There is a world of flavor out there, providing you with never-ending healthy ethnic food options from which to choose. That said, the best options are typically the most authentic ones. Americanized ethnic foods have a bad habit of being too fatty, salty, sugary and oversized. Therefore, whether you’re dining out or eating in, make sure you’re selecting the options that will boost your nutrition and make your taste buds dance.
Healthy Ethnic Food by Cuisine
The following is a helpful list of some of the most popular healthy ethnic food cuisines. Use this list to better understand the cuisine as a whole. Then, watch as we dig deeper to find the healthiest options for you to choose. At the same time, you’ll be able to spot the dishes that are best left behind.
Let yourself enjoy healthy ethnic food everywhere you go – even if it’s only as far as your own kitchen. There’s no reason for you to have to eat bland, boring food just because you’re living a healthful lifestyle. Celebrate what you eat and give your body what it needs at the same time.
Incredibly Healthy Italian
Italian food can easily become a healthy ethnic food choice. The key is in skipping the stereotypical Americanized version of the cuisine. Instead, have a look at what this cuisine is really about. Check out these Simple Diet Tips for Italian Food while you’re at it.
What you’ll come to learn is that Italian food isn’t just a giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Instead, you’ll discover beautiful fresh Mediterranean dishes made with fish, vegetables, olive oil and herbs. Easily making it a healthy ethnic food choice.
Healthiest Italian Food Options
Some of the best healthy ethnic food choices you can make while eating Italian have been on the menu the whole time. You simply may not have noticed them. That said, you may also have been eating them all along without realizing you were making the right selections!
Even at popular Americanized Italian restaurants, you can make fantastic selections. Check out Simple Swaps: Healthier Olive Garden Swaps for The Most Popular Dishes for some recommendations. You’ll notice a trend of fresh vegetables and seafood either on pasta or on its own; delicious healthy ethnic foods!
Italian Foods to Avoid
At the same time, there are some choices you shouldn’t make when you’re aiming for healthy ethnic food. Anything “bottomless” should be avoided. Instead, eat a decent portion of pasta. Skip the bread basket if you’ll already have a bowl full of noodles. Choose olive oil-based sauces instead of creamy or cheesy ones.
Think you’re so knowledgeable about how to eat Italian cuisine as healthy ethnic food? See how you do on this Italian Food Calories Quiz.
Munchable Mexican Nutrition
Mexican cuisine brings an astounding wealth of flavors, colors and nutrients to your plate. This is an easy top choice when you’re looking for healthy ethnic food. The key is to make sure you’re not confusing Mexican themed fast food restaurants for actual Mexican dishes. There is a vast difference between the two.
Check out this list of the healthiest choices at Mexican restaurants to get started. This will help you to become more familiar with the dishes you should eat more often. It will also help you to better spot the dishes left for only rare occasions (and small portions!).
Healthiest Mexican Food Options
Look for baked options over fried ones. A baked quesadilla, for instance, is a far better option than a fried chimichanga. It’s also a great idea to look for dishes made of as many fresh veggies as you can when selecting healthy ethnic food from this cuisine.
Fortunately, you have lots of choices. Salads topped with salsa, veggies with guacamole, spicy bean or seafood soups, ceviche, grilled fish, and veggie fajitas are all great options. In fact, many traditional Mexican dishes make surprisingly healthy ethnic foods. The main key to keeping them in your healthful eating strategy is not to overeat. Watch your portion size.
After all, even a small serving of flan can provide you with a delicious light dessert, provided you have a reasonable portion.
Mexican Foods to Avoid
At the same time, there are always options that don’t fall into the healthy ethnic food category. Churros easily top that list with a huge hit of fat, sugar and calories. However, you’ll also want to avoid many of the deep-fried options.
Toppings are also among the areas where you need to be careful. A perfectly healthy veggie fajita can turn into a nutrition nightmare if it’s filled with cheese and dipped into sour cream with every bite. Watch your condiments and you can often make sure your healthy ethnic food choices stay that way.
Tasty and Healthy Tex-Mex
Tex-Mex is an easy favorite for most palates. This fusion cuisine has a bad rap (wrap?) for deep fried, heavy, creamy and cheesy foods. That said, there are many options that can make sure you can always find healthy ethnic food selections everywhere you go.
If you’re preparing these foods at home, check out these Garden-Fresh and Healthy Taco Recipes. Expect to add these delicious, nutritious dishes to your go-to meals. They’re that good.
Healthiest Tex-Mex Options
If you love Tex-Mex, you’re in luck because there are tons of great restaurants out there. That said, there are many nutrition landmines in those locations if you don’t make the right healthy ethnic food choices.
