How to Eat Hispanic Foods Con Gusto y Sin Pena!

We’ve all been there—you’re at one of your many family get togethers when suddenly, you’re overwhelmed with delicious but fatty Hispanic food options. Despite your willpower and having stuck to your diet all week, you give in and decide to treat yourself, promising to work out a little longer the following morning to make up for your gluttony.

Now that the holiday season is here, it’s important that we learn how to enjoy ourselves in moderation. After all, we definitely going to indulge in some of grandfather’s famous coquito, but there’s no need to drink half a gallon’s worth.

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Not to mention, there are actually a lot of healthy Spanish food options for those who are more nutritionally conscious. There are ways to feast, guilt-free! You just have to make smarter choices.

To help you avoid tres leches induced chichos, we’ve put together three menus to guide you in eating healthy at your next Hispanic gathering. ¡Buen provecho!


1. The Taco Fiesta Menu

We all love tacos. The good news? They can be delicious and nutritious! Let’s break each option down by food group.

Protein: You have two options here. The first is a 4 oz portion of beef picadillo, coming in at approximately 150 calories, 4 grams of fat and 24 grams of protein. Your second option is 4 oz of shredded chicken, coming in at 120 calories, 1 gram of fat and 26 grams of protein. Either way you can’t go wrong, and most Hispanic variations are seasoned with herbs and spices, minimizing additional calories in their preparation.

Carbohydrates: Again, two options here. Two 6-inch corn tortillas come in at 115 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 24 grams of carbs. High in vitamin B12, magnesium and potassium, they’re a tasty and healthy option. Your second option has a greater caloric count, but I mention them for those who don’t like the taste of corn tortillas for some crazy reason. Two 6-inch whole wheat tortillas come in at 190 calories, 5 grams of fat and 31 grams of carbs.

Vegetables: Spinach—load up! This is a great substitute for lettuce and carries a nutritional punch with plant based omega 3s and folates, reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. At only 7 calories per cup, it’s not hard to see why this is Popeye’s favorite power food!

Topping: Pico de gallo contains antioxidants like Vitamins C and E. Two tablespoons come in at only 10 calories and 0 grams of fat. They’re the perfect topping for your tacos!

Dessert: Passion fruit sorbet is often sold on the streets of San Juan and contains less than 250 calories per cup. No passion fruit sorbet near you? Try a churro at 150 calories.


2. The “Te Conozco Bacalao” Menu

This menu is perfect for those who are craving classic Caribbean flavors. Obsessed with tostones? No problem, I got you covered. Have a look!

Protein: One cup of bacalao guisado, a traditional Hispanic cod dish, is 240 calories, 9 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein, and 21 grams of carbs. Bacalao has the antioxidant selenium and the tomatoes have vitamin C and lycopene that protects us from the sun. There’s also the option of camarones al ajillo at 180 calories for 8 large shrimp and 42 grams of protein. Shrimp also contains selenium, and omega-3s and the antioxidant astaxanthin to boot. Not to mention, the garlic that you’re sure to be having in excess of at your Hispanic events keeps your heart healthy and boosts your immune system, even if it does leave you with unwanted garlic breath.

Carbohydrates: You can have four small tostones for only 190 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 28 grams of carbs. Your alternative is 3 yuca fries at 180 calories, 8 grams of fat and 27 grams of carbs. Either way, you’re winning, and it’s bound to be a good day.

Vegetables: Avocado! ¼ of a sliced avocado is only 80 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbs. They’re also a great source of healthy monosaturated fats, which burn quicker and help boost your metabolism and energy. There’s a reason they’re all the rave lately.

Topping: Mojo. 2 tablespoons are only 25 calories, not to mention there’s no more classic of a Caribbean flavor.

Dessert: Fresh, chilled coconut. One cup of the rich coconut milk found therein is only 45 calories and has untold health benefits, including being naturally fat and cholesterol free, hydrating, and with more potassium than 4 bananas. Not to mention, you can snack on the inside “skin” after—yum!


3. The Cuba Libre Menu

Love Cuban food? Can’t get enough mojo or mojitos? Then this last menu is for you!

Protein: A cup of frijoles negros has nearly 40 percent of the daily iron you need. At only 240 calories and 15 grams of protein, it’s a great choice! Your other option is a cup of lentejas, with 230 calories per cup and 18 grams of protein, they are an excellent source if cholesterol-lowering fiber and are of special benefits to those managing blood-sugar disorders.

Carbohydrate: Half a cup of white rice contains zinc and manganese, helping you get your essential amino acids. Coming in at 85 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 18 grams of carbs, it’s not a bad option. If available, opt for brown rice, which is healthier since it retains the hull and contains vitamin B3, vitamin B6, and fiber. A cup of brown rice has 108 calories, 1 gram of fat and 23 grams of carbs.

Vegetables: Sweet peppers have vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. One cup is only 46 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbs. They’re the perfect way to balance out your rice and beans!

Topping: Monterey Jack cheese has only 100 calories per ¼ cup and packs 9 grams of protein, to balance out the meal. Also, the calcium in cheese helps to generate new skin cells and strengthen bones, so it’s good, yet, good for you.

Dessert: 3.5 ounces of grilled pineapple contain only 50 calories. Not to mention, the pineapple’s natural sugars caramelize over high heats giving you a scrumptious, all-natural dessert! Top with some light whipped cream. Why not? You’ve earned it.


Keep these healthy options in mind and you’ll be able to enjoy your holiday festivities without feeling like a stuffed lechon afterwards!


Photo: Thinkstock

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