Strolling through East Lansing, it’s easy to find just about any ethnic food to fulfill an exotic appetite. Just a few options include Japanese, Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican and Korean foods, which are all within reach along Grand River Avenue. Ethnic foods have the reputation for being healthier than traditional American and European fare, but not all sushi (or hummus or curry or tortilla) is created equal.
Is one type of ethnic food healthier then the next? According to Ronda Bokram, a nutritionist at Olin Health Center, there should not be any worry as to which is the healthiest. “I can’t really say there is a healthiest ethnic food,” Bokram said. “It’s about how you eat over time.”
[enjoy] When students are looking to try different cuisine they shouldn’t just be worrying about how healthy the food is, they should just be enjoying it. Bokram said that opening your mind and taste buds to something we aren’t familiar with can be a learning experience.
Mediterranean foods are a healthy choice because the diet is abundant in starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood. Animal fats are consumed in small amounts and poultry is eaten more often. When red meat is eaten, it usually consists of a lamb dish.
“The food we serve is alternative to mainstream,” Julie Sawaya, owner and general manager of Woody’s Oasis Bar & Grill, 211 E. Grand River Ave., said. “We use a lot of olive oil, a lot of garlic; both of which are very healthy.” Olive oil includes antioxidants that can protect against aging and chronic diseases and eating less red meat seems to increase health by lowering cholesterol.
Spanish senior Erin Carlson thinks that Mexican food is the “best” diet. “It has all the ingredients you need, carbs and proteins,” Carlson said. Corn-made tortillas, protein-rich beans and chiles, which are believed to boost metabolism and help control cholesterol levels, are staples in most Mexican food. The cuisine is also made up of a variety of fruits and vegetables that are enhanced by different herbs and spices. But beware, tortillas can pack hidden calories because animal lard is often used in the dough.
[new] Carlson admits that being a Spanish major may bias her opinion, but while she studied abroad in Mexico she learned that Mexicans have very different ideas of portions than Americans. “I went to the Hard Rock Café with my host family for an American meal, and my mom said now she knew why Americans were so big.”
Angel Romero, mananger of Panchero’s Mexican Grille, 125 E. Grand River Ave., also agrees that Mexican food is healthy and good for the body. “The beans are vegetarian, rice is vegetarian; the chicken is really good too, no fat in there.” Vegetarians are less likely to be overweight than non-vegetarians because they have lower rates of coronary artery disease, gallstones, cancer, kidney stones, colon disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Another option for students to consider is sushi, which consists mainly of rice, vegetables and seafood. Soy sauce and wasabi paste, a Japanese horseradish sauce, is said to be an effective anecdote to food poisoning and adds extra flavor to the rolls.
Leigh Beckmeyer, a waitress at Sushiya, 124 West Grand River Ave., said that a “majority of our customers are students,” said. “It is fashionable because America is really cultured. People like to go out and try new things. Not everyone can eat burgers every day of their lives.”
Another exotic option to consider is Indian food. “We prepare our foods with turmeric powder, an herb that is pretty healthy,” Arvind Kumar Chaundhary, an employee of India Palace, 340 Albert Rd. in East Lansing, said. “For eight years I have worked here and eaten food and never had any problems. This food is something you can eat every day; a lot of different styles and a lot of vegetables.” Spices such as turmeric powder are used in curry, which Chaundhary said is what differentiates Indian food from other foods. “American food is dry; here grilled chicken is made with curry sauce which makes it different,” Chaundhary said. Curry is also thought to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The palatal possibilities are endless for students when it comes to figuring out which ethnic foods to try. Packaging senior James MacCreery believes that Korean food is the best. “It’s spicy, which helps your metabolism, and there is usually not a whole lot of fat, and not a lot of carbs,” MacCreery said. “When I eat Korean I don’t think about what I’m eating. If I go to an American restaurant I look at what I’m eating.”
According to Bokram, we don’t have to be afraid of the carbohydrates and fats, but rather we can learn from them. “A real positive thing about other cultures is they don’t have to diet as much,” Bokram said. “They can just enjoy the food.”
While it’s unclear which cuisine is the best for you, balance is always a key to healthful living, and so is fun. And everyone knows it’s fun to order the one thing you can’t quite pronounce from the menu.

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