6 Healthiest Ethnic Cuisines

Some ethnic cuisines have gained a bad wrap. The ridiculously high calories and fat can be blamed on the Americanization of the food – typically, the addition of too much fat and oversized portions. So whether you’re dining out or cooking at home, these 6 ethnic cuisines can absolutely be part of a healthy diet—just be sure to avoid those common pitfalls.
ISRAEL_SALAD_4.tif

ISRAEL_SALAD_4.tif

Food stylist: Jamie Kimm Prop stylist: Marina Malchin

You might not think of ethnic cuisines as "healthy" foods, but they absolutely can be part of a healthy diet -- just skip the fatty, huge,  Americanized versions.  Here are the 6 healthiest international cuisines, plus common pitfalls to avoid.

#1: Greek

The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional Greek food including lots of fish, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and red wine. Heart healthy omega-3 olive oil is traditionally used in Greek cooking, along with olives and nuts.

Common pitfalls:
  • Beware of olive oil overload — it’s still 120 calories per tablespoon.
  • Traditional foods like moussaka, spanakopita, tiganita (deep fried veggies) and saganaki (fried cheese) are extremely high in calories. If you must indulge, share with friends.
  • The gyro is also high in fat and calories -- we suggest you skip it.
#2: Japanese

If you look beyond the greasy offerings at many Japanese steakhouses, you'll find lots of low calorie protein and healthy fats in Japanese cuisine. Edamame, miso soup and lots of seafood are some healthier choices. Nowadays, you can also order up brown rice to up the fiber.

Common pitfalls:
  • Oily dishes like chicken teriyaki can be super-high in calories. Order up sauce on the side to monitor calories.
  • Fried dishes like tempura and spring rolls -- avoid them, or share with friends.
  • Keep sushi portions small, as you'll rack up calories eating white rice.
#3: Indian

Those potent Indians flavors like turmeric, red chiles, ginger and Dana’s favorite garam masala (a combo of spices) have been shown to have health benefits. Many have been shown to help protect cancer, while turmeric and ginger help fight Alzheimer’s.

Common pitfalls:
  • Avoid curries made with gobs of cream, butter or coconut sauce
  • Watch out for fried goodies like samosas (stuffed and fried veggie turnovers) and pakora (deep-fried dough with veggies)
#4: Spanish

Spanish tapas are a collection of small plates or appetizers; one of the only cuisines where portions are controlled! There’s also a wide variety of full-meal options,  from fish to beef to tomatoes and beans.

Common pitfalls:
  • Don’t over-order! You can always ask for more.
  • Beware of the fried stuff like squid, battered and deep-fried olives and Spanish chorizo (Spanish-style sausage).
  • Keep alcohol under control-- too much alcohol typically leads to over-munching.
#5: Thai

Thai dishes feature fruits, veggies, lean meats, seafood, lime, rice, noodles and coconut. Common spices include inflammation-fighting turmeric and digestion-aiding ginger.

Common pitfalls:
  • Watch out for dishes made with artery-clogging coconut milk or oil.
  • Be careful with sauces—always ask for them on the side
#6: Mexican

Love the cuisine from south of the border? Mexican food can be part of a healthy diet. But skip the fried, cheese-covered menu items -- go for fajitas with grilled chicken or strips of beef, control those toppers and you’re good to go. There are also lots of vegetarian choices to choose from. And don’t forget all that salsa! Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene that’s been shown to reduce the risk of both cancer and heart disease.

Common pitfalls:
  • Be careful with the endless bowl of chips—15 chips are a serving.
  • Limit cheese, or order dishes without it.
  • Mind your margaritas -- they're packed with sugar and calories.
TELL US: What's your favorite healthy international food?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

You Might Also Like:

Keep Reading

Next Up

6 "Healthy" Foods To Skip

These foods all sound healthy, but don't be fooled -- they may not be as healthy as they seem.

6 Healthy Pantry Must-Haves

Could your pantry use a healthy makeover? Use these six ingredients to infuse recipes with flavor.

6 Condiments with Healthy Benefits

Certain condiments add more to your meals than flavor -- some condiments actually improve your health.

6 Healthier Packaged Foods

The recent Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo in Houston showcased an array of good-for-you foods that are new to the market. Here are six worth checking out.

6 Healthier Treats for Halloween

Ideas for healthier Halloween treats.

6 Snacks That Are Healthier Than They Seem

Some snacks have a bad reputation for being unhealthy—but I’m setting the record straight on these 7 foods.

6 Healthy Pasta Salads to Save Your Waistline

These better-for-you recipes prove that, with a few easy modifications, you can take a scoop of classic potato salad without derailing your healthy lifestyle.

Katie's Healthy Bites: 6 Energy-Saving Kitchen Tips

It's almost Earth Day! We all know how important it is to use as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible, but have you thought about using energy-saving cooking techniques? Here are 6 easy ways to use less energy and resources in the kitchen.

6 Lightened-Up Sweets for a Healthier Halloween

Halloween is not the night to restrict your diet, but that doesn’t mean your evening of revelry should be quashed early by a sugar coma.

6 "Healthy" Kids Snacks That Aren’t

Feeding your kids can get confusing. Between pushy food marketing and bewildering food labels, it’s no wonder that most folks are misled as to which kids snacks are really healthy. To all my mom friends who’re always asking me about healthy snacks, here’s the real deal on what you’ve been buying (yes, I usually just smile politely).

On TV

Food Network Apps

In the Kitchen

Get over 70,000 FN recipes on all your mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger

Ask our bot for recipes, meal ideas and daily food trivia.

Amazon Echo

Just say "Alexa, enable Food Network skill" to get started.