25 Dietitians From Around The World On How To Celebrate Flavor (Plus, Their Favorite Dish)
First off, to all my fellow R.D.s around the world, may I wish you a happy R.D. day! However, today (and this entire month) is not just for dietitians but for everyone. March is National Nutrition Month (NNM). While last year's theme was all about personalizing your plate, this year, the mantra from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is "Celebrate a World of Flavors."
I thought, how better to come together and celebrate a world of flavors than chatting up 25 of my amazing R.D. colleagues around the globe? I asked them what celebrating flavor looks like for them personally and for their clients. Plus, I asked them to dish on their all-time favorite meal that's full of flavor (so, you're welcome in advance).
This talented and diverse bunch of registered dietitians is from all over the world—from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, to Lebanon and Sudan. Their areas of dietetics expertise and practice are equally varied—I'm talking chefs, food scientists, researchers, authors, along with registered dietitians in hospitals, schools, private practice, industry, and the military.
I'll let you in on a secret: Most R.D.s are foodies at heart. Needless to say, they were eager to embrace their heritage foods and honor different foodways. The end result of celebrating an array of flavors and cultures? We all glean wonderfully diverse history, personal memories, nutrients, and yes, flavor, that food and dishes from around the world have to offer. This elevates our palate and nutritional inputs and expands our appreciation for other cultures.
Let's come together over the global dinner table, shall we? Here's to 25 dietitians from around the world sharing their advice for embracing flavor and nutritional diversity (plus, their favorite nutrient-packed dish).
"Expand your palate and pattern of eating to include a multitude of global flavors and cuisines."
"In my work, I talk about the importance of honoring foodways and stepping away from hierarchical thinking when healthwashing foods. Heritage foods from around the globe are a wonderful way to experience a culture that is not one's own while trying new and delicious foods.
"Personally, I love seafood; in fact, it's my favorite food. I love curry crab and dumplings from Tobago, the sister island of Trinidad. Tobagonian curry is a combination of turmeric, geera, coriander, black pepper, and garlic—sometimes even more. These spices have incredible antioxidant properties and impart a wonderful bite. Next up: Blackened fish with mango chow (my version utilizes salmon, a fatty fish that is an excellent source of omega-3 fats and protein). The dry rub is antioxidant-rich while the mango chow is a great source of fiber and water-soluble vitamins. The flavors come together really nicely, making it a wonderful option to add to your regular rotation. And last but not least, raw oysters. (I grew up in Massachusetts, and seafood is always fresh and abundant there.) Oysters are a great source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals—plus they are delicious!"
—Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition
"Celebrating the cultures associated with diverse flavors allows us to begin to have a broader perspective."
"As a product developer and chef, global flavors play a big role in how I approach food to make it appealing. Ramen and pho are two of my favorite dishes. There is something so comforting and fulfilling to my soul about the broth in those soups that is also high in collagen, B vitamins, and trace minerals. When you add in things like enoki or wood ear mushrooms, seaweed, ginger, and herbs, you end up boosting some great adaptogens, antioxidants, and polyphenolic compounds that deliver anti-inflammatory properties, boost our immune systems, bolster gut health, and help repair and maintain our joints and skin."*
—Michael Sabrin, M.S., R.D., chef and senior product developer for exclusive brands at Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas
"It's time to elevate all of the wonderful benefits we get from eating fresh and healthy meals."
"This year's theme, Celebrate a World of Flavors, reminds me of growing up and learning to cook in the kitchen with my mother. My African ancestors were able to bring so much culture and flavor into the food they prepared, which has shaped so much of American cuisine. They made delicious culinary artistry out of what would be considered scraps to most. I am grateful for the hope, the skill, and the love that they put into food. I will continue to preserve and share these special flavors with my children so they can be passed down from generation to generation.
"One of my favorite dishes is a low-country seafood boil. The spices and hearty flavors like Cajun seasoning, herbes de Provence, garlic, onions, and citrus can turn a simple meal into a magically delectable delight!”
—Caree J. Cotwright, Ph.D., RDN, associate professor at the University of Georgia & principal investigator at UGA's Childhood Obesity Prevention Laboratory, Athens, Georgia
"I always ask my clients about their family's food traditions and make sure that we honor that."
