Nutritious Latin Food Swaps
Who doesn’t love Latin food?
Latin food is a representation of the geographic region it comes from and is full of culture. Mexicans are extremely proud of their cuisine and enjoy sharing it with others. Salvadorians love and rely on their indigenous food such as corn and beans. Argentina is known for its high-quality meats. The food from each region is passed down through generations and gives others a sense of their home and culture. OpenTable released an article during National Hispanic Heritage Month that includes a breakdown of cultures and cuisine from countries in Latin America.
Do you cook Latin cuisine at home?
Below is a list of tips to try when cooking Latin food to create a nutritious option for you and your family. Although the suggestions are not traditional, they may help increase your daily servings of fruits and vegetables while also allowing you to enjoy some of your favorite meals.
- Use whole-wheat tortillas instead of flour; save flour tortillas for special occasions. You could also try not using tortillas at all. Make a fajita casserole with no tortillas or try substituting lettuce instead of tortillas. You can also use spaghetti squash, butternut squash, or acorn squash as your “tortilla.”
- Always add more vegetables. When making tacos, enchiladas, burritos, etc., think about adding extra peppers, avocado, cabbage, and squash. You want your food to be as colorful as possible.
- Rice is a delicious side and is common in many Latin dishes. Have you tried cauliflower rice? Cauliflower rice is delicious and adds an extra serving of vegetables. Check out our Pinterest page that has a whole section on cauliflower rice. To get started maybe try mixing white rice with brown rice or brown rice with cauliflower rice to make it more satisfying.
- Avoid frying your protein or tortillas. Grilling or baking is best. Try using oils like olive and avocado oils rather than oils like canola, palm oil, or partially hydrogenated oils. Save lard for special occasions.
- Avoid using cream sauces especially ones that contain mayonnaise. Stick to traditional salsas like tomato and tomatillo-based.
- Always add lettuce. Adding lettuce will give you an extra serving of vegetables and will help you feel full faster and longer. Remember: we want to aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- To cheese or not to cheese? Cheese is delicious! It is also a great source of calcium. But too much cheese can add extra calories and extra saturated fat. Try using ½ of the cheese a recipe calls for. You can also try using healthier cheeses like feta or mozzarella. Remember tip number 2 – add more veggies to replace some of the missing cheese
- Nopales are great food! They are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Try using nopales inside of tacos, enchiladas and even with a salad. We want to avoid frying nopales because that can take away some of their nutritional value.
- Try a vegan recipe. Meat is delicious and adds nutritional value to your meal. Sometimes it is a good idea to focus on a meal that will increase your vegetables. Try a vegan recipe! You can try corn, bean, rice and avocado bowl topped with your favorite salsas on a bed of lettuce. This will give you food from all the groups and keep you full! Bonus points if you add a mango or pineapple salsa to add a serving of fruit in there too.
- Make homemade salsas that have added servings of fruit. Try using fresh produce like pineapple, mango or apple. If you use frozen, that is okay just avoid buying frozen fruit that has added sugar in it.
- Use veggies that you are familiar with and are specific to your homeland regions.
- Most importantly, enjoy your food! Learning to enjoy different food than you are used to can be a challenge. It is a process and it is okay to have meals that may not be the most nutritious at times. Try to incorporate one or two of these tips into your weekly routine until you find what works for you. Nutritious food choices are great investments into your health.