with antioxidants from the vegetables.

There’s no better time to choose nutrient-rich foods while still enjoying your favorite ethnic cuisines. Opt for meals that provide volumes of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and a variety of whole grains. 

To learn more about choosing healthy foods or to schedule a nutrition consultation, call Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services at 972.560.2655 or visit

Article provided by Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.