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Cooking Healthy Recipes From Around the World

Cooking Healthy Recipes From Around the World

While food is essential to our health and survival, it can also be a means of bringing us together. To quote the renowned author Michael Pollan, “The more we honor cultural differences in eating, the healthier we will be.”

Welcome back to ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & WealthSM. I’m your host Al Waller, and today we’re joined by Mihaela Vincze, public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute®, as well as Christina Badaracco, registered dietitian, to discuss Healthier Traditions Cookbook: Around the World, which is the newest edition in the Healthier Traditions Cookbook™ series.

But before we get cooking, I’d like to remind you that if you have any topic ideas for podcast episodes that you’d like to hear about, please reach out to us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!

Al Waller: Mihaela and Christina, it’s good to have you both back here today.

Mihaela Vincze: It’s great to be here.

Christina Badaracco: Yes, it’s a pleasure to talk with you again.

Al Waller: Great – thank you. Mihaela, before we jump into discussing this year’s cookbook, would you mind starting us off with a brief overview of the Healthier Traditions Cookbook series by shedding some light on what it entails?

Mihaela Vincze: The Healthier Traditions Cookbook series includes favorite traditional recipes—but with a twist. These recipes have been expertly crafted by Christina, and they offer healthier ingredient swaps to increase nutritional value—while aiming to not sacrifice flavor. Each of the cookbooks in this series includes nutritional facts, evidence-based details, helpful suggestions, as well as modifications for specific dietary needs when possible.

All the cookbooks in the series—Quick & Easy, Italian, Soul Food, American Classics, and now Around the World—are free and available for download on our website at TransamericaInstitute.org/cookbooks.

Al Waller: Perfect! Full disclosure, I must admit that I am a big fan and continue to be impressed by just how nutritious–but at the same time delicious–these recipes are, especially while keeping traditional flavors in mind.

So, Christina, what's your take on why is it important to share these healthy recipes?

Christina Badaracco: I think most people you ask would say they enjoy eating delicious food, but not everyone knows how to cook meals that are both satisfying and healthy at home. Many people have been cooking from home more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and have become tired of eating the same types and flavors of foods—myself included!

So, this series introduces people to a wide variety of recipes from countries and cultures around the world to help pack in nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, legumes, spices, and whole grains to help bring excitement to their dinner tables and prevent the need for frozen or takeout meals.

Al Waller: I hear you there and given the fact my wife, Edie, is a bit of a foodie, I've come to realize there's more to life at the dinner table than just meat, potatoes, and a vegetable on the side.

Now that we’ve gotten a taste of the Healthier Traditions Cookbook series, Mihaela, can you tell us about the new cookbook—Healthier Traditions Cookbook: Around the World? And I’m curious - how did your team arrive at this year’s theme?

Mihaela Vincze: Our team is very diverse, with roots in countries all over the world—and we all offered different ideas for the theme for this year’s cookbook. And then it dawned on us—all of our ideas were excellent and worth pursuing! Our differences are definitely worth being celebrated, and we can all agree that food brings people together—and we love that messaging, especially because that is needed now more than ever before. This cookbook actually provides an opportunity for people to enjoy these inspired dishes from around the world.

Al Waller: I think it's really pretty cool that a number of the recipes came from your team. So, exactly how many recipes are included in this year’s cookbook?   

Mihaela Vincze: You’ll discover a world of 20 recipes inside this year’s cookbook— twists on traditional recipes from 19 countries spanning six continents, offering flavorful inspired dishes like Australia’s sweet Pavlova, Korea’s savory Japchae, and Cuba’s classic Picadillo. One of my favorite elements of this year’s cookbook are the historical insights you’ll find across its pages.

Al Waller: Gaining historical perspective while you eat–that's quite a concept! Can you share one thing that you learned in the process that especially intrigued you?

Mihaela Vincze: I was amazed to find out that Picadillo, a classic meat-based stew from Central America, is made differently in different countries. The recipe our cookbook offers is slightly sweet and it comes from Cuba. However, the Mexican version is spicier; the Filipino version may contain carrots, potatoes, and peas; and the Costa Rican version may contain a fruit called chayote. It excites me to think of how different a recipe can be depending on where it originated, based on the flavors and ingredients available there. It leaves me wanting to pack my bags and embark on a journey to try each version!

Al Waller: I'm with you there, Mihaela. All kidding aside, sampling the variety of cuisines – familiar or new – abroad or wherever is absolutely one of my prime motivations to travel as well. Now that we know what the cookbook includes, Christina, would you also mind sharing what you learned regarding the history of these recipes?

