Expert tips on multicultural cuisine
Rachel Khanna is a chef and holistic counselor, traveling the world with her family. She's a health guru, sharing her love of healthy, multicultural cuisines.
Rachel is dedicated to leading a healthy life and loves sharing her tips and knowledge with others on her blog, Live Eat Cook Healthy. She's a busy mother of four, chef, author and holistic health counselor with a passion for making multicultural foods healthier. For SheKnows readers only, Rachel is sharing her tips on living a healthier lifestyle and using nutrition to feel your best every day.
SheKnows: When did you first realize your love of ethnic foods and multicultural cuisines?
Rachel Khanna: I was fortunate to travel a lot as a child, so I was exposed to different types of cuisines from a young age and learned to try new foods. I love to eat and am happy to try everything. The only food that I don't like is sea cucumber!
SK: In what ways are ethnic foods healthier than American foods?
RK: I don't think that American foods (or any traditional cuisines for that matter) are inherently unhealthy. I think the problem is that, in America, people rely on a lot of refined or processed foods more than in any other country, and this is what makes the cuisine unhealthy. Traditional cuisines from anywhere in the world generally use a lot of whole foods, fruits and vegetables.
SK: What is your favorite type of ethnic food?
RK: My all-time favorite cuisine is Moroccan because I love how they combine the sweet and savory. Moroccan cuisine incorporates dried fruit in their savory dishes, which I love! I would say that the second runner-up would be Vietnamese.
SK: You travel the world with your family — what an amazing opportunity! What have been your favorite places so far? Which cultures are the healthiest?
RK: My most favorite places are Morocco and Laos. I don't think I could say that one culture is healthier than another but I do notice that as Western food products make their way into other cultures, there are negative repercussions. For instance, because my husband is Indian, we travel to India frequently. I have noticed over the past 18 years of traveling there that there is a greater prevalence of diabetes and overweight children in big cities where there is access to processed foods. In contrast, in the villages, this is not as big a problem.
SK: Do you enjoy cooking? What are your favorite types of food to make?
RK: I love to cook. For me, it's a great way to relieve stress. I especially enjoy having dinner parties for which I like to create an interesting seasonal menu.
SK: As a mother of four, how do you get your kids to eat healthy?
RK: It gets tricky at times. We introduced our kids to different cuisines from an early age so my kids are generally willing to try new things. We try to get the kids to eat lots of vegetables and fruit. The advice I always give to parents is to present the kids with different options so that they can try many different foods. Introduce a new vegetable along with something familiar (such as hamburgers with sweet potato fries rather than regular fries) or try making foods in different ways. For instance, try making tandoori chicken instead of roasted chicken. Also, involve the kids in the process, whether it is shopping for foods or allowing them to "cook" some foods.
SK: Are they picky eaters or do they enjoy trying different cuisines from around the world?
RK: They all love Indian food because we introduced that to them at an early age. However, each child has the few things they will not touch — one refuses to eat tempeh, the other doesn't like mushrooms, another doesn't like butternut squash and another beets. I try to make a variety of things so they all have something healthy they will eat.
SK: What other tips do you have for leading a healthy lifestyle?
RK: Exercising, taking time for relaxation or meditation and minimizing stress. I know that is often easier said than done, but it's important to take time for oneself to be able to regroup.
SK: You recently released your first book — LIVE, EAT, COOK HEALTHY — which provides healthy recipes for balanced living. What inspired you to write a book?
RK: I found that when I taught classes, many people kept asking me similar questions and seemed to need guidance navigating the wealth of information that is out there about what kinds of foods to eat and what "diets" to follow. So, I decided to compile the vast amount of information available along with what I've learned through my travels into something that is practical with easy-to-follow recipes, many of which offer a taste of multicultural cuisine!