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Keep it Going.. Make “Being Healthier” One of Your Top 2015 Resolutions!! Find Out How!

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I’m pretty sure you already have a list of your new year’s resolutions posted on a wall, at your office, on your kitchen or in your cellphone. The truth is that a lot of us feel the need to “start fresh” at the beginning of the year and make resolutions in hope to accomplish them throughout the year and beyond.

New Year’s resolutions like losing weight, exercise more and eat healthier are at the top of the list for most of us. Although this is all great, it may be a bit confusing as to how to start and keep on the new healthy habit. The need to become healthier affects us all, and in the Hispanic community where rates of obesity and related chronic conditions are on the rise, a plan of action toward healthier eating is crucial.

Authentic Hispanic foods generally include fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices for seasoning, whole grains, beans and legumes, that are all healthy options. However, with acculturation, there is an increase in the consumption of processed, convenient and ready-to-eat foods that are all associated with weight gain and therefore associated with higher incidence of obesity and related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

One exceptional way to accomplish eating healthier is to switch as much as possible from processed to more wholesome foods and keep portion sizes under control. The great advantage about this is that you switch from the “I’m on a diet” mindset to a rather more “liberating” approach where you can develop an appreciation for real food and flavors.

Remember, changing your eating habits is a process that requires time, determination, motivation, and support; it doesn’t happen overnight! These delicious substitutions are a great way to start. You’ll be a step ahead toward your goal of becoming healthier.

Here are just some examples of smart swaps that I recommend and personally use all the time. Some are totally related to products commonly found at most Latino kitchens.

Instead of this Use this
Canned beans with sauces Dry beans, including garbanzo and lentils (you control the salt)
Pancake syrup 100% real maple syrup and fresh fruit
Juice drinks such as SunnyDelight A mixture of 100% no sugar added juice and water
Jarred sandwich spread Mashed avocado
White flour tortillas Small corn or whole wheat tortillas
Canned refried beans Cook the mashed beans at low heat moving constantly until desired consistency
Fried empanadas Baked empanadas
Regular ground meat for picadillo, pastelón or empanadas 93 – 95% lean ground beef
Jarred salsa Make your own Pico de Gallo (Mexico) or Chimol (Honduras): diced tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, cilantro, lemon juice and salt, pepper to taste. Low sodium tomato juice can be added for a saucier consistency
Fried nacho chips Baked nacho chips: cut the tortillas and line them up on single layer on baking sheet, slightly spray with cooking oil
Adding extra oil to rice right after is cooked to make it fluffy Add just a small amount of canola oil at the beginning of the cooking process and let simmer until tender. Let it sit to rest off the heat and then use a fork to separate the granules NO EXTRA OIL NEEDED!
Artificial coloring such as sazón Goya Annatto paste for a reddish color or turmeric powder for a yellow touch
Luncheon meats such as hams and salami Low fat herbed chicken sausages
Regular evaporated milk (widely used to make smoothies or batidos) Low-fat evaporated milk
Iced tea mix powder Brew your favorite green tea and add ice for a truly refreshing iced tea
Sugary chocolate mixes Dark unsweetened cocoa (add it to steaming milk) yes, it’s ok to add a little sugar.
Tropical fruit nectars Make your own with frozen fruit and water. Don’t add too much water for a nectar consistency
Bottled Mojo Criollo Make it fresh: sour orange juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Olive oil is optional
Regular coconut milk Low fat coconut milk

A few more suggestions from the HLE cookbook include:

  • Buy fresh ingredients—store-bought food is processed for longer shelf life
  • Flavor with herbs and spices—instead of fat and salt
  • Steam your food to retain texture and nutrients
  • Sauteeing is a dry heat method of cooking that needs the littlest bit of oil—for even less, cook on a grill that’s been wiped down with a paper towel sprinkled with oil
  • Oven-bake instead of frying—you get similar crunchy results without the fat
  • Use nutrient-rich grains like barley, brown rice and quinoa instead of white rice
  • Use healthier oils like canola, vegetable or grapeseed instead of lard
  • Use whole-wheat, whole grain or corn tortillas instead of white flour ones—or reduce calories by using lettuce leaves for wraps instead
  • Choose leaner meats like skinless chicken breasts, turkey or pork tenderloin—this cuts down on saturated fats
  • Or go meatless with tofu, beans or tempeh
  • A great alternative for mayonnaise is mashed avocado
  • For a protein-rich topping, use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
  • A nice sugar substitute is agave syrup, which is a natural sweetener—just a little goes a much longer way than using sugar
  • Bake whole-wheat tortillas in the oven instead of buying processed tortilla chips—they’re healthier and have more substance
  • Never buy store-bought guacamole! There are 5 different versions in our book to make easily—and healthfully—at home.
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