Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Latina Cooking: The Healthy & Low Fat Version

Many of Mami's recipes are tried and true and extremely delicious but it's with a heavy heart (literally) that I often look inside her kitchen and see the stuff she is using to make them.

Here are my suggestions to make the same dishes (only healthier, lower fat, carbohydrate, sodium and caloric versions)

* most of this applies to any ethnic diet

- Ditch the manteca/lard! (seriously, I can't believe people still use this stuff)

- Read the labels! If you use Achotina to flavor your food, you should know it contains lard.

- When you start reading labels you will notice the high amounts of sodium in some of our favorite keystone products; like adobo, bouillon, etc. Either buy the lower sodium versions or make your own and don't add any salt to your dishes. Also rinse your canned beans.

- Cook with canola or olive oil only or a use a mister. They are much healthier for you and remember not to use so much, a tablespoon will do.

- Rice, we love it don't we? If you have to eat white rice, serve yourself a cup (the size of your fist - well, my fist - I have little hands) not a half-plate full. If you want to really go healthy, try using brown rice. I usually make mine with some homemade sofrito and boil it with some low sodium chicken broth.

- Make your own condiments when you can. First off they taste so much better fresh and you can completely keep track of what is going in there. Make your own mojo, sofrito, salsas, dry adobo, flavored oils, vinaigrette, etc., I like to drop a couple of achiote seeds into a separate jar with oil to make very reddish and paprika flavored oil - great for yellow rice.

- Use lean meats, clean and trim the fat.

- Eat fish at least once a week (and not fried).

- Instead of frying; try broiling/grilling, steaming or sauteing.

- Use butter/margerine sparringly - in most cases olive oil and/or cooking spray will substitute.

- Use turkey sausage and bacon as a replacement for fattier pork versions. For even healthier versions, make your own turkey sausages.

- Use low fat dairy and cheeses or use soy products instead.

- Reverse your daily intake of food. If you were brought up like me, then a typical breakfast at home was a piece of bread or crackers with a piece of cheese and cafecito. Lunch was something filling enough to send you to bed and dinner was sort of in between. This cultural phenomenon worked well when we left for the fields at the rooster's crow and could take siestas but that isn't the case anymore.

Begin your day with a full blown breakfast. It's going to power your day! Fruit, protein, fiber should all be components. Coffee is actually fine too. It actually helps your metabolism. Lunch should be your big meal, if your are eating carbs, this is when you should eat them so your body has time to digest them and use up the sugars. Dinner should be really light. Some protein and some veggies or a salad.

- Make your own delicious fruit and low fat smoothies for breakfast and snacks.

- Don't eat after 7 pm. I know most of us are not even home by then but you should eat your last meal at least three hours before you turn in. And if, you need a midnight snack, cereal or a yogurt is good.

- Ditch the white bread. Look for whole wheat breads and if you like to bake your own look for diabetic bread/biscuit recipes.

- Ditch the soda (sorry cola champagne). You don't need it. Drink lots of water. Be cautious with the fruit juices too - they have tons of sugar and calories. You can cut down on the juice by adding seltzer water (plain carbonated water) to half a glass of juice to fool your self into drinking more water and less sugars.

- Be on the lookout for low-carb, baked versions of your favorite snacks. You can find low-carb wheat tortillas in many places as well as baked tortilla chips. You can also make your own.

- Sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes and if you want to ditch the potatoes all together cauliflower is a good substitute for mashing.

- There are many low-starch/carbohydrate veggies to use more of : squash, chiles, quelites, nopales, jicama, yucca, tomatillos, and chayotes.

- Accompany your meals with some veggies and nice green salad daily. Go heavy on the greens and light on the carbs.

Have fun and be creative! You can easily make any meal healthier.

Want to make some empanadas? Just like Mami's but so much better for you. Instead of ground beef try ground turkey and instead of frying them try baking them. Yes, baking them. You can see a recipe here: weight-watchers-points-recipes. Just use turkey instead of beef.

You can still eat your tostones, just don't deep fry them. Instead fry in a bit of canola oil and drain off the extra oil. Or how about some Oven Fried Yucca?

4 comments:

  1. This was a really great and thorough post! I'm proud to say I have incorporated every single suggestion you mentioned. (Though I allow myself butter. I like to make it myself from cream now, too, which is really cool!)

    My suegra has that same brand of lard in the fridge right now. Yick.

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  2. My mom used to use it a lot when I was younger but I conviced her to stop using it finally. Now I remind her to use canola oil instead of the vegetable oil but she gives in because it's hard to find it sometimes at her local supermarket.

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  3. Nice Post! I'm happy to say that we have incorporated a lot of these changes as well for a few years now. The one thing in your post that I would change is using canned products. So many canned products have bpa and other toxins because of the actual can. The same for plastics. So much of what we consume comes in plastic containers. Many of them are also toxic and those toxins go right into the food that they are storing. Stick to 1, 2 and 5 as they are a bit safer. If you have a 3, 4, 6 or 7 undernearth the packaging, don't buy it.

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  4. Canned foods are good for emergencies, though. So I always keep some in the cabinet por si la mosca. Food with bpa is better than no food at all if you need it.

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