Alternatives for Latino fried dishes

Healthier options in place of tasty high fat Latino dishes.

USDA permission photo.
USDA permission photo.

Throughout Mexico, Central and South America fried foods and snacks are an irrefutable part of eating. As delicious as these dishes may be, foods that are fried tend to be very high in fat and contribute to a greater risk for heart disease and high blood cholesterol. By cutting back on the amount of fat and changing the method of preparation for Latino dishes, you take away unwanted calories and positively contribute to your heart’s health.

Think twice if you come across a Latino recipe that calls for lard, which is a main ingredient used for cooking food. This is a type of saturated fat from pork that has been rendered from the entire body of the animal. It is estimated that 1 cup of lard yields to 902 calories, 100 grams of fat and has zero percentage of vitamin values. Typical Latino dishes that normally call for lard are tamales, empanadas and carnitas (pork) to name a few.

Instead, consider an unsaturated fat such as olive oil or canola oil as a substitution; and select baking as your preferred method of cooking for lower fat consumption. A great advantage of unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, is that they provide essential nutrients in our diet. Also, if you decide on a Latino recipe which calls for meat, be sure to adhere to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommended temperature guidelines for food safety practices.

Remember, you can still enjoy delicious Latino cuisine by selecting healthy Latino recipes, reducing the amount of fat and selecting baking as the preferred method of cooking. When preparing your dish look at the nutritional label on a recipe to ensure it is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories. Keeping this rule of thumb will help you in the decision making process of making a meal. For additional nutritional guidelines, please refer to My Plate. Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating. For more health and nutrition tips, visit the MSU Extension website.

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