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Explore foods around the world

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 healthy diet promotes good health. Consider these tips from 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 or 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 children 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.

Excerpted from “” For more information on this topic, contact Luella Morehouse, EFNEP/FNP education assistant, North Dakota State University Extension Service Stutsman County, 116 1/2 1st St. E, Jamestown, ND. You can reach Morehouse at 252-9030 or luella.more