Tips for Eating Healthier International Cuisine


We all know to order broiled instead of fried and ask for the dressing on the side, but here are a few tips to take along the next time you’re heading out to a restaurant serving international fare, where the territory may not be as familiar to you.

The American Heart Association has a great little cheat sheet you can print out the next time you’re craving Greek, Indian, Thai, French, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Cajun, Vietnamese or Mexican food. And we’ve added a few pointers, as well.

-When in a Thai restaurant, steer away from the heaping platters of greasy noodles like Pad Thai and avoid the deep fried shrimp and rolls. Instead, choose Tom Ka Gai soup (chicken in coconut milk with mushrooms and lime juice) or the other Tom: Tom Yam Goong, a hot and sour shrimp soup. Pass on the fried duck with starch-laden sauce and instead choose Gaeng Keow Wan Gai (curry chicken with eggplant and coconut milk) or Neua Pad Prik, a Thai pepper steak.

-When having Indian food, surrender the Samosas (stuffed and deep fried vegetable turnover’s often filled with peas and potatoes) for Papadum or Papad, crispy, thin lentil wafers. Forgo curry dishes made with heavy cream and opt for those made with a yogurt, coconut, vegetable or dal base, like shish kabob or tandoori chicken or fish.

-If you’re craving Chinese food start with a won-ton or hot and sour soup over egg drop, steamed brown rice over fried rice, and steamed dumplings over deep-fried egg rolls. Choose vegetable dishes to complement your rice, as well.

-When you know Italian is in your future, skip the fried calamari and order some minestrone soup or roasted red peppers; instead of creamy and carb-laden fettuccine Alfredo or breaded chicken parmigiana, go for marsala dishes, made with marsala wine, or piccata dishes, prepared with lemon juice, capers, and white wine.

-A good Mexican choice would be chicken or beef fajitas (marinated chicken or beef grilled with onions, green peppers, lettuce, diced tomatoes with a soft corn tortilla) over quesadillas, which are filled with meat and cheese and often fried. Or choose a taco salad and load up on heart-healthy guacamole instead of sour cream.

As for navigating traditional American fare – burgers and hot dogs, pizza and brownies, fries and Coke – I fear more research is required.

Image: Michael Whays

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