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Ethnic Cuisine: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

Take a quick trip around the world, and check out the best bets in French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, and American cookery. Be adventurous and excite your palate with exotic new flavors.

I've identified the foods with the most nutrition and least amount of fat as “Include.” The foods that are high in fat and calories and offer little in the way of nutrition have been labeled “Avoid.” Further, I've placed an asterisk (*) next to the foods that are lower in calories, and can work for the weight-conscious diner. Bon appétit!

Chinese Food

Loaded with vegetables, rice, and noodles, the typical Chinese cuisine offers an assortment of healthy selections. Because most Chinese cooking is done in a wok (stir-frying), varying amounts of peanut oil are used. The good news is that peanut oil is unsaturated and won't clog up your arteries. The bad news is that excessive amounts of any oil can add a lot of fat calories. As you can imagine, some of the dishes have startling amounts.

If your thighs can't afford those extra fat calories, avoid anything fried. Try one of the steamed versions, or carefully drain off some of the fat in a stir-fried entree by taking your portion from the serving plate drenched in sauce and transferring it to your dish with rice. Another idea, if you're dining with a friend, is to order one dish in sauce and a second steamed vegetable dish. Mix the two together, and you'll have half the sauce and double the vegetables. What's more, you can better pace your eating if you use a set of chopsticks.

Another problem with Chinese food can be sodium because a lot of the sauces are high in salt. If you're on a salt-restricted diet, you should probably stick with the plain steamed dishes.

Include Avoid

Hot and sour soup Egg drop soup
*Wonton soup Egg rolls
*Steamed dumplings (vegetable, chicken, and seafood) Fried dumplings
Stir-fried chicken and vegetablesFried rice
*Steamed chicken and vegetablesEgg fu yung
Stir-fried or steamed beef and vegetables House lo mein
Stir-fried seafood and vegetables sauceCold noodles with sesame
*Steamed seafood and vegetables Moo-shu pork
Stir-fried tofu and vegetablesSesame chicken
*Steamed tofu and vegetablesGeneral Tsao chicken
*Steamed whole fish Sweet and sour pork
Szechwan shrimpWhite rice
*Moo-shu vegetables (with pancake rollups)Fried chicken and seafood dishes
Steamed brown rice Seafood with lobster sauce
Fortune cookies (1) Spareribs
Lychee nuts  
*Oranges and pineapple slices  
*Low-sodium soy sauce (if available)  
Duck sauce and plum sauce  

French Food

Many positive changes (nutritionally speaking) have occurred in French food during the twentieth century, from the classic haute cuisine that generally uses heavier cream sauces, to the newer nouvelle cuisine that uses a lighter and healthier approach to food preparation.

Include Avoid

*Steamed musselsAppetizers with olives, anchovies, or capers
*ConsomméQuiche
*Endive and watercress saladsFrench bread and baguettes
*French onion soup (no cheese)French onion soup (with cheese)
Nicoise saladsCream-based soups
*Poached fishPâté
*Steamed fishFondue
*Lightly sautéed vegetablesCrèpes
*BouillabaisseBrioche
Chicken in wine sauceDuck or goose with skin
*Flambéed cherriesBéarnaise sauce
*Peaches in wineHollandaise sauce
*Fresh and poached fruitBéchamel sauce
*Fruit sorbetMornay sauce
Wine in moderationAnything with the word “cream” or “au gratin”
Chocolate mousse (split with a friend)Chocolate mousse
 Creme caramel
 Croissants
 Pastries and éclairs


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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition © 2005 by Joy Bauer. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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