Before you head out, learn these Simple Swaps: Order These Healthier Tex-Mex Choices. This way, you’ll get all the flavor without damaging your health and waistline.
You’ll find yourself eating chicken burritos, fish tacos, chicken bowls with brown rice, bean tacos, and grilled chicken. All filling, satisfying and flavorful but also healthy ethnic food.
Tex-Mex Foods to Avoid
At the same time, avoid the options that are the opposite of healthy ethnic food. For instance, start the day right by skipping the heavy sausage burritos doused in cheese. Instead, discover the Best Fast Food Swaps: Healthier Taco Bell Breakfast Best Fast Food Swaps: Healthier Taco Bell Breakfast options.
Throughout the rest of the day, skip deep fried Tex-Mex and go for healthy ethnic foods made with fresh veggies and seasoned with herbs, not fat, sugar and salt. Check out the Best Fast Food Swaps: Healthy Options at Taco Bell. You’ll learn how to skip the layered beef and cheese burrito style dishes in favor of far more nutritious selections.
Chowable Chinese Cuisine
Authentic Chinese cuisine is very difficult to find. Moreover, there are many different types of cuisine, all from China. The country is vast, and each region has its own culture and foods. That said, when most people look for healthy ethnic food from Chinese cuisine, they’re typically talking about fast food.
Chinese take-out is delicious. Few things are cozier than curling up with your favorite take-out items in front of a good movie. Before you place your next order, learn more about what’s on the menu and Learn All About MSG, It’s Safety and More.
Healthiest Chinese Food Options
The best healthy ethnic food options you can find on a Chinese food menu start with steamed vegetables. In fact, go for as many steamed options as you want.
Steamed dumplings are a completely different textural and flavor experience than fried. Moreover, they help to save you from much of the fat and calories from the fried varieties. Many of the soups – particularly egg drop soup – can also be great choices. Just be careful of the sodium levels you’re taking in if you want this to remain healthy ethnic food.
Chinese Foods to Avoid
When you’re eating Chinese as a healthy ethnic food option, it’s best to think about portion size and the way the food is prepared. Many menus provide you with preparation choices. Use those to help keep your meal more nutritious.
Fried rice, deep fried egg rolls, sugary sweet and sour sauce, crispy won tons, deep fried dumplings and chicken balls, and thick sauces rich in sugar and sodium should be avoided or eaten in tiny amounts as they are not healthy ethnic food.
Genius Japanese Dining
Japanese food is as much an experience as it is a recipe or a flavor profile. This cuisine can easily provide you with healthy ethnic food options. Give yourself a bit of a hand by learning Simple Diet Tips for Japanese Food.
You’ll discover foods full of flavors that reach every part of your palette. You’ll experience Texture combinations unlike anything you’ve ever had. Moreover, with Japanese food, you often eat with your eyes before you eat with your mouth. It is often considered an artform as much as menu.
Healthiest Japanese Food Options
Many traditional Japanese dishes are naturally very healthy ethnic food options. Steamed rice, fresh vegetables and fresh fish often top the menu. These are all excellent for nutrition and many are reasonable on the calorie scale, too.
Choose the simplest dishes, prepared skillfully, for the best nutrition reward for every delicious bite. If you’re always craving sushi, use this Healthy Sushi Guide for Dieters to help you out with your selections. Get ready to discover the wonders of sashimi and nigiri rolls!
Japanese Foods to Avoid
The two main areas of caution when eating healthy ethnic food as Japanese cuisine are: deep fried dishes and sauces. Tempura veggies and fish are all crunchy and delicious, but they’ve also sopped up lots of oil in their preparation. Fatty mayos, sticky sweet sauces and sodium spiking soy sauce should all be used to their tiniest amounts, if not avoided altogether.
If you’re preparing Japanese food at home, here are Bento Boxes for Every Craving to give you a hand with preparing healthy ethnic food.
Good Greek Cuisine
Greek cuisine is spectacular for those of us trying to find healthy ethnic food. More authentic, traditional dishes are the core of one of the most respected diets in the world – the Mediterranean diet.
In fact, you may discover some of your favorite Greek dishes are actually surprisingly healthy. The key with this cuisine is often portion size and making sure you’re eating more traditional dishes instead of fast-food versions.
Healthiest Greek Food Options
Do you absolutely love dipping veggies into hummus? Then you’re already on the right track with healthy ethnic food from Greek cuisine. This is even more true if you make it yourself. High in healthy fats and fiber (not to mention taste!) this dip is shockingly nutritious. Similarly, another dip, Tzatziki, is a yogurt and cucumber-based option that can also be light yet delightful.