"I love this year's highlight on appreciating and experiencing flavors from all over the world. My background is mostly Mediterranean and a bit Eastern European, so I grew up eating a lot of Greek, Italian, and Polish foods that were traditional meals for my family. As an adult I find myself gravitating to those light and bright Mediterranean dishes that make me feel like I'm enjoying a relaxed dinner by the sea. One I never get sick of is broiled or grilled fish with lots of lemon and herbs served with roasted or grilled vegetables and salad with olives and feta—and of course plenty of olive oil. Aside from being delicious, this meal provides a great combination of lean protein, healthy fats, fiber, and powerhouse antioxidants.”
—Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, New York City–based integrative nutritionist and health coach
"Exposure to foods from all over the world can change what people prefer."
"As a food product developer, the flavor theme is near and dear to me. Multiple parts of my day consist of understanding how people like or perceive the flavors of our products and making adjustments to meet their needs. An interesting trend to see is how the exposure to global foods has changed what people prefer and created a greater depth for new product development.
"My favorite dish is hands-down jambalaya! My family is from the Gulf Coast, and this is my favorite dinner. There are different iterations, but the end result is the same—an amazing combination of flavors coming from spices, vegetables, meats, and rice. I like some extra spice via cayenne or jalapeño!"
"Mix up meal routines by incorporating ingredients and spices that may, at first, be unfamiliar."
"I feel very lucky to have grown up in a household celebrating the food of both my mother's Southern roots and my father's Chinese heritage. I was exposed to a lot of different dishes and flavors, and I encourage my clients to mix up their own meal routines by incorporating ingredients and spices that may, at first, be unfamiliar to them. Drawing upon other cultures' traditional foods is a great way for my pregnant moms (my clients!) to add variety to flavor and nutrients, and they often find a new appreciation for foods they never thought they liked!
Chinese five-spice stir fry is one of my favorite go-to dishes. It's so flexible with the kinds of protein and vegetables you can use, and the unusual spice blend really makes the dish sing. It's quick enough for weeknight meals, but the warming spices are particularly nourishing for postpartum women."
—Monica Pang Rogers, MPH, R.D., fertility and prenatal nutritionist and owner of The Seed Nutrition & Wellness, Los Angeles, California
"Get to know the people, history, and culture behind the foods we eat."
"Celebrating a world of flavors is a great opportunity to get to know the people, history, and culture behind the foods we eat. But it's also a chance to keep meals interesting by trying something new to you.
"My all-time favorite dish is collard greens and cornbread. The greens are slow-cooked until tender, and I love eating them with cornbread. Though collards are most common, we often mix and cook mustard and turnip greens when those are available too. Collard greens are packed with fiber, vitamin K and other nutrients and are easily my favorite winter vegetable."
—Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, Atlanta-based media and culinary nutrition communications dietitian
"Food is such an important part of each culture, and we all love foods from different cultures, as well."
"Having a theme celebrating the world of flavors is a great way to show the diversity present in the Academy. Being Lebanese and sharing my cultural foods is wonderful. Especially since the Lebanese diet is part of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets in the world. My favorite cultural dish is called the muhammara. It contains roasted red peppers with walnuts and breadcrumbs, topped with our traditional olive oil and decorated with vibrant red pomegranates. This dish is full of antioxidants, good fats, and makes for a great appetizer or dip."
—Rafika Al Ghrawi, R.D., clinical dietitian based in Beirut, Lebanon
"Using global herbs and spices means less sodium and greater overall nutrition."
"As someone who has had the good fortune to live and work in various domestic and international settings (and enjoy all the culinary delights these posts had to offer), I find the focus of celebrating a world of flavors to be inclusive, experiential, and appreciative—three adjectives that definitely define my work and relationship with food and nutrition. Specifically, I include native herbs and spices from South America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East in almost every menu item featured at my seasonal plant-based food truck (from cardamom in a smoothie to ginger root in a salad dressing to turmeric in a soup). The intentional inclusion of these global herbs and spices offers the chance to experience a new flavor with optimal appreciation of food and nutrition in mind.
My favorite (though it was tough to choose) cultural dish is a Middle Eastern soup that I enjoyed for the first time in Ramallah, Palestinian Territory (but have created again and again). It's called Shorbet Adas (aka lentil soup): a simple, inexpensive dish, this soup is comfort in a bowl that warms even the chilliest northeastern night. Red lentils, garlic, and my favorite spice, ground cumin, combine with pantry staples like olive oil, onion, salt, pepper, and water in the most nourishing manner: the plant proteins and fiber from the lentils, and high concentrations of B complex micronutrients and vitamin E; as well as, trace minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium from the cumin."
