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Healthy Recipes from the 2014 World Cup Countries

June 12, 2014

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Today marks the first day of the 2014 World Cup! While the worldwide soccer championship may not garner much press here in the United States, it’s one of the most significant athletic events in most other countries around the globe. Every four years, the World Cup offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about other countries, get exposed to different cultures, and get acquainted with one of the most popular and exciting sports in the world: soccer (or football, as it’s known in all other countries)!

One of the best things about big athletic events—even if, like me, you’re not a huge sports fan—is the chance to spend time with friends and eat delicious snacks! And because the World Cup is an international event that involves countries you might otherwise not think about, it’s a great chance to discover delicious and healthy foods from other cultures.

The World Cup begins with the “Group Stage,” in which eight groups of four countries each compete against each other, with the top two in each group moving on to the single-elimination round. While you could nosh on chips and dip as you watch, why not spice things up by exploring authentic dishes from some of the countries involved? Without further ado, here’s our guide to the healthiest and yummiest soccer-viewing snacks for each group:

Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon

Because this year’s World Cup is being hosted in Brazil, it seems only fitting to eat some traditional Brazilian treats while you watch matches in this group. Luckily, finding healthy Brazilian treats isn’t hard, since superfood acai berries are one of the most popular native foods! Try this irresistible acai bowl, which incorporates tons of nutrient-packed fruits, coconut water, and is topped off by dark-chocolate covered blueberries. Yum!

Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

One of the essential components of any Chilean meal is pebre sauce, a salsa-like topping that includes detoxifying cilantro and metabolism-boosting chili sauce. Try out this classic and easy pebre recipe to add some spiciness to your soccer viewing—but be sure to eat it like a true Chilean, either spread on bread that’s been toasted over the grill, or atop a simple salad.

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Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Since the World Cup takes place during the hot months of June and July, it makes sense to serve something light and refreshing. The Ivory Coast offers the perfect option with soupe d’avocat abidjanaise, or chilled avocado soup. You’ll savor every spoonful of this cooling, flavorful soup as well as enjoy the health benefits of avocado, calcium-rich yogurt, and skin-protecting limes.

Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

While Italian food might conjure up images of heavy pasta dishes and sauce-slathered meats, authentic Italian cooking is actually incredibly light and nutritious, letting the fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Keep it simple by throwing some vegetables on the grill and then drizzling with balsamic vinegar, or try this flavor-filled and nutrition-packed grilled eggplant caponata recipe. Eat on its own, or alongside some crusty grilled bread.

Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Beat the heat with some shrimp ceviche, or ceviche de camaron, a traditional Ecuadorian dish. You’ll get all the benefits of anti-inflammatory and protein-packed shrimp, plus the tasty kick of red onions, citrus, and cilantro. Plus, ceviche is crazy easy to make, so you’ll get plenty of time to kick back on the couch and watch the game. The traditional Ecuadorian style uses ketchup, so be sure to choose organic and sugar-free!

Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

One of the most delicious and most popular foods in Iran is dolmeh. The term is generally used to describe any vegetable or fruit stuffed with rice or a rice-and-meat mixture, but most commonly consists of cabbage or grape leaves stuffed with rice and ground beef. This traditional dolmeh recipe includes the superspice turmeric and beauty-boosting saffron, two essential Iranian flavors. For a vegetarian version, substitute black beans or lentils for the beef.

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Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States

Because Portugal is a coastal country with a well-developed fishing industry, seafood is a staple of their cuisine, and cod is perhaps the most popular fish. Cod, packed with vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids, is complemented perfectly by protein-filled chickpeas (another Portuguese staple) in this satisfying and scrumptious chickpea and cod salad. If you’ve got vegetarians in the house, feel free to make a version without the cod—it’ll still taste great, don’t worry.

Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

After all that (watching of) athleticism, you’ll work up an appetite! Refuel with this hearty and healthy couscous dish, a specialty of the Constantine region of Algeria. The vitamin-rich dates add some sweetness, while the walnuts provide some crunch along with omega-3’s and protein. Cooked in ghee—a traditional Ayurvedic cooking oil that brings a whole heap of nutrients to the table—this simple dish really can’t be beat (though no promises for the Algerian soccer team).

Who are you rooting for during the World Cup? And, more importantly, what will you be eating while you watch? Tell us in the comments below!