Monday, March 4, 2013

Delicious Nutrition in any Language

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has designated March as National Nutrition Month®. Recognizing our country’s rich cultural diversity, the Academy has initiated “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day” to help Americans of all cultures make delicious, nutritious choices about what to eat from their homeland cuisines.

Eating well to boost your health and maintain a healthy weight starts with some smart, conscious choices, including cutting out white flour and white sugar and curtailing your intake of saturated fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer these recommendations for a healthy eating plan:
  • Emphasize fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and, if you consume dairy, choose low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products.*
  • Include lean meats, poultry, and fish if you eat meat; everyone should include legumes (beans, nuts), and eggs (if you are not vegan or are an ovo-lacto vegetarian).
  • Avoid or limit your consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and added sugars. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for total fat and saturated fat.

Regardless of your cultural heritage, there are so many ways to pack in the nutrition without packing on pounds (of course, we expect you are exercising and staying active!).

Make every calorie count. Eating well goes beyond counting calories—it means eating nutritiously in terms of vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients. Choose whole grains, unprocessed or minimally processed foods, natural or certified organic foods; include plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.

Mix it up. Vary your menu to encourage sampling and broadening the types of foods kids are more apt to try. Protein is available in meat, beans, and nuts; many different fruits offer wholesome fiber and vitamins; try side dishes made with whole grains, fruits, nuts, or vegetables.

Make it colorful. Fruits and vegetables come in a rainbow of colors, each overflowing with essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and many more. Dark leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses.

Keep it fresh whenever possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables pack more nutritional punch than processed, canned, or frozen foods.
Americans are lucky to be able to enjoy so many wonderful ethnic cuisines within our borders. Here is a small list of delicious ethnic dishes that support the guidelines for good nutrition:

Italian – minestrone soup bursting with vegetables, beans, and pasta; gnocchi (made with potato flour); homemade tomato sauce; whole wheat pasta with vegetables and olive oil.

Greek – tzaziki sauce (made with low-fat yogurt, garlic, and dill) served as a dip with fresh vegetables; dolmas, the stuffed grape leaves filled with ground meat and/or rice, vegetables, dried fruit, pine nuts.

Chinese – stir fries made with fresh vegetables (bok choy, snow peas, carrots, bean sprouts), and tofu, chicken or lean beef.

Japanese – udon noodle soup with buckwheat noodles, bean sprouts, snow peas, tofu.

Central/Latin American –sliced, grated, or chopped jicama (root vegetable) used in salads; homemade salsas with tomatoes and chiles (as dips and toppings); quinoa, a versatile grain that cooks quickly, can be used as a side dish or in salads (gluten-free!); sliced avocados; fish stew.

Caribbean – grilled pineapple; mangos and other tropical fruits; Cuban black beans; curried sweet potato soup.

African – pumpkin puree, pumpkin-nut soup; rice with beef and beans; African vegetable soup with sweet potato, garbanzos, and vegetables; couscous with vegetables.

Indian – fruit chutneys, whole wheat naan, dal (lentils and seasonings), tandoori chicken.

Eastern European – beets, buckwheat, egg noodles, stuffed cabbage (with lean ground meat or pureed steamed vegetables).

Bon apetit, buen provecho, guten Apetit . . . enjoy!

*There are many excellent dairy alternatives for those who wish to avoid dairy products, such as soy, coconut, almond, hemp, and rice milks, and frozen desserts and cheeses made from these products.