—Catherine Kling Nourse, RDN, Owner/Operator of Veg Out at Nourse Farm based in Westborough, Massachusetts
"We don't have to give up our own cultural foods and heritage to live a healthier lifestyle."
"Celebrating a World of Flavors is important because it allows us to celebrate our cultural heritage, traditions, and recipes from all over the world. My cultural background and food traditions are centered around Southern dishes that are commonly served in most African American households. A popular dish that comes to mind is my mom's collard greens—she would make a huge batch every Sunday! In addition to being extremely flavorful, they contain a rich source of vitamins A, B, E, and K!"
"Herbs and spices are used [globally] as 'medicine' by people who live over 100 years."
"As a longevity dietitian, I help my clients to optimize their metabolism with a diet that includes a lot of herbs and spices. My favorite herbs to use are rosemary, oregano, thyme, cilantro, and parsley. Additional flavors from spices like ginger, turmeric, and pepper contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that are beneficial for digestion as well. I love recommending herbal teas like chamomile, lavender, mint, or sea buckthorn with ginger tea after dinner! My favorite cultural dish is a dip made with parsley and omelet with herbes de Provence, used in European countries during wintertime, as well as traditional Russian tea sea buckthorn with ginger tea (which is still served at most restaurants, including airports in Russia)."*
—Ella Davar, R.D., CDN, integrative dietitian, health coach, speaker, and author
"There are reasons our ancestors included medicinal foods in our diets."
"Personally, I lose my appetite when food becomes boring, so it has to be delicious and diverse. Professionally, I always advocate for culturally diverse foods that thrill the palate and support health. Food that is bright, colorful, close to nature, and made with love, is rich in nutrients. To me, Celebrating a World of Flavors is about bringing people together around the table to celebrate our similarities and differences while building strong foundations for whole-body health.
"If I had to choose one all-time favorite cultural dish (so hard to do!), I'd choose massaman curry. A dish hailing from Thailand, it has Persian and Malaysian influences that spice up the red curry and coconut base with hints of tamarind, cardamom, and star anise. Its rich red-orange broth is filled out with loads of vegetables with a base of white potatoes, carrots, and sweet peppers but can be highly customized. And bonus—it can easily be made gluten-free!"
—Whitney Crouch, RDN, CLT, Integrative Dietitian in Los Angeles, California, specializing in women's thyroid health
"Diversifying your plate with flavors can highlight your own cultural cuisine, or [help you] learn about other food practices."
"As a dietitian, I always encourage individuals to explore flavors of the world since it can be a great way to expand your food preference and connect with others around the world. Some creative ways to partake in this year's NNM theme can be to try a new cuisine or even add an international spice to a dish you already love.
"My all-time favorite cultural dish since I was young is called bhindi masala, which is a South Asian spiced okra dish. The okra is sautéed with a blend of spices like turmeric, chili powder, cumin, and dried mango powder, which brings a burst of flavor in every bite. This dish has been a weekly staple since it can be an enjoyable way to incorporate plant-forward meals and celebrate cultural flavors in my household."
—Huma Naz, R.D., clinical dietitian in Chicago, Illinois
"Bold new recipes make choosing performance-enhancing foods easier."
"As a registered dietitian in the U.S. Army, it's exciting to see the recent progress made on improving the nutrition options and resources available for soldiers. Bold new recipes in our military dining venues make choosing performance-enhancing foods easier than ever before.
"I don't think I fully appreciated the beauty of a one-pot dish until I became a mom. Paella is a super-balanced family meal with simple ingredients and big, bold flavor. You can get creative with different proteins like chicken, mussels, clams, shrimp, and lobster. Most paella recipes use saffron for inducing color and enhancing flavor."
—Major Lori W. Maggioni, M.S., RDN, CSP, dietitian in the U.S. Army
"A celebration of cultural diversity is an opportunity to learn from one another."
"With the U.S. being a melting pot, and being a Latina Jewish woman, food and culture are ingrained in me. As an R.D. it is essential to connect with our clients and understand their lifestyle and cultural practices as well as how they honor their heritage.
"Pollo pibil is a taste of home and something I routinely make for my family and friends. It is made of slow-cooked chicken chunks wrapped up in a corn tortilla. The secret ingredient is achiote from annatto seeds that imparts a brilliant orange color and mild earthy flavor. To top it off, I add epazote leaves while cooking, which is a rich herb and takes it to the next level!"
—Britt Rotberg, M.S., RDN, bilingual dietitian, certified diabetes care and education specialist
"Be open to experimenting with new foods for your personal enjoyment and health."
