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Explore foods from around the world

By Staff | Jan 3, 2014

What do pizza, lasagna, tacos, kabobs and stir-fried vegetables have in common? They are favorite “American foods” that came from other cultures. In fact, many cultures use more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, compared with the menus we usually have in the U.S. A healthful diet promotes good health! Consider these tips from www.choosemyplate.gov to add variety and flavor to your diet.

Cook with others. Learn about cooking different traditional or regional food through friends or cultural events. Explore ethnic food stores for less expensive staples, such as rice, spices and beans.

Blend cultures. Many popular foods and beverages blend the cooking patterns of other cultures. Be inspired by dishes that use plenty of colorful fruits and

vegetables, and include beans, seafood, lean meats and low-fat dairy.

Add some spice. Add flavor to meals with herbs and spices, such as chili, garlic, ginger, basil, oregano, curry or cilantro. Spices add flavor usually without adding sodium and fat.

Use familiar foods to create exotic dishes.

Try adding curry to chickpeas, cilantro to brown rice or mango to your salad or smoothie.

  • Read food package labels for the salt/sodium content. For example, use “low-sodium” soy sauce with your stir-fry. Or look for reduced-sodium chicken broth and canned beans when you make minestrone soup. Be sure to drain and rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium.

Think about beverages. Try using unsweetened frozen fruit in your smoothies. Add less sweetener (honey, sugar, syrup) to sweeten beverages.

Have fun at cultural gatherings. Have fun with traditional dances, sports and games.

Balance what you eat with regular physical activity.

Show children what’s important. Children learn to cook from their elders. Show kids how meals and dishes from various traditions are prepared. Share stories and customs from your family, but find ways to cut back on high-calorie ingredients (such as solid fats) or ways of cooking (such as deep-fat frying).

Make smart choices when dining out. Choose lower-calorie dishes such as stir-fries or kabobs. Split a dish or ask for a take-home container at the start of a meal.

Remember, all foods fit on MyPlate. MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully using foods from all the food groups. For more information, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

Beef and White Bean Lasagna

lb. lean or extra-lean ground beef (90 or 95 percent lean)

1 (26-oz.) can low-sodium spaghetti sauce

1 (15.5-oz.) can white beans (such as navy or cannellini), drained and rinsed

8 oz. cooked lasagna noodles

c. Parmesan cheese

2 c. low-fat cottage cheese

1 c. low-fat mozzarella cheese

Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium heat. Break the meat apart with a spoon and continue cooking until ground beef is fully cooked. Drain excess fat. Mix cooked beef and spaghetti sauce in a bowl. While meat is cooking, heat water and cook lasagna noodles according to the package directions.

Drain and rinse beans in a colander, then puree the beans using a blender, mixer, food processor or potato masher. Mix the pureed beans with the beef and spaghetti sauce. In a separate small bowl, mix Parmesan and cottage cheese. In a 9- by 13-inch greased pan, layer noodles to cover bottom of pan. Then add a layer spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese mix and mozzarella cheese. Repeat until you have three layers of noodles. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce and cheese.

To prepare right away: Preheat oven to 350. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving to make it easier to cut and serve.

To freeze: Freeze in an aluminum pan before cooking. Wrap with foil or freezer paper, or place in a freezer bag. Cook frozen, covered with foil, at 400 F for 1 hours.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 240 calories, 5 grams (g) fat, 21 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 420 milligrams sodium.

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