Christina Badaracco: I found it interesting that historians have actually not quite pinpointed the origin of some of these recipes. For example, both Australia and New Zealand seem to claim that pavlova originated in their own country (which I didn’t know before, by the way!). But recent evidence actually suggests that an earlier version may have come from Europe. And today, pavlovas made in the US and Europe may be topped with different fruits than those in New Zealand and Australia, based on the fruits that are more common in diets in each country.

Al Waller: Gotta love the culinary intrigue. So, Christina, maybe you can walk us through the development of some of these recipes because I'd really be interested in how you went about deciding which ones to select.

Christina Badaracco: It was definitely a challenge to pick just 20 recipes because we wanted to represent as many continents and countries as possible. I aimed to include a variety of flavors and ingredients, while also focusing on dishes that could be prepared in a healthy way and modified to meet different dietary needs. Some dishes can easily be made a bit healthier by swapping in whole grains. I could also modify the sauces used in some to cut down on the amount of sugar or salt, or to avoid artificial preservatives. Some of them contain healthier sources of fat than a traditional version too.  

I also want to mention that we extensively researched the history and science behind these dishes to inform my creation of new versions, but we also acknowledge they may not represent all versions of a recipe or be the same version that people from a certain region or country have cooked for hundreds or thousands of years. Some of these recipes rely on ingredients that are commonly used in certain cultures and other parts of the world but may not be readily accessible where everyone lives. You may be able to find some key ingredients online, but it can also often be fine to substitute a similar spice or other flavoring, whole grain, vegetable, etc., to make a dish that is just as nutritious and enjoyable.

Al Waller: Great point…because substituting ingredients may just lead you to some surprisingly and delicious cooking adventures too. Now Christina, is there a recipe that you'd like to highlight? If so, what made it stand out for you?

Christina Badaracco: One recipe that was entirely new to me was the Dutch bread called Ontbijtkoek. After realizing the equipment required to make the original Dutch recipe that I intended was actually not accessible, I researched other traditional baked goods instead.

This spiced loaf looked lovely, but a traditional version is very high in sugar and I’d actually recommend only really eating it as a dessert. To make a healthier option suitable for breakfast or tea, I cut way down on the sugar—but find this version just as satisfying with all of the interesting spices and moist texture. It was interesting to read more about how this recipe was created as a result of the emerging spice trades between the Netherlands and the Middle East.

Al Waller: I’m really getting hungry here – but I’m also definitely looking forward to reading and devouring more about that one as well!

Christina and Mihaela, any final thoughts you would like to share before we wrap up today?

Christina Badaracco: Thank you for letting us share this exciting news, Al. I encourage listeners to check out Transamerica Institute’s new Healthier Traditions Cookbook: Around the World, try making some of the recipes and consider how you can incorporate the recipes and tips into your own cooking to bring excitement into your kitchen.

Mihaela Vincze: And if you’re wondering where you can find this free cookbook, and others in the Healthier Traditions Cookbook series, please visit TransamericaInstitute.org/cookbooks. Also, follow us on Twitter at @TI_insights to stay up to date with our latest releases. We also have a Facebook and LinkedIn page.

Al Waller: Well, thank you both for another delicious segment in this series. It has really been a pleasure. Just a heads up, the Healthier Traditions Cookbook: Around the World contains recipes inspired by dishes from the following countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Korea, Philippines, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

If you’d like to check out any of the source materials mentioned today, visit transamericainstitute.org/podcast to review the episode’s transcript.

If you have comments, feedback, or topic ideas, please reach out to [email protected]. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button so that you don’t miss an episode of ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth.

ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is brought to you by Transamerica Institute, a nonprofit private foundation dedicated to identifying, researching, and educating the public about health and wellness, employment, financial literacy, longevity, and retirement.

You can find our weekly podcast on WYPR’s website and mobile app, wherever you get your podcasts, and at transamericainstitute.org/podcast.

ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth is produced by the Transamerica Institute with assistance from WYPR.

Until the next time, I’m your host Al Waller. Stay safe, be well and thanks for listening.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment, legal, medical, or financial advice or guidance.

Al Waller is a long-time Baltimore native and employment expert with a 30-year career in leading and advising locally and globally based corporations on matters including: Talent Acquisition and Retention, Employee Relations, Training and Development.
Mihaela Vincze is a public health expert and experienced health care educator. Serving as Transamerica Institute’s health care content developer, she shares insights on health and wellness on ClearPath—Your Roadmap to Health and WealthSM. Mihaela earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in public health at California State University, Northridge.