The beauty of the Latino culture — and, indeed, the cuisine — is that it has flavors like no other culture in this world. Unfortunately, that flavor sometimes comes at a high price: fat, cholesterol, and sodium are all the deadly by-products of no-no ingredients that, over time, can lead to food-related illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice good taste to get good food that’s also good for you! These simple, yet healthy, tips for nuestra comida have all of the taste with none of the nasty stuff. The next time you want to prepare some of your favorites, consider this healthy twist on a pastelón.
Switch Out Your Protein
If you want to make a meat-based empanada or taco, consider a lean protein alternative. In other words, forego anything made with pork or fatty beef; consider, instead, some lean chicken, turkey, or a vegetarian alternative like black beans and rice, or sofrita.
Try Brown Rice
A simple switch of the rice will make your dish that much healthier—instead of white rice in your arroz con pollo, switch it out for brown rice. Or, if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to try something with a different texture (and more protein!), why not try quinoa?
A Shift in Technique
Consider healthy frying alternatives—baking, broiling, and sautéing are all preferable options to deep-frying. Also, instead of cooking your food in butter or lard, try a healthier alternative like organic olive oil, coconut oil, or a light vegetable cooking spray. Try the butter alternative Earth Balance (it comes in many varieties, including soy free and coconut spread).
While you’re at it, try upping the amount of spices like chili pepper, cilantro and cumin, and fresh ingredients like tomatoes and diced onions, while decreasing the amount of fats you use. We’re not suggesting cooking without fats, just using them a bit more sparingly. Next time you cook on the stove, try measuring out your oil beforehand and sticking to a set amount, like 1-2 tablespoons. This will allow you to more accurately asses the calorie count of your meal overall, leading to a more realistic image of your daily intake.
This is just a small list of some of our favorite tips to healthy alternatives in the Latin kitchen. What are some of your favorite healthy alternatives to abuela’s classic dishes? Let us know your thoughts! Tweet to us @Hip_Latina.