This time of year brings the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, an entire month dedicated to celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. From parades and fiestas to museums and street fairs, there is something for everyone when it comes to celebrating the Hispanic history, culture and cuisine.
Even if no events are going on in your city or you are unable to attend them, you can still celebrate and honor the cultural traditions of the Hispanic heritage by enjoying some of the traditional foods.
Like many other cultures, the history of Hispanic cuisine is rich with tradition. When many people think about Hispanic food, the first thing that comes to mind is often rice, beans, empanadas, arepa, paella, tortilla chips, salsa, tacos and quesadillas. However, despite these basic menu items, Hispanic cuisine is diverse with different ingredients and flavors depending on the region it represents.
From beef and spanish rice dishes in Northern Mexico, to pork, chicken, chorizo and ripe plantains in Central America, to seafood and mofongo served in the Caribbean, the rich diversity of Hispanic cuisine opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to celebrating Hispanic heritage month.
Is Hispanic Food Healthy?
Consuming foods common to Mexico and Central and South America don’t have to be as nutritionally challenging as you may think. Many of these dishes incorporate beans, avocado, vegetables, plantains, grilled lean meats and olive oil, which are heart-healthy, however, when you are trying to trim your waistline, may be calorically challenging. While you may be jumping for joy and planning your next trip to your favorite restaurant right now, don’t jump the gun just yet.
For example, many of the entrees you can get at a restaurant are full of salt and loaded with fat and high glycemic carbs. By the end of the meal, you have already reached more than a day’s worth of calories and sodium. For example, white rice and white flour tortillas, pork belly and fatty cuts of beef, empanadas, and so many other dishes can cause weight gain, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to the National Lipid Association.
Staying On Plan This Hispanic Heritage Month
Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways you can still honor the cultural traditions while staying on plan this month! For many of the recipes, you can make ingredient substitutions to find healthier options for your favorite foods.
While tacos and enchiladas are among one of the most popular foods in Hispanic culture, a downside is that tortillas are high in refined carbohydrates, sodium and calories. Fortunately, you can substitute that one ingredient to make a healthier alternative to your favorite dish! Simply use a large lettuce leaf as your “tortilla,” when using lean beef or chicken and you now have a low carb taco that’s on plan and calorically much less dense.
Rice is a staple when it comes to Hispanic cuisine as it is nutrient dense, affordable and delicious. However, similar to tortillas, rice contains a lot of calories and is a great source of carbohydrates, both of which contribute to weight gain. At CardioMender, MD, we have a great substitute for rice that contains zero net carbohydrates, zero calories and is gluten free! You can shop for our Miracle Rice here.
If you want to try your hand at creating a delicious Hispanic meal while staying on plan, try Doc’s Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice) recipe.
Enjoy the Holidays While Losing Weight with CardioMender, MD!
At CardioMender, MD, we are here to help you find healthy food substitutions while still enjoying your favorite meals during the holidays. We provide the tools to help you improve your eating habits so you can achieve your weight loss goals.