How to add multicultural flair to your comfort food this winter

High Angle View of Various Comforting and Savory Gourmet Soups Served in Bread Bowls and Handled Dishes and Topped with Variety of Garnishes on Table Surface with Gray Tablecloth

Winter often causes an increased desire for comfort food. In Tennessee, that often means fried chicken, mac and cheese and other high calorie, less nutrient dense choices. You might think about shaking things up a little this year. And one way to do that is by incorporating some multicultural cuisine—from your own heritage or another’s.

“Cold weather can make us crave food that gives us warmth,” says Leslie Cornett, a registered dietitian-nutritionist at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

“These cravings can lead to consuming higher fat items than we would normally choose. You can mix things up – and stay healthier – by introducing some multicultural items into your meal planning. You might even awaken some new enthusiasm.”

Here are a few ways to get started.

How to incorporate multicultural dishes

Leslie Cornett: If you’re not sure exactly which dishes you want to try this winter, talk to others who have opinions—and maybe some recipes to share.

Consider these 4 strategies:

  1. Talk to your relatives. Talk to your family members and ask them about their favorite dishes from childhood. What delicious fare did Grandma or Auntie always make that you could try making, too? Ask them to pass along any beloved recipes to help you get started.
  2. Consult with others who share your heritage. You could expand your search for ideas and recipes to include other people from your same cultural background, too. Ask about the dishes that they always serve at the holidays—and ask if they might be willing to provide some guidance to you. This could include recipes, helpful hints, and perhaps even shops where you can purchase specialty ingredients if necessary.
  3. Consider your spouse’s cultural heritage. Your spouse may come from a different cultural background from you, but you might be able to incorporate some of their culture’s traditional dishes into your holiday meals. You could also consider asking extended relatives, neighbors, coworkers, or other acquaintances.
  4. Try something new and nutritious. Watch out for foods that are high in calories, sugar, and fat—the sorts of foods that you enjoy eating in moderation. Whether it’s for a holiday or special occasion, exploring cultural dishes can be done in a healthy way.

Here are 4 more ideas

Leslie Cornett: It’s fine to branch out beyond your own heritage, if you feel compelled to do so. Preparing a dish from a different cultural background will help you expand the variety in your diet. It will also give you the opportunity to learn more about other cultures.

Here are a few ideas to try:

  1. Tap into social media. Find a social media channel with cooking demonstrations and recipes from a heritage that interests you—your own, your spouse’s, or someone else’s! Maybe you’re intrigued by making sinigang, a soup featuring meat and tamarind that’s a popular Filipino dish. Or maybe you’d like to try your hand at making sabzi polo, a classic Iranian dish featuring fish and herbs like dill, parsley and cilantro. Search for recipes online, too, and give them a try.
  2. Share your culinary traditions with your friends. A neighborhood party or potluck dinner is the perfect way to share your culinary heritage with your friends. Prepare a dish that you love to eat and bring to the event. If your friends reciprocate, you might even bring home some ideas for new-to-you dishes to try, too. Note: you might want to bring along a list of ingredients in your shared dish, in case anyone in attendance has any food allergies.
  3. Host a recipe exchange. Cookie exchanges are super popular at this time of year, with people baking a few dozen of their favorite treats and trading them with others. Why not put a unique spin on that holiday fun by making it a recipe exchange? Trade recipes from your favorite family dishes with your friends or neighbors.
  4. Attend a cultural event. If your community ever hosts special events from various cultures, go and sample the food. You might discover some new favorites. Make plans to attend a local event. This could include Oktoberfest, a Greek festival, a Chinese New Year festival, or even just a street food festival featuring local food vendors.

More from Leslie Cornett on WellTuned.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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