Tips for Healthy Ethnic Cuisine

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ethnic cuisine, meetings
Pasta has enough carbs by itself, so skip the bread.

It’s easy to inject smart choices into the standard American catering menu, but what can you do to create healthy ethnic cuisine? These following tips from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health will help.

Mexican cuisine

For healthy ethnic cuisine, avoid high-fat baked platters such as enchiladas, which are loaded with cheese. Opt for items such as chicken or fish soft tacos with corn tortillas or offer a taco bar with fresh corn tortillas in lieu of a burrito bar. Corn tortillas are a great whole-grain choice and because they are often smaller, everyone will take less. Skip the sour cream and go light on the cheese. Offer salsa and guacamole as healthier alternatives. ƒOrder whole beans (black or pinto) instead of refried. ƒServe with a side salad instead of corn chips. ƒFor dessert, offer seasonal fruits.

Asian cuisine

Avoid fried dishes such as Sweet and Sour Pork or Orange Chicken and order steamed or stir-fried entrees ƒOrder steamed brown rice instead of fried rice or noodles. ƒInclude a side of steamed vegetables. Asian entrees are often heavy on the sauce, so plain steamed vegetables can compliment the richer dishes. ƒGo for fresh vegetable spring rolls in lieu of fried egg rolls or wontons. ƒMake sure items are prepared with no MSG and inquire if they offer any low-sodium items.

Italian cuisine

Instead of a Caesar, provide a mixed green salad with low-fat Italian or balsamic vinaigrette. ƒ Avoid baked dishes such as lasagna, eggplant parmesan or baked ziti, all of which are heavy on the cheese and high in fat. Opt for grilled chicken, fish or seafood, pasta primavera or other dishes full of fresh vegetables and lean protein. Request whole-grain pastas. Avoid dishes with creamy sauces such as Alfredo and go for tomato sauces such as marinara. Include a side of grilled vegetables or broccoli. Pastas are filling carbohydrates so there’s no need to also serve rolls or garlic bread.

Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health in Washington, DC, is available for meetings and events as well, with three private conference rooms, along with a main lounge space for larger groups of up to 350 people for a reception. Learn more here.


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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.