We all have a lot on our plate right now, but that does not mean eating healthy should be on the back burner. March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is “Personalize Your Plate.” It promotes creating nutritious meals to meet individuals’ cultural and personal food preferences.

Types of cuisines
Rhode Island is a cultural melting pot, so not everyone’s food choices are the same. Popular cuisines include Italian, Portuguese, Cape Verdean, Dominican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Laotian, Cambodian, Cuban and Middle Eastern, to name a few. The foods we eat are often influenced by our family’s history and culture, along with where we live, our budgets, and our tastes.

Go ahead and personalize your plate by giving these healthy ethnic meals a try.

  • Chinese: Char Siu (barbecued pork), stir-fried bok choy and brown rice, kumquats and soy milk
  • Portuguese: Spicy Portuguese Salmon, roasted potatoes and asparagus
  • Latin American: Fish tacos with avocados and salsa, sauteed chard, and pineapple
  • Indian: Rajma (kidney beans in onion, tomato, and spices), brown rice, and green leafy vegetable of your choice
  • Middle Eastern Snacks: Baba Ghanoush with pita, stuffed grape leaves, dates and tahini, hummus with cucumber and carrots

How to eat healthier

Re-imagine your favorite traditional or ethnic dishes for a healthier lifestyle.

Here are some tips:

  • Cook with dried spices and herbs instead of salt to add flavor to your dishes.
  • Try different grains such as wild rice, farro and quinoa for the benefits of whole grains.
  • Go meatless: Serve up chickpeas, beans or lentils for a heart healthy plant-based protein.
  • Cook with olive or canola oils instead of solid fats such as butter to limit saturated fat.
  • Replace white bread with 100% whole wheat bread for more fiber.
  • To decrease extra calories from fat, bake, grill, air fry, roast or steam your food instead of frying.
  • Sprinkle chia or ground flax seeds on cereal, salad, or toast to increase your intake of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Skip the juice and add lime, grapefruit, cucumber, watermelon, or pineapple slices to water or seltzer for extra flavor.
  • Cook grains in a low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock for flavor.
  • To add variety, enjoy vegetables in different forms – raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, or sauteed.
  • Complete your meal with a calcium source such as low fat, fat free or lactose free milk, calcium-fortified soy or almond milk, yogurt, or cheese.
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

See a registered dietitian
If you have special nutrition needs, a registered dietitian can create a customized eating plan that is unique to you. Lifespan has a number of outpatient nutrition counseling locations. A nutrition referral from your physician is required. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to verify that Medical Nutrition Therapy for your diagnosis is a covered service under your plan.

National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can visit their website for information and resources at eatright.org. For more tips on eating healthy, visit the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.

Susan Tiller, MBA, RD, LDN

Susan Tiller is a registered dietitian and the clinical nutrition director for Aramark at Rhode Island, Hasbro Children's, and Bradley hospitals.