"I've had many clients who dislike eating vegetables frequently because they feel that the meals that they cook with vegetables are monotonous. To break up that monotony, introducing clients to recipes from various cultures that use different spices and cooking methods is a way to transform their opinions about what healthy eating looks like. Celebrating a world of flavors also opens up opportunities to connect with others through food, which is an incredibly satisfying experience for me.
"It's difficult to choose one favorite cultural dish, but I would say that gumbo is one of my favorite dishes. It starts with a carefully browned roux, the Holy Trinity of vegetables, and a rich stock to give a base of aromatics and flavor. From there, the possibilities of gumbo are endless—you can add okra, seafood, different types of meat, or even make a vegetarian gumbo z'herbes. I love that every family that makes gumbo has a unique spin on the dish and that gumbo is a perfect dish for those cold days!"
—Markita Lewis, M.S., R.D., writer for Reisdorf Writing Services
"There is vast diversity in all life on Earth, from humans to plants."
"I'm lucky to live in Los Angeles with many diverse cultures, therefore amazingly diverse cuisines, along with a wide variety of locally grown produce. As a dietitian nutritionist in private practice, the best part of my job is teaching clients ways to enjoy the huge array of fresh fruits and vegetables—whether integrating those into their cultural dishes or trying something new from a different culture.
"Southeast Asian dishes are at the top of my list right now. They are a perfect, easy, timesaving way to get in max vegetables per meal—a worthy goal for everyone. The combination of crisp-tender fresh vegetables, aromatic spices, and herbs like ginger, garlic, basil, and cilantro ensures a powerful punch of healing nutrients. My two favorite recipes this month are Vietnamese vegetable pho and Thai red curry vegetables. Both are colorful, full of flavor, deliver maximum health benefits, and take no time to make."
—Jocelyn Harrison, MPH, RDN, Los Angeles–based GI- and FODMAP-trained dietitian
"We can celebrate culture, traditions, and history in a flavorful and healthy way."
"Growing up in India and different Middle Eastern countries and relocating to the USA paved my path to enjoy, cherish, and learn from recipes across the world. This year's national nutrition month theme resonates with my passion for world cuisine and also represents the diverse community I engage with as a public health nutritionist.
"My all-time favorite cultural food is dal (lentil soup). It is an easy, flavor-loaded, nutrient-rich comfort food that boasts of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. The uniqueness of dal is its versatility to blend with any seasonings, vegetables, and grains. With an assortment of colorful dals, possibilities of creating diverse recipes are limitless."
—Priyanka Kundu, Ph.D., RDN, Public Health Nutritionist, Santa Clara County Public Health Department, Fremont, California
"There's tremendous benefit in expanding our palates and exploring new spices, herbs, and cuisines."
"I think this year's theme is an opportunity to explore the diversity of foods and flavors our world has to offer. Not only does it offer the chance to find new foods we enjoy, but it also provides the opportunity to learn about other cultures and their values.
"One of my favorite cultural dishes is eggplant curry. This flavorful dish is loaded with spices, like turmeric and garlic, that offer beneficial antioxidants and are great for gut health. It's also a great way to work in a plant-based dish that's satisfying in both taste and texture!”*
—Jessica Keene, M.S., R.D., SNS, school R.D. and regional field manager of the San Diego Unified School District, San Diego, California
"Food is more than just nutrition; it's also enjoyment, culture, and a celebration of all five senses."
"When we explore other cultures and cuisines, we can discover other dishes to incorporate into our own repertoires. The more variability in our food choices, the more likely we are to meet our nutrient goals!
"I love fish and know the omega-3s they provide are important for overall health. We've been doing more ordering in, especially during the pandemic, and my go-to cultural dish is salmon poke bowls. They hit all the right notes for me: salmon for protein and omega-3s, brown rice or quinoa for energy-boosting carbs, edamame and carrots for veggies, and a light drizzle of ponzu sauce to bring all the flavors together. I could eat it every day!"*
"One important secret ingredient: a happy family and waves of laughter over a meal."
"As a nutritionist, I advise my clients to keep doing good things consistently even if in small amounts, whether exercising for 10 to 15 minutes daily or enjoying foods that you like with your local spices, taste, and flavor. I encourage homemade recipes with locally available ingredients. As a lecturer, I motivate my students to be critical thinkers who respect their clients' cultural diversity.
