How to Make Healthy and Multicultural Food Choices

/ in Wellness Wednesday /

healthy eating

When children are exposed to as many food options as possible from a young age, they are less likely to become picky eaters, more likely to choose nutritional options in the future, and become more accepting of cultural differences.

One of the great benefits of living in Canada is exposure to great multicultural food options! These foods are available in restaurants, grocery stores, and take out locations. If you’re ready to incorporate more of these foods into your and your child’s diet, it’s important to be able to tell if you are making healthy and nutritious options. This is especially the case when eating out rather than cooking them traditionally at home.

Let’s go over some common multicultural foods, their healthy options and what foods to look out for!

Japanese food

Traditional Japanese cuisine is based on rice, miso soup, and dishes that emphasize season ingredients. Fish, pickled vegetables, and vegetable cooked broth are all common elements. Staples of Japanese cuisine include grilled or raw fish, noodles, and a deep-fried light batter like tempura. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

When enjoying Japanese food, many parents are concerned with serving young children raw fish. Often, once children are old enough to eat solid food, sushi should be safe enough for them to eat. If you are unsure, ask your paediatrician what they recommend. If their doctor lets them try it, start by giving your child a small amount and monitoring to see how they react to it.

Thai/Vietnamese food

Staples of Thai or Vietnamese cuisine often include steamed or grilled vegetables, fresh fish, and stir-fry. Sticky rice, curries, salads, and soups are often eaten as sides. Noodle dishes are very common as are ingredients like shallots, chillies, lime juice, fish sauces, shrimp paste, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and lemon grass.

To make healthy choices, look out for salt and fried rice.

Indian/East Indian

Traditional Indian and East Indian foods include chicken, meat, fish, ghee, cream, tomatoes, onions, garlic & spices (cumin, ginger, coriander, cayenne, turmeric), cucumber, beans, lentils, noodles, couscous, rice, naan bread, roti, chapati, yogurt, and chutney. With so many options, how can you go wrong?

Try tandoori instead of curry or biryani to keep your meals healthy!

Middle Eastern/Mediterranean

Hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, grape leaf dolmades, Greek salad, bulgur wheat salad, pita bread, meats like pork and lamb, shwarma, kabobs, stews, chickpeas, tzatziki, and goat cheese. Our mouths are watering!

Avoid deep-fried falafels and vegetables and phylio pastry like Baklava.

Italian

Italian dishes are characterized by pasta with vegetables, tomatoes, and sauces, pizza, veal, beef, prosciutto, cheese, risotto, bread, polenta, pesto, white cannellini beans, and pistachio.

You can keep meals nutritious by avoiding breaded & deep-fried meat like veal cutlets, or fried fish like calamari.

Mexican 

Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas– in any case they’re filled with vegetables, beans, lentils, meat, chilli peppers, avocados, jicama, and use corn and flour tortillas.

Look out for foods loaded with cheese, deep-fried corn tortillas and corn chips, sour cream, salty salsas, and refried beans. Opting for less cheese is an easy way to make Mexican cuisine healthier for you and your children. Watch out for other foods high in fat like guacamole and regular sour cream. Choose salsa with the lowest amount of sodium or if you’re feeling adventurous – make your own!

Caribbean

Caribbean cuisine is characterized by dishes like jerk chicken, fried dumplings, fried plantain, salt cod, curry goat, steamed cabbage and rice, kidney beans, and Jamaican patties filled with ground meat, fish, or soy, and cheese.

To make healthy choices, be wary of heavily salted foods and deep-fried foods. Opt for plenty of fruits like mangos, pineapples, papaya, bananas, kumquats, and pomegranates.

The Healthy Choice

Whichever multicultural meal you’re cooking up, there are ways to make sure you’re choosing the healthiest option for you and your children. Some tips for keeping meals healthy:

  • Avoid heavily salted foods and sauces
  • Use plenty of vegetables in your dishes
  • Avoid cooking with salt
  • When possible choose alternatives to meat such as lentils, beans, or tofu
  • Grill meats instead of frying them
  • Choose brown rice, whole wheat bread, buckwheat pasta, or whole wheat pasta instead of white rice, bread or pasta
  • Avoid solid fats or lards and instead cook with olive, canola, corn, or soybean oil
  • Avoiding creamy sauces or salad dressing is a good way to lower unhealthy fat intake

Your children will love to explore the various multicultural choices you provide for them! Trying new foods together turns a meal into an experience! At Childventures, our nutrition program prides itself on providing healthy, multicultural options that your children are sure to love!




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