Souvlaki is another easy Greek fav you can add to your healthy ethnic food list. Choose chicken and grill these pieces of marinated heaven to perfection! They go great with – or even on – your favorite Greek salad!
Greek Foods to Avoid
Try to avoid many of the pre-packaged versions of Greek food that are often higher in oil and preservatives than your nutrition would like. They are still healthy ethnic food, but not nearly as much as they would be if you made them at home. Moreover, make sure to pay attention to your portion sizes. As many Greek foods are based on ingredients that are healthy as long as the portions remain reasonable.
After all, a salad swamped in olive oil and feta cheese is great if you eat a little. However, too much and you’ll easily burn through a day’s worth of calories.
Fantastic French Foods
When you think about French foods, you likely call up images of creamy sauces, fluffy white breads and rich cheeses. You may also be thinking about flaky pastries that are only light in their airiness, not in their calorie density. However, there are many nutritious French dishes as well.
Keep in mind that French cooking as healthy ethnic food is about the way you eat it as much as what it contains. Food is experienced in France. People take their time eating, being mindful about the experience. Slowing things down helps the body register what it has consumed so that the feeling of satisfaction has time to arrive before you have overeaten.
Healthiest French Food Options
When you’re looking to French healthy ethnic food, look to the ingredients. This style of cooking is meant to be deceptively simple. It uses small numbers of ingredients in very high qualities, prepared to perfection.
Shell fish, ratatouille, pesto vegetable soup (soup au pistou), endives, lentils and even red wine are all on a healthy ethnic food menu in a French restaurant…or in your cookbook so you can enjoy it at home.
French Foods to Avoid
With French food, making it into a healthy ethnic food option isn’t as much about the dishes as it is about how much you eat. For instance, camembert is a lower fat cheese, but it is still high in fat. Therefore, the idea is to eat only a little of it. You’re not meant to fill your mouth with it. Instead, take a small amount but pay attention to the flavor and texture when you eat it.
Experience it mindfully instead of gorging on it. This technique helps to explain why the high fat diet consumed by the French still allows them a low level of heart disease.
Top Thai Options
Thai food has exploded in popularity in the United States over the last decade. The combinations of spiciness, acidity, sweetness and sourness can’t be compared to any other cuisine.
This cuisine has an exceptional range of soups among its healthy ethnic food choices. That said, it also offers light, vegetable-filled rice paper wrapped rolls, green mango slaws and seafood and grilled chicken galore. Many of these dishes are seasoned with a wealth of herbs and spices each with their own health properties.
Healthiest Thai Food Options
If you want to make sure you’re getting the best healthy ethnic food when you head out to Thai restaurants, get to know your menus. Check out these Healthiest Thai Restaurant Options to give you a head start!
You’ll find that many dishes that may have seemed intimidating to you when you first looked at a menu are actually quite approachable, even to people who aren’t too adventurous with food. Chicken satay, lemongrass pork, green mango, and tom yum soups are all beautiful healthy ethnic food options.
Thai Foods to Avoid
At the same time, there are some ingredients used that are very high in calories. Many of the sauces also come with a sugar, salt or caloric hit you may not want. To make sure you stay on the healthy ethnic food track, there are some choices to avoid. If you do choose these items, eat them in small amounts.
These include rice cooked in coconut milk, coconut milk-based creamy soups, thick and creamy curries, and pretty much anything deep fried.
Scrumptious Spanish Selections
If you’re ready to eat vibrant, colorful foods that feel like a celebration unto themselves, Spanish cuisine is the healthy ethnic food for you tonight. These dishes are often especially appealing in warmer weather. They include a flavor palette that suits the heat.
If you love spice, full-flavored but fresh and chilled soups, seafood, bright colors and subtle texture combinations, get ready to head out for Spanish food tonight.
Healthiest Spanish Food Options
It’s very easy to find healthy ethnic food options on a Spanish cuisine restaurant menu. Spanish food uses lots of vegetables.
Look for what appeals to you from bright cold gazpacho soup, to tuna salads with citrus and avocado, espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas), clams, cod, cauliflower, and shrimp and prawns prepared in virtually every way imaginable. This healthy ethnic food’s Mediterranean style of cooking is fantastic for healthy fats combined with fresh herbs and acidic flavors that cut through and keep the flavors tasting clean.
Spanish Foods to Avoid
Watch out for fried foods as they can carry far too many calories and fats. That said, the strategy with this food is to pay attention to what you’re eating and make sure your portion size is correct. Spanish cuisine has a way of sneaking up on you.
