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Ethnic Food Without the Fat

We break down which exotic dishes are diet-friendly and which only leave you stuffed with extra calories.

Shrimp Salad


Fattening carryout gives it a bad rap, but Chinese food is generally low-cal and packed with nutrients. Look for food prepared with little added fat and no MSG. And scan the menu for these key words: jum (poached), chu (broiled), kow (roasted), or shu (barbecued).

Diet Killers: General Tso’s chicken, egg rolls, fried wontons, lo mein dishes (tons of oil!), spareribs (fatty)
Belly Friendly: chicken or tofu and steamed veggies with brown rice, steamed chicken, shrimp dumplings, egg drop soup. Always ask for sauces on the side—hot mustard and oyster are good options.


Avoid cream-based curries, which pack on calories and grams of fat.

Diet Killers: fried dumplings, pad thai
Belly Friendly: roasted chicken, khao man kai (steamed rice with garlic, boiled chicken, chicken stock, and dipping sauce), sautéed shrimp, steamed mussels in garlic


This cuisine varies from country to country, but ingredients are essentially the same across the region and are generally wholesome and healthy.

Diet Killers: Falafel, Al-Motubug (pastry squares filled with whole eggs, ground meat, and oil), kibbeh (deep-fried dough stuffed with ground lamb and pine nuts)
Belly Friendly: hummus (dip fresh veggies instead of pita), tabbouleh, shish kebab (char-grilled marinated lamb or beef cubes and veggies on skewers—trim fat off meat), shish taouk (marinated chicken kebab)



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