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Tips For Healthy Dining At Ethnic Restaurants

High-Carbohydrate, Low Fat Meals Are Available

Healthy high-carbohydrate, low fat meals are available at ethnic restaurants. You just have to know what to look for, what to avoid or watch out for, and what the good menu choices are:

Chinese
  • Look for: stir-fried and steamed dishes (such as rice) with plenty of vegetables.
  • Avoid: deep-fried items (egg rolls and wontons) and high-fat foods such as spare ribs and sweet-and-sour pork or shrimp.
  • Watch out for: "hidden" sources of fat in fried chow mein noodles, fried rice, and lobster sauce (made with egg yolks).
  • Good menu choices: Some Chinese food choices with less fat include
    • Steamed rice
    • Chicken chow mein
    • Chicken/beef chop suey
    • Steamed Chinese vegetables
    • Stir-fry vegetables with shrimp/chicken
    • Hunan tofu
    • Hot-and-sour soup
    • Wonton soup
    • Fortune cookies
Indian
  • Naturally healthy. Indian food feature beans, rice, grains, vegetables and breads, which are all high carbohydrate, low fat.
  • Cooked with little added fat. The food is usually steamed, not stir-fried.
  • Watch out for: dishes made with coconut milk and cream, which contain saturated fats and should be consumed in limited quantities.
Italian
  • The secret is in the sauce. Pasta is a good choice, but marinara sauce is recommended over Alfredo and Pesto sauces, both of which are high in fat.
  • Pizza is okay. Thick-crust plain cheese or vegetable pizza is another good choice, as are salads with dressing on the side.
  • Avoid extra butter and oil. Bread is great, but butter, margarine, or olive oil will increase the fat content.
  • Good menu choices: Some lower-fat Italian choices are:
    • Pasta with marinara, marsala, tomato, or red clam sauce
    • Chicken Marsala
    • Spinach or mushroom tortellini
    • Minestrone soup
    • Bread sticks
    • Italian ice
Mexican
  • Look for: Chicken and bean burritos (not deep fried), soft tacos, and tostados
  • Replace refried beans with pot beans or black beans, if available, or ask the server whether the restaurant offers fat-free refried beans or ones made with vegetable oil instead of lard.
  • Substitute heated corn tortillas for chips, salsa for sour cream and guacamole (both of which are high in fat).
  • Good menu choices: Mexican food choices that are lower in fat include:
    • Salsa
    • Baked tortilla chips
    • Gazpacho soup
    • Black/red beans
    • Spanish rice
    • Fajitas
    • Chicken or seafood tacos made with flour or corn, and
    • Refried beans made without lard.

 Updated June 8, 2011

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