After having returned from a lovely trip to Mexico, I couldn’t help but wonder why I can’t eat the way I did while on vacation when I’m back home? It’s not like we overate, or ate fast food, but the foods we consumed just seemed so fresher and healthier. So why can’t we continue to eat Latin foods we love here? One of the reasons why Latin foods, especially Mexican food, is so popular in the U.S. is because it’s just overloaded with too much. Taco in the U.S. isn’t just a taco, or a burrito can’t be a simple burrito. Food in the U.S. is all about bigger and fattier portions.
We’ve decided to make healthier food choices this year, without cutting out on the pleasures of having a good and delicious Latin meal. Here’s how our family is changing up the way we eat in the new year.
1. Cut back on meat, especially red meat.
We love meat and would probably never go vegetarian, let alone vegan, but that doesn’t mean we can’t cut back on meaty foods. Instead of eating meat (bacon, ham, carne asada, pork, chicken), every other day attempt to eat it once a week. Substitute fish or meatless products. Have you ever tried Soyrizo? It’s so good!
Think about the healthy foods you do like to eat, and eat more of that.
Who doesn’t love avocados!? While avocados may be high in fat, it’s a good kind of fat. Avocados are also high in fiber, which is great.
Have you ever tried cucumbers con sal y limon? It’s so good. Cucumbers have a ton of positive nutrients including antioxidants, it promotes hydration, and it can contribute to lowering blood sugar.
Everything should be consumed in moderation especially alcohol.
This is probably one of the toughest things to cut back on, and it’s not because we love drinking night and day, but we do love to socialize. Socializing always comes with drinking, but alcohol has a ton of sugar and is loaded with calories. Typically a margarita has 150 calories, and you know you can never have just one.
Cutting back on drinks is hard but doable. Try low sugar drinks and/or refreshing and healthy mocktails.
Cheat days should be limited to once a week.
Restricting fatty foods shouldn’t mean you have to ban them from your life, that will most likely make you want them even more. If you truly want to eat those loaded nachos, have them once a month, and make a note of it so you keep account of what you’re doing. If you can’t cut them out that much, treat yourself once a week.
Plan out your meals.
If you’re one of those people who eats last minute, meaning if you find yourself hungry, you turn to eat anything quickly, that is how you’ll get in trouble.
Planning what you’re going to eat a week ahead, even a day ahead, will make you more likely to make better choices.
Decide what meal gives you the most fuel.
There’s an age-old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That can be the case for some people, but that’s not the general rule. So if you feel that lunch gives you the most energy, make that your bigger meal. Eat smaller meals for breakfast and dinner. Just understand when your body needs fuel and feed it at that time.
It’s okay to make limitations but do not starve yourself.
As we said, healthy choices are all about moderation, but never about starvation. Your metabolism needs to keep moving, so if you skip meals or not eat, your metabolism will just stop itself and the result is completely devastating.
Make pragmatic choices.
When attempting to make healthier choices, be sure to be rational about what you are going to eat, and when you’re going to be eating. Think about your meals, the ingredients, and how it’s going to be cooked. By being pragmatic, you will make smarter and healthier choices.
Sub meat with meatless foods.
Have you ever tried meatless tacos or seitan asada? Yes, that’s a thing. There are so many ways to incorporate tofu, or meatless products into your meals.
Cut back on tortillas.
As much as we love eating tortillas with everything they also contain a lot of carbs. The low-calorie tortilla is a good substitute, but in my opinion, they are not very good. What we decided to do is instead of buying a whole pack of tortillas, we made them ourselves. That means we can omit the salt, the lard, and anything else, and just include the basics. That also means the size is much smaller, which is a very good thing.
Top Latin foods with more veggies.
Rather than load nachos, tacos, burritos, or any Latin food with cheese, sour cream, or meat, load them up with lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, carrots, any veggie that you like. Latin foods tend to be more vegetarian or vegan with meat added later. Keep to the basics and you will see a feel a change in yourself.
Don’t use lard as an ingredient.
Some Latin foods such as refried beans and tortillas call for lard as an ingredient but putting straight up fat is not a healthy choice. Some people opt to use shortening instead of using lard, but we don’t use either. You truly don’t need it at all.
Try dairy free products.
Two main ingredients that most Latin foods contain is cheese and sour cream, but if you don’t want those added calories, try using dairy-free sour cream and dairy-free cheese.
Make your own food instead of eating out.
The food served at restaurants, whether it’s fast food or not, contains so much more sodium and butter. You truly don’t need to cook with those amounts. If you make your own tacos or your own nachos, you will be saving yourself hundreds of calories.
Skip the salt and use herbs, garlic, and other seasonings
Rather than using salt to add flavor to your meals, they’ll become more flavorful if you use other kinds of seasoning and herbs. The meals will instantly be more unique.
Take advantage of the fruit.
Yes, fruit has a lot of sugar which equals carbs, but it’s so much better if you eat plantains, or a mango rather than eating ice cream or chips, you will notice a huge difference in yourself.
Incorporate fiber in your meals.
Beans, one of our favorite foods, has a ton a fiber. In fact, a lot of Latin foods including avocados, nopales, and much more.
Don’t like veggies? Try superfood powders.
If you’re not a fan of eating salads or just eating vegetables, you still need those nutrients. One great substitute is incorporating superfood powders into smoothies. That is an instant and nutritious meal.
Good fat vs. bad fat.
As we said before, some fatty foods like avocados and beans have lots of great nutrients that will benefit your health. That also includes extra virgin olive oil, so when you’re making those huevos rancheros, be sure to put some EVOO in the pan for those good and beneficial fatty foods.
Don’t think of food as your enemy, enjoy it.
Once you start to consider that food isn’t a crutch or comfort food but rather fuel to energize your body, you will start eating better. Just because us Latinos love to eat yummy foods, doesn’t mean there isn’t really good substitutes out there.
Just remember, we need food to survive, not to make us feel heavy and/or tired, so have fun and enjoy those meals.
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