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ethnic food

Eating Ethnic: What to Choose (and Avoid)

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One of the benefits of a weight-loss program is its ability to expand your horizons to include delicious new foods you may never have considered eating. Read on for the best – and worst – Japanese, Indian, and Mediterranean dishes to try.

One of the benefits of a weight-loss program is its ability to expand your horizons to include delicious new foods you may never have considered eating. A key component of that can be ethnic food. Moving beyond Italian, Mexican, and Chinese (technically ethnic but pretty mainstream in most of America) can be intimidating, since you may not know which dishes will fit best into your medical weight loss plan. Read on for the high points, plus some advice to help you steer clear of ethnic food pitfalls.

Japanese: Japan currently boasts the longest lifespan in the world, and its healthy cuisine is frequently championed as a main cause. The Japanese diet is rich in seaweed and kelp, which provide many important minerals High intake of vegetables and fish also contribute to the high nutrition quotient. Not surprisingly, these foods are also great for maintaining a healthy weight. Sashimi (raw fish), miso soup, kombu noodles (made of seaweed), and broth-based soups with noodles and vegetables are nutrient-rich choices that will fill you up with relatively few calories.

Avoid: Anything tempura (which denotes a breaded and deep-fried  cooking method). If you’re going for sushi, Westernized adulterations like spicy mayonnaise or other sauces are going to be high in fat andcalories. Also, choosing brown rice instead of white, if it’s offered, will help keep you full and provide lots of healthy fiber and trace elements. 

Indian: The humble curry is a traditional staple of the Indian diet. While it’s nothing more than a spicy sauce served with meat or vegetables, there’s nothing simple about curry when it comes to health. Recent studies show that turmeric, a spice used in curries and other Indian dishes, may help ward against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Curries, when prepared simply and traditionally, can also be great for your medical weight loss plan. Choose a curry with fish, chicken, bean, or lentils along with lots of vegetables. Curry sauces made just with spices and a broth or tomato base will help you avoid additional fat and calories, so ask your server exactly how the dish is prepared. Tandoori—an Indian cooking method utilizing a tandoor oven—is also a low-fat choice for chicken, meat, or fish.  

Avoid: Dishes cooked with ghee, a clarified butter used liberally in certain Indian dishes. Some dishes have a lot of cream, nuts, and coconut milk as well, and some dishes—like samosas—are deep-fried.  

Mediterranean: Lots of people hear ‘Mediterranean’ and immediately think Italian food. However, the term denotes a cuisine based on a vast geographical area. As different as some of the offerings are among the countries ringing the Mediterranean Sea, there are many similarities between foods consumed by inhabitants of Northern African, the Arabian peninsula, and countries in Southern Europe like Greece and Turkey. Traditionally, these cuisines are high in fresh fruit, beans and lentils, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and fish. Together, these foods provide lots of key nutrients that research indicates can reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions including cancer.   

The Mediterranean diet can also help you succeed with your medical weight loss program: Some studies have shown that people lost just as much weight when following the Mediterranean diet as on a low-carb diet, and more weight than on a low-fat diet. Try Middle Eastern dishes like stuffed grape leaves and tabouli or Moroccan tagines (spicy vegetable or meat stews), and you’ll find your taste buds amazed by the broad definition of ‘Mediterranean.’ 

Avoid: Foods soaking in olive oil. While small amounts can be good for your heart, many Mediterranean dishes are quite generous with the olive oil, which can quickly pile on the calories and fat and hinder weight loss. Lots of pita with meals can also up the calories; skip the bread and load up on fresh vegetables, beans, lean meat, and fish with small amounts of whole grains.

Next Steps:

Get more tips to decode the menu when you dine out.
Learn how to choose the healthiest salad.
Find a center near you to schedule a consultation with a CMWL physician.


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