Section: Make DASH Work for You

World Cuisine

As you pass through lively urban neighborhoods these days, you can’t help but notice the burgeoning ethnic food scene– Mexican, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, and everything in between.  Global dining has captured both consumer curiosity and their taste buds.

Many consumers are searching for new flavorful and nutritious alternatives to traditional American fare.  Carefully chosen ethnic cuisine offers health benefits that are consistent with the DASH eating plan, especially those that focus on whole-grains, vegetables, beans, peas, fruit, and small amounts of chicken, meat or seafood.

Ethnic dishes adapted to the American eating style are not always as nutritious as the original.  They often use high-fat proteins, refined grains, and pools of sauce, all served up in platter-size portions. 

As with any restaurant, it is always a good idea to share an entrée with a friend to control portion sizes.  It is also smart to plan ahead for dining out.  If you know you will treat yourself to something indulgent, balance your intake for the day with some lower-calorie choices.  This will help you avoid gobbling up a day’s worth (or more) of calories, fat and sodium in one sitting. 

With careful menu selection and moderate portions you can combine authenticity, taste, and health in a global dining experience.


Check out these helpful tips for ordering healthfully around the globe.  


  • Go for dishes with steamed or stir-fried vegetables and rice or noodles 
  • Choose dishes that are roasted, simmered, steamed, or stir-fried
  • Request steamed brown rice instead of white rice
  • Ask for sauces served on the side
  • Limit fried menu items such as egg rolls, sweet and sour, and General Tso’s chicken

Good Choices

Wonton or hot and sour soup (typically high in sodium, so adjust other daily foods to be low in sodium)

Stir-fried meat, chicken, seafood, or tofu with vegetables

Steamed brown rice

Steamed dumplings

Chop Suey with vegetables, chicken, lean meat, seafood or tofu

Lo Mein noodles with vegetables, chicken, lean meat, seafood or tofu

Moo Goo Gai Pan made with chicken, mushrooms and vegetables

Moo Shu vegetables with chicken or shrimp


  • Look for items with small portions of roasted lean meat, poultry or fish
  • Choose dishes that include cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, leafy greens, peas and lentils
  • Look for whole grain bulgur or brown basmati rice
  • Limit items heavy in coconut milk or cream curry sauce

Good Choices

Dal Rasam soup with lentils

Mulligatawny soup  

Papadum or chapatti flat breads

Aloo Chole -chick peas cooked with tomatoes and potatoes

Chicken or fish masala

Tikka or Tandoori chicken or fish

Raita- yogurt with cucumber, onion and spices

Saag- a dish made of spinach, mustard greens and other leafy greens

Biryani- rice dish with chicken, shrimp, or beef, vegetables and dried fruit


  • Go for pasta served with tomato sauce instead of cream sauces
  • Limit rich dishes such as carbonara, parmigiana, stuffed pastas and fried menu items
  • Ask about seasonal vegetable dishes, or start with a vegetable antipasti
  • Enjoy the rich flavors of Italian cheese in moderate amounts

Good Choices

Minestrone, Cioppino, & Fagioli (white bean) soups

Mixed garden salad with vinaigrette on the side

Pasta Primavera

Tomato-based sauces like marinara, pomodoro, puttanesca, and red clam sauce

Thin-crust Pizza Margherita with tomato, fresh basil and mozzarella

Chicken piccata

Grilled meat, fish or eggplant


  • Seek out dishes that offer more vegetables, beans and small amounts of meat
  • Ask for whole pinto or black beans instead of refried beans (often made with extra fat or oil)
  • Choose soft flour, whole wheat or corn tortillas instead of fried crispy taco shells
  • Limit sour cream and fried menu items

Good Choices

Fresh jicama and carrot sticks with lime and chili

Tortilla soup or black bean soup

Bean or chicken enchiladas

Grilled chicken, beef or bean soft tacos

Bean or Chicken burritos- share half with someone or save half for another meal

Chicken, fish or beef fajitas


  • Limit fried menu items such as spring rolls or crispy noodles
  • Ask that coconut milk dishes be made with half the typical amount
  • Seek out entrees with more vegetables and small amounts of meat

Good Choices

Broth-based soup like Tom Yum or Tom Kha Gai (made with coconut milk)

Fresh salad rolls with a little peanut sauce

Thai salads

Chicken or Beef Satay

Bean thread noodles with chicken, fish, lean meat, or tofu and vegetables


  • Choose steamed brown rice instead of white rice
  • Ask for sauces, such as teriyaki and soy, to be served on the side
  • Limit fried menu items such as gyoza, katsu, fried tofu and tempura

Good Choices

Miso soup

Sunomono- cucumber and vinegar salad

Edamame- steamed soy beans lightly salted

Wakame or hijiki seaweed salad

Braised or grilled chicken or salmon

Udon noodle soup



  • Limit heavy sauces like Mornay, Béarnaise, Béchamel, and Hollandaise
  • Instead of an appetizer of rich fondue, choose crudités (fresh vegetables with vinaigrette dips)
  • Start your meal with a fresh salad
  • Limit duck confit (salt-cured duck leg poached in duck fat) to a few small bites

Good Choices

Broth-based soups

Salade Niçoise

Bouillabaise- seafood stew with saffron broth

Steamed mussels or clams


Fish and vegetables cooked en papillot (gentle steaming in parchment paper)


  • Choose noodle or rice dishes that aren’t fried
  • Seek out items with more vegetables and small amounts of meat
  • Look for grilled meat dishes served with vegetables and noodles or rice

Good Choices

Pho- fragrant broth-based noodle soup with lean beef or chicken

Fresh salad rolls with noodles, lettuce, vegetables, and fresh herbs

Banana blossom salad

Green papaya salad

Bún- cool vermicelli noodles with grilled meat, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, and peanuts

Middle Eastern

  • Limit fried menu items such as calamari and falafel
  • Look for menu items that include beans, chick peas, bulgur and vegetables
  • Enjoy small slices of vegetable-filled pastries, such as Spanakopita
  • Go for grilled chicken, meat, seafood and vegetables

Good Choices

Hummus with pita or vegetable slices

Baba ghanoush- a roasted eggplant and tahini puree

Tzatziki- a tangy yogurt and cucumber sauce

Dolma- grape leaves stuffed with rice, cheese, and vegetables

Tabouli- a refreshing salad of bulgur wheat, parsley, mint and vegetables

Lentil soup

Greek salad with grilled chicken, meat or fish

Souvlaki or shish kebab- marinated and grilled meat on a skewer