Savannah Valley District

Healthy Choices of Ethnic Foods

Christine Patrick, County Extension EFNEP Agent

Look for these menu items and terms when choosing healthy ethnic foods:

Cajun:  Boiled crawfish or shrimp; boiled or grilled seafood; Creole and jambalaya dishes; turkey or roast beef Po’ Boy sandwiches; red beans and rice without sausage

Chinese: Steamed dishes (e.g. dumplings, rice, spring rolls, and whole fish); jum (poached); kow (roasted); chu (broiled); shu (barbecued); lightly stir-fried entrées; dishes with lots of vegetables and/or water chestnuts; Wonton or hot-and-sour soup; sweet and sour sauce, and dishes without MSG added. Substitute chicken for duck when possible. Don’t eat the crispy fried noodles. Enjoy the fortune cookie, because it has only 15 calories and 0 grams of fat

French: Steamed mussels; mixed green salad with vinaigrette dressing; French bread; Bordelaise or other wine-based sauce, and lightly sautéed, crisp vegetables

Greek & Middle Eastern: Appetizers with rice or eggplant; Dolmas (rice mixture wrapped in grape leaves); Tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber appetizer); roast lamb; shish kebabs; couscous or bulgur wheat with vegetables or chicken; chicken pita sandwich, and plaki (fish cooked in tomatoes, onions, and garlic)

Indian: Steamed rice; Papadum or papad (crispy, thin lentil wafers); tikka and tandoori (chicken or beef); curries with a vegetable or dal base; shish kebabs; Gobhi matar tamatar (cauliflower with peas and tomatoes); Matar pulao (rice pilaf with peas); Chapati (thin, dry, whole-wheat bread), or naan (leavened, baked bread topped with poppy seeds)

Italian: Grilled; lightly sautéed; sun-dried tomatoes and crushed tomatoes; minestrone (with beans, vegetables, and pasta); pasta primavera (with sautéed garden vegetables instead of cream); pasta with white or red clam sauce, marsala sauce (made with wine) or marinara sauce (made with tomatoes, onions, and garlic); cacciatore (tomato-based sauce) dishes; piccata (with lemon juice and chopped parsley) dishes, and Italian ices

Japanese: Steamed vegetables; grilled shrimp or vegetable sushi; chicken or beef teriyaki (grilled); nabemono (casseroles); sukiyaki; shabu-shabu; su udon, and sumashi wan

Mexican: Spicy chicken; chicken fajitas (marinated chicken grilled with onions, green peppers, diced tomatoes, etc. with a soft corn tortilla); grilled shrimp, fish, or chicken; taco salad or fajita salad (Don’t eat the fried tortilla shell, and ask for low-fat sour cream.); rice and black beans; burritos; soft tacos; chicken or beef enchiladas with red sauce or salsa; baked or soft corn tortillas; salsa, picante, pico de gallo, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers

Thai: Stir-fried dishes; broiled or steamed dishes, and fresh spring rolls

These ethnic foods are higher in fat, sodium, and sugar and should be eaten in small amounts or avoided:

Cajun: Fried seafood and hush puppies; gumbo, etouffee, and sauces made with a roux (contains flour and fat as thickening agents); dirty rice (contains chicken gizzards, livers, butter, etc.); red beans and rice with sausage

Chinese: Sauces—soy, lobster, oyster, and bean; some soups (e.g. egg drop); crispy fried noodles; deep-fried foods; pork-fried rice and MSG

Japanese: Deep-fried, battered, breaded, or fried; high-sodium marinades, sauces, and salt; vegetable or shrimp tempura; tonkatsu; oyako donburi, and chawan mushi

French: Olives, capers or anchovies; Paté; French onion soup; croissants; Hollandaise, Mornay, Béchamel or Béarnaise sauce; creamy “au gratin” potato dishes; rich, heavy entrées; chocolate mousse, and crème caramel

Greek & Middle Eastern: Meat-stuffed appetizers; fried calamari; Baba ganoosh (eggplant appetizer); Gyro; Moussaka (lamb and beef casserole) and other creamy or cheesy entrées; Spanakopita (spinach pie with egg and cheese); baklava and other high-fat, high-sugar phyllo pastries

Indian: Dishes prepared with ghee (clarified butter); Samosas (stuffed and fried vegetable turnover); Korma (braised meat with a rich yogurt cream sauce); curries made with coconut milk or cream; Pakora (deep-fried dough with vegetables); Saaq paneer (spinach with cheese cubes and cream sauce); sauced rice dishes, and fried or stuffed bread

Italian: Creamy Italian dressing; antipasto plates; fried calamari; cheese or meat-filled pasta; casserole-type dishes; pasta with butter or cream sauces (Alfredo sauce); scallopine or parmigiana (floured, fried, and baked with cheese) dishes; Italian pastries (cream cake); pizzas with double toppings of cheese. Choose vegetables (e.g. spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, and roasted peppers) as toppings instead

Mexican: Refried beans (often made with lard, a saturated fat); nachos; flour tortillas; full-fat sour cream and cheese; guacamole; quesadillas; chile rellenos; chalupas; hard shell tacos and tostadas (fried); burritos; chimichangas; flautas; carnitas (fried pork or beef) and chorizo (sausage)

Thai: Heavy sauces; fried spring rolls; deep-fried entrées, and dishes with coconut milk or cream

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