What can seem like healthy ethnic food – and probably is – can work against you when you take too much. The strategic use of citrus and herbs can mask a food’s oiliness, so you may accidentally overeat.
Ideal Indian Cuisine
Indian cuisine is a song and dance of spices and colors. This can make these dishes very healthy ethnic food options. After all, many of the dishes are high in veggies – or even vegetarian – and all those spices can add to health benefits. In fact, many Indian spices even help to promote better absorption of nutrients from the veggies within the dishes.
These spices may provide spiciness in terms of heat. They may also offer you a range of flavors that are brand new to your palette.
Healthiest Indian Food Options
The number of healthy Indian dishes is too high to count. That said, there are some specific options that stand out among the rest.
These include chickpea and spinach curry, buttermilk (which is exceptionally low in fat and has a unique flavor when enjoyed as a drink or an ingredient), tandoori chicken, and aloo palak with all its nutritious dark green leafies are all beautiful and nutritious healthy ethnic food options. Virtually anything from the tandoori oven is typically a good choice as it will usually have been made with a rub instead of a sauce and baked in a unique way that tastes like grilling.
Indian Foods to Avoid
The exception to the tandoori rule for healthy ethnic food is naan. While a little bit won’t hurt, it’s so delicious that it’s hard to eat only a small amount. Moreover, it’s often the base of many dishes with a lot of sauce, so it’s tempting to use it to sop up every drop of flavorful sauces.
Be cautious of the thickest and creamiest sauces. They’re also calorie packed. One great trick is to share a creamy curry dish with someone else. You can share a lighter dish, as well, making it possible to greatly reduce the fat and calorie content of these healthy ethnic food choices.
Marvelous Mediterranean Delights
As you noticed in the earlier sections from Mediterranean countries, foods from that region are highly respected for their nutrition benefits. These simple yet fresh and well-prepared dishes go a long way for your health and waistline. This is why they’re frequently seen as some of the top forms of healthy ethnic food.
Some restaurants simply call themselves “Mediterranean,” despite the fact that this actually refers to many different types of cuisine. A form of fusion, these healthy ethnic food recipes are from countries such as Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Morocco, France and others.
Healthiest Mediterranean Food Options
Due to the many backgrounds that make up Mediterranean cuisine, there are many delectable dishes. Expect to find the use of many fresh herbs to brighten and draw out the flavors of fresh fish, fresh vegetables, tomatoes and citrus.
You’ll also find the use of olives and olive oil. If it can be fished or grown from the Mediterranean region, you’ll see it worked into these delicious dishes – and enjoyed with wine.
Mediterranean Foods to Avoid
Despite how good these ingredients are for you, eating too much of them can take away from their status as healthy ethnic food. Remember that olive oil is good for you, but it also contains more calories than butter.
Red wine has its health benefits, too, but a small glass is more than enough for a woman, and two small glasses is enough for a man. Filling up on veggies and savoring the bites of the richer dishes is the best way to eat Mediterranean cuisine.
Very Healthy Vietnamese
Vietnamese cuisine is only just making its way into the hip scene throughout the United States. These dishes are strikingly different from traditional American fare. But what you may be wondering about the answer to the question: Is Vietnamese Food Healthy?
The answer is: absolutely. You’ll love all the veggies you’ll find, the spices you’ll taste for the first time, and the greens you’ll eat in abundance.
Healthiest Vietnamese Food Options
Look for foods that are steamed, high in veggies or that combine veggies with soup are all great options. You’ll also discover new preparations and forms of seafood to fall in love with. For most people, it is that first bowl of pho that truly sells them on this cuisine as a top healthy ethnic food style.
To be sure you’ve found healthy ethnic food, try to avoid fast food versions of this cuisine. It’s worth your while to find a place that uses high quality ingredients. That way, you will know you’re eating leaner cuts of meat and fresher veggies.
Vietnamese Foods to Avoid
Try to avoid anything deep fried. Watch for foods that use fatty cuts of meat. The extra meat fat can turn a veggie filled meal into one that no longer qualifies as healthy ethnic food. Sauces can also be high in sugar and salt, so use them sparingly.
Finally, as much as that huge mountain of noodles or rice may look delicious – and approachable if you’re new to the cuisine – pay attention to what you’re eating. If the majority of the dish is a starch, you’re not leaving as much room for ingredients with higher densities. Look for healthy ethnic food from Vietnamese cuisine that are based on veggies, chicken, fish and lean meats. Avoid (or at least eat only rarely) Bahn Mi, and noodle bowls.