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Tips for Healthy International Cuisine

Our taste buds crave variety. While home cooking is great for most meals, there are times when we undoubtedly crave international cuisine. Due to the unfamiliarity with foods of other cultures, many restaurant goers may not know how to make healthy choices when it comes to international foods. Below are several types of cultural cuisines with tips on what you should and should not eat in order to follow the rules of a healthy diet.

Chinese Food
Several Chinese meals include a large amount of rice and vegetables, small amounts of meat, and low-fat methods to prepare the food. If you are craving Chinese food, there are several options to satisfy your hunger. There are, however, several fried foods included on the menu at a Chinese food restaurant.

Try to avoid the following:

  • Foods prepared with whole eggs, such as lobster sauce, egg drop soup, and egg foo yung.
  • Deep fried dishes such as Kung Pao Chicken, General Tso's Chicken, Mu Shu Pork, Egg Rolls, fried noodles, fried rice, or fried dumplings.
  • Dishes with heavy sauces or nuts. Take-out Chinese restaurants use way too much sauce and too many nuts to be included in a healthy diet.

Good Chinese Food Choices:

  • Chicken with broccoli and shrimp
  • Foods prepared in the stir-fry method with only a small amount of unsaturated oil
  • Steamed rice
  • Cantonese dishes tend to be lighter
  • Meals heavy on the vegetable servings

Hispanic Food
With the cheese, beans, meat and fats of Hispanic foods, a healthy eater might think twice about dining in a Mexican restaurant, but if prepared on how to make Hispanic cuisine more healthful, you can enjoy a hearty meal.

Try to avoid the following Hispanic food temptations:

  • Cornchips, pork skins, sour cream and guacamole
  • Prepared sauces such as sofrito and mojo criollo
  • Fried foods, including fried tortillas, fried vegetable fritters (alcapurrias), fried banana slices (tostones), and refried beans

Instead try the following substitutions:

  • Baked tortillas and regular salsa
  • Meals prepared with liquid oil rather than lard
  • Boiled dumplings (pastels), boiled bananas (tuineo, platano), baked or broiled meat or chicken, boiled beans
  • Lean beef, chicken, or bean filled soft burritos, enchiladas, or tacos

Some good tips for any time you eat out
Eating out is always difficult. With no portion control and an incomplete understanding of the ingredients in some foods, there is a high probability of going over your calorie or fat limit (not to mention sodium!) but here are some general rules to follow no matter what type of food your get.

  • Avoid buffets. You will obviously consume more calories if you are able to go back for seconds…and thirds…
  • Special order your food. If you know of a way to make a menu item healthier, feel free to special order your food. If a restaurant does not prepare meals ahead of time then they should be more than happy to fulfill your request.
  • Share your food. Split an order with a friend to cut back on portion size.
  • Cut portions in half. Immediately put half of your meal away in a take-away container. It is a convenient way to cut back on calories and have lunch prepared for tomorrow.
  • Order dressings and sauce on the side. Restaurants typically drench their salads in dressing. If you have control over your dressing and sauces you can cut back on a significant amount of calories.

Take this information into consideration next time you dine out and you should be able to keep your calories under control.


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