Let's be honest, most Latin fare isn't healthy — whether it's lots of starches, heavy sauces, dough, or salty cheese, the food tends to be on the heavier side. When there's no way you're giving up your favorite family dish in the name of health, there are a few simple changes that can cut a few unnecessary calories. Follow these tips from Amanda Foti, RD, a dietitian with weight-loss service Selvera, to keep a nutritious diet without sacrificing flavor.
- Choose whole grain starches, like brown rice instead of white rice and whole wheat tortillas instead of corn, to increase fiber. White rice and other white flour products break down into sugar once digested and are stored immediately as fat. Incorporating fiber slows down this process, reducing fat storage.
- Healthy fat sources are important for both weight loss and general health. There is much debate regarding oil use and which oil is safe and which you should stay away from. Contrary to popular belief, canola oil is just as healthy as olive oil. In fact, canola oil contains less saturated fat, which can be damaging to your heart. One thing is certain: oil is better than butter. Replace butter with either of these oils when cooking to reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels.
- Remember even healthy fat sources are calorie-dense and can have a negative effect on weight-loss efforts. Using spray oil to panfry or bake dishes rather than liquid oil is a great way to control fat portions.
- Sauces and dressings are a great way to zest up a dish, but can quickly pack on the calories, fat, and sugar. Instead, use a variety of spices (mixes like Italian or adobo seasonings are great time-savers) to add flavor without the extra calories.
- Know your portion sizes. Balancing your plate with 50 percent vegetables, 25 percent protein, and 25 percent fibrous starches (like brown rice) is a great rule of thumb to follow to ensure a balanced meal.
- When eating family style, use smaller plates, and don't go back for seconds. Take your time, and enjoy every bite: when the plate is finished, so are you.