"My favorite meal is lunch where I gather with my family for homemade cuisine with traditional flavors. I especially enjoy a grilled skinless chicken breast sandwich with lots of garlic, lemon zest, peanut butter, honey, ginger, and a pinch of salt wrapped in Arabic brown bread with low-fat cream cheese, grilled onion, various colored cabbages, and a little amount of lite mayonnaise. The sandwich is full of flavors of healthy baked white meat, vegetables, whole grain, and good fats."
—Ahlam Badreldin El Shikieri, Ph.D., MBA, c.PHN., consultant clinical nutritionist and associate professor at Taibah University, Saudi Arabia, Khartoum, Sudan
"Discover, enjoy, and appreciate the diversity of foods and flavors around you."
"I'm a dietitian and mother of two young children. My toddler son is a picky eater, and it wasn't until he tried and devoured plates full of our Italian family's pasta salad recipe with fresh basil and smoked paprika that I realized early exposure to unique flavors, cuisines, and their heritage is key. I always scan the grocery store to introduce new spices and ingredients to our home cooking like sumac, rubbed sage, and dahi (Indian-style whole milk yogurt), as well as culturally inspired purpose-driven brands like Yolélé Fonio Pilaf that embraces flavors of West Africa.
I grew up mostly eating a Mediterranean diet and was fortunate to travel to various countries tasting local flavors and signature dishes. I've been to Greece a few times and would never pass up a traditional horiatiki (Greek) salad. It's my absolute favorite and nutrient-packed with chunks of cucumber, onion, tomato, and peppers offering vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber along with protein from feta, heart-healthy fats from olive oil, plus lots of Greek oregano. I top mine with grilled fish or chicken souvlaki for added protein."
—Stephanie Csaszar M.S., R.D., CDN, New York City–based health and nutrition strategist
"When you eat what you love and listen to your body's wisdom, all foods can fit into your diet without [you] ever feeling deprived."
"This year's theme is in alignment with the crux of mindful and intentional eating, which is my dietetics focus area. I teach my clients how to maximize the flavor of foods and increase their food joy! You can learn how to savor the flavors of your favorite foods and dial into an internal resource I've coined as your Intelligent Belly Wisdom.™
Personally, I love Middle Eastern cuisine, especially Lebanese, Persian, and Turkish. They incorporate an abundance of flavorful spices like saffron, sumac, and turmeric—loaded with an array of antioxidants plus fiber-rich, nutrient-dense vegetables, dried fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. If you are vegan or plant-based, it's easy to find several menu options that are both delicious and nutritious when you dine out. So it's a no-brainer for me because my delicate GI system works best on a high-fiber diet."
—Jennifer Hnat, RDN, mindful and intentional eating expert
"This year's theme means supporting my clients and their cultural traditions around food."
"I think it is important for me to learn and understand more about their cultural traditions and beliefs around food and to help them achieve their nutrition goals with this focus in mind. I personally love Greek food and especially love the versatility of tzatziki sauce! It can be used for a variety of things from a dip for veggies to a sauce for a stuffed pita sandwich. Plus, it has dill, which is a good source of vitamin C."
—Courtney Vickery, M.S., R.D., dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor
"Food can bring comfort, help us celebrate, and remind us of home."
"As a sports dietitian, I work with athletes from all around the country and world. It's a diverse group of people sharing meals together, so it is important to celebrate foods from all cultures. Food can be so much more than just a means of fuel for our bodies.
"My favorite cultural dish, Caprese salad (Insalata Caprese), stems from my Italian roots! It is such a refreshing dish with fresh basil, crisp tomatoes, and fresh, soft mozzarella. It's a simple recipe that uses an antioxidant-containing vegetable and also provides calcium from the mozzarella cheese!
—Rachel Adamkowski, MPH, R.D., football performance dietitian at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at mindbodygreen. Ashley received her B.A. in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia. Her research contributions span weight management, bone health, and vitamin D. Ferira is a nutrition scientist and dietitian with experience in nutrition product development, scientific affairs, communications, and SEO writing for global firms, including Nature Made, Metagenics, and Three Ships.
In addition to her mindbodygreen contributions, Ferira is published in Health, Remedy Review, Metagenics Institute, American Family Physician, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and Osteoporosis International. She has a passion for the translation of evidence-based science into products and information that help people lead healthier lives. She is a believer in compassionate, informed, and personalized approaches to nutrition and health care. Ashley lives in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, where she was born and raised. Whether savoring an orchestral performance or delectable meal at a local restaurant, you will find her enjoying Charleston’s cultural and culinary arts with family and friends.