When building our meals each day, we want to keep our focus on health and incorporate variety. The variety should come from the different food groups of vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy, and various cultures.
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We may have favorites from our own culture but experiencing the flavors of others can expand our palate and preparation methods to include more diverse food selections we make daily.
As you plan your meals, travel around the world through your plate. Start your day out with Scottish oatmeal or bulger made with milk and topping it with fruit and nuts will provide a bonus of vitamins and minerals.
Make use of the seasonal produce around us, and in hotter months, which is more often than not in Central Florida. Cook dishes that don’t require heating to keep you and your home cool. Preparing Gazpacho, a cold, tomato-based soup, or Vietnamese Spring Rolls will allow you to include fresh produce other than the endless variety of salad combinations you can think of.
Flavor your food with herbs and seasonings other than salt. Spice it up a little with Sambar, an Indian lentil and vegetable stew. Lentils are packed with protein, fiber, potassium, iron, and folate. For a snack, visit Greece by making your own tzatziki dip. Tzatziki dip is made from cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, and dill and pairs well with whole-grain crackers and fresh seasonal produce for dipping.
Try crunching on whole-grain tortilla chips, which you can bake from leftover tortillas you have from taco night, and dip them in homemade salsa or guacamole.
Wherever your plate takes you, all meals should have the same focus based on the recommendations by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Half your plate should be fruits and veggies, at least half your grains should be whole grains, choose lean protein, and add low-fat dairy.
When incorporating culture, consider healthier cooking methods, such as roasting, grilling, sauteing, and stir-frying. For example, try a Chinese chicken stir fry. Stir-frying is a cooking method that uses a small amount of oil, such as canola oil, over medium heat and cooks the food quickly. For your chicken, add vegetables and frequently stir until cooked. Once cooked, serve over brown rice and enjoy a side of lychee fruit.
Grilling can be more than just for your protein. Try grilling pineapple as part of your kabob’s for a middle eastern twist. Involve your family or friends in cooking together to try new foods. This gives you the winning combination of working together, learning new cooking skills, and aiming for lifelong health with a balanced plate.
Enjoy the journey! To learn more about incorporating culture and health into meals, visit eatright.org and search culture and traditions.
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