Celebrate National Nutrition Month with International Cuisine

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There is no better time than during National Nutrition Month to learn how to enjoy international cuisine. Below are some cuisines that allow you to “Put Your Best Fork Forward” — without using an actual fork! And remember, you don’t have to eat out to enjoy these cuisines — the truly adventurous can make them at home with a little Googling and a willing spirit. 

Japanese

This cuisine is rich in fish, vegetables and rice, with many delicious and nutritious options. Chopsticks are used to eat most Japanese dishes. While traditional Japanese cuisine is prepared steamed, boiled or raw, be mindful of added sodium and fried preparation methods. 

Nutritious Japanese options:

  • Steamed edamame: A perfect appetizer, these green soybeans have a slightly nutty flavor and provide protein and fiber.
  • Hiyayakko: Cool tofu topped with daikon, grated ginger or mustard delivers a delectable flavor and the benefit of protein and healthy fat.
  • Sashimi: Thinly sliced meat or fish naturally high in protein and satisfying. Select from ikura (salmon), ahi (tuna), ika (squid), kani (crab), ebi (shrimp) and unagi (eel). 

Thai

Traditional Thai dishes require a fork and spoon. The spoon is used to move the food you are eating to your mouth, and the fork is used to help push food into the spoon. 

Nutritious Thai choices: 

  • Tom yum soup: Spicy and sour with herbs and spices, this soup will satisfy an adventurous palate. Please note the soup may be high in sodium. 
  • Summer rolls: Also known as “fresh spring rolls,” this appetizer often is made with shrimp and vegetables and wrapped in rice paper. Use peanut dipping sauce sparingly. 
  • Satay: Grilled meat or tofu laced onto bamboo skewers are packed with protein and sure to satisfy. When preparing at home, flavor with lime, turmeric, garlic and red chili. If enjoying out, use the peanut dipping sauce sparingly. 
  • Broth-based curry: Two of the most common curries, red and green, have fresh herbal flavor and pair well with seafood. Jungle curry (gaeng pah or kaeng pa) and sour curry (gaeng som or kaeng som) are popular broth-based soups without the addition of heavy cream.

Ethiopian

Injera is a flatbread made from teff, a cereal grass that's fermented with water and baked into large, airy pancakes, with the texture of crepes and the flavor of sourdough bread. Whole-grain teff flour is incredibly nutritious — high in fiber, iron, calcium, a complete amino acid profile and gluten-free. To eat Ethiopian food, tear off a piece of injera, scoop up your food, roll it up and pop the whole thing into your mouth — and repeat until satisfied. 

Nutritious Ethiopian choices:

  • Misir wat: This red lentil curry made with garlic, olive oil, ginger and onion is a great option if you are looking for a spicy, warm stew. 
  • Shiro alecha: A mild stew of seasoned ground lentils, chickpeas or peas. This is a terrific option to be served with injera if you want a dish with a milder flavor profile.
  • Gomen: Ethiopian style collard greens – perfect for your little leafy green lover — that pair perfectly with fresh lemon juice! When preparing at home add paprika, ginger root, turmeric and all spice for flavor and a boost of antioxidants. 

Mexican

Eating tacos with a fork and knife is unacceptable in the Mexican culture. Therefore, be polite: Use your hands! Mexican cuisine is filled with flavors and ingredients such as cilantro, garlic, avocado, beans, onion, chili peppers and more.

Healthy Mexican options:

  • Salsa de piña picante: A sweet and fresh salsa made with pineapple, cilantro and lime juice.
  • Guacamole: Add tomatoes, lemon juice, jalapeños, and cilantro —these ingredients give a kick of flavor to a traditional guacamole. 
  • Sopa de habas: This fava bean soup is filled with a flavorful aromatic base of tomatoes, garlic and onions. Fava beans are very nutrient-dense, containing folate and iron.
  • Chicken carnitas tacos: Crispy, tender chicken with hints of lime, cumin, garlic and orange juice! These ingredients give your chicken carnitas a fresh and pleasant taste.
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Beryl Krinsky
Beryl Krinsky, MBA, MS, RDN, LDN, is the Founder and CEO of B.Komplete, LLC, a corporate wellness firm that offers a variety of onsite and virtual services for corporations. Beryl is passionate about living a healthy and balanced lifestyle and loves yoga, walking, cooking, acupuncture, meditation and community service. Connect with B.Komplete on the blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.