The popularity of traditional Latin American and Caribbean foods in the United States has increased over the years. While some of these dishes may be associated with unhealthy ingredients like salt, unhealthy fats, and dense calories that contribute to cardiovascular disease, it is possible to cook healthier while still enjoying the culinary exports of countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.
The Right Approach!.. One of the keys to making healthier Latin American dishes is to cook with natural, unprocessed ingredients. This means using fresh vegetables, lean protein sources like fish and chicken, and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Avoiding processed foods that are high in sodium and unhealthy fats is important. Additionally, using an air fryer or baking instead of frying can significantly reduce the calorie count of some traditional dishes.
Herbs and spices are great alternatives to excess salt, which is commonly used in Latin American cooking. Garlic, onion, cilantro, and oregano are excellent seasonings that add flavor without increasing the sodium content of dishes. When using oil, it's important to choose healthier options like olive, avocado, and canola oils, but still, be mindful of the quantity used.
Portion control is another essential aspect of healthy eating. Traditional Latin American dishes tend to be hearty and filling, so it's important to pay attention to serving sizes to avoid overeating. Popular dishes like arepas and pupusas can be made healthier by stuffing them with small portions of lean chicken, beef, or vegetables and baking them instead of frying them.
The Mediterranean-style diet is another way to make Latin American cuisine healthier. This diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, plant-based fats, and proteins from fish, seafood, and lean meats. Nutritious items like beans, rice, fruits, and vegetables are affordable and accessible alternatives to top cuts of lean meat.
Overall, cooking traditional Latino dishes at home with natural, unprocessed ingredients and practicing portion control can make them healthier. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocado and nuts, can boost health, but it's important to consider quality and quantity. Choosing healthier cooking methods and using herbs and spices instead of excess salt can also make a big difference. By making small changes to traditional recipes, it's possible to enjoy the delicious flavors of Latin America while still maintaining a healthy diet.