Culture plays a big part in our lives, even influencing our diet and the ingredients we use to cook regular meals.
However, we aren’t always taught that we can incorporate different cultures and recipes into our healthy lifestyle. It’s important to recognize that you don’t always have to eat bland foods to eat healthy. Which means no, you don’t have to recycle the same grilled chicken breast and broccoli dish every week! Adding a flare of culture to your meals can make things interesting while celebrating tradition – whether it’s yours or something different.
Incorporating Culture in a Healthy Way
Here are some tips for adding more culture to your dishes while keeping a healthy foundation.
- Choose local ingredients and traditional food preparation methods to make the eating experience more enjoyable and unique.
- Don’t limit yourself to only a few different cultural dishes. Expand your palette and see what all you can make!
- Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Fill two-thirds of your plate with grains (whole grains, wheat, oats, brown rice, etc.).
- Fill a third of your plate with lean protein (seafood, poultry, beans, lentils, etc.).
- Eat plenty of plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables and lean meats to lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Culturally Diverse Food Ideas
- Stir-fried Vegetables: A blend of vegetables with your choice of meat or tofu, sautéed with Chinese seasonings and sauces.
- Steamed Dumplings: Dumpling wrappers filled with meat and vegetables and steamed in a pan. Serve with veggies or extra protein.
- Beef and Broccoli: A blend of beef and broccoli sautéed in a pan with Chinese seasonings and sauces.
- Dahl: A slow-cooked lentil dish prepared with red or yellow lentils cooked with onions, tomato and spices. It can be served with rice, roti or chapati.
- Poriyal: A favorite South Indian stir-fried side dish prepared from fresh vegetables such as French beans, carrots or cabbage, seasoned with mustard seeds, curry leaves, freshly grated coconut and spices.
- Tandoori Chicken: A chicken entrée that is marinated with spices and yogurt and then grilled on a stovetop. Serve with vegetables.
- Hummus: A blend of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic. Serve with naan bread, crackers or fresh vegetables like carrots or snow peas.
- Tabbouleh: A fresh salad that comes with finely-chopped parsley, mixed with chopped tomatoes, mint, onion, bulgur, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
- Bulgur Pilaf: Bulgur wheat cooked with onion, tomatoes and spices.
- Ceviche: Raw fish marinated in lime and lemon juice, onion, tomatoes and cilantro.
- Fajitas: Grilled chicken, fish or shrimp sautéed with onions and peppers and served with whole wheat tortillas.
- Nopales Salad: Cooked chopped cactus leaves, green onion, tomato and cilantro. Season with salt and lime juice.
For more ideas about celebrating culture through healthy food, click here for the Obesity Action Coalition’s Summer 2021 issue of Weight Matters Magazine and look for the article “Eating Healthy Without Boundaries.”