Ethnic cuisine: Tips for making healthy choices

Salud! Chin-chin! You can find healthy dishes for any type of cuisine — you just have to know what to look for.

  • You can enjoy your favorite foods and try new flavors on the Mayo Clinic Diet — you just need to be smart about your choices. These suggestions will help you savor a range of cuisines, while keeping calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium under control. Consider these pointers the next time you get takeout or go out to eat at a restaurant.

  • Chinese

    Look for: Stir-fried or steamed dishes with lots of vegetables. Ask to have your stir-fried dishes prepared in little or no oil. Steamed rice, poached fish, and hot and sour soups are also good choices.

    Avoid: Fatty spareribs, fried wontons, egg rolls, shrimp toast and fried rice. To limit sodium, ask that your food be prepared without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Request soy sauce — which is high in sodium — or other sauces on the side. You could also ask your server if low-sodium soy sauce is available.

  • French

    Look for: Steamed shellfish, roasted poultry or salad with dressing on the side. Entrees with sauces made from a wine or tomato base — such as Bordelaise or à la Provençal — are also healthy choices.

    Avoid: French onion soup — it's high in sodium and high in fat if it has cheese. Also steer clear of croissants, pâté, and high-fat sauces — such as béchamel, hollandaise and béarnaise.

  • Greek

    Look for: A Greek salad or fish cooked with tomatoes, onions and garlic (plaki). Also consider chicken kebabs — which are broiled on a spit, often with tomatoes, onions and peppers.

    Avoid: Dishes with large amounts of butter or oil, such as eggplant appetizers (baba ghanoush) and desserts made with phyllo dough, butter, nuts and honey (baklava). To limit sodium, avoid olives, anchovies and feta cheese.

  • Italian

    Look for: Tomato sauce with garlic and onions (aka marinara), sauce based in wine (Marsala), clam sauce and pasta primavera with fresh vegetables and a small amount of oil. Simply prepared fish and chicken dishes are also good choices.

    Avoid: Pasta stuffed with cheese or fatty meat and dishes with cream or butter sauces. Veal scaloppini and parmigiana (cooked with Parmesan cheese) contain added fat.

  • Japanese

    Look for: Steamed rice, soba or udon noodles, stir-fried noodles (yakisoba), chicken teriyaki (yakitori), steamed dumplings (shumai), tofu, sukiyaki, and vegetables and rice (kayaku gohan).

    Avoid: Shrimp or vegetable tempura, chicken katsu, fried pork (tonkatsu), shrimp agemono and fried tofu.

  • Mexican

    Look for: Grilled fish, shrimp and chicken with salsa made of tomato, chilies and onion. Order corn tortillas — they're lower in fat and calories than are flour tortillas — as long as they aren't deep fried. For a side dish, order rice or beans. Make sure your side dishes aren't cooked with fat or lard — ask your server about this.

    Avoid: Dishes with large amounts of cheese, sour cream and guacamole. Chips also add a lot of fat and calories.

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