Bilingual is Better
Aug
02
2012

Can the Latin Diet Be Healthy?

Posted by:  |  Category: Daily Blog, The Culture of Food

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One of my biggest challenges this summer has been cooking for three kids, three times a day. Although I like to cook when I have time, space and money, those factors have been seriously lacking of late. We have certain staples that are always a hit (cinnamon pancakes…for dinner!), but I’ve discovered a roadblock that I didn’t expect. The greatest obstacle to keeping their bellies happy? Requests for Latin foods that I don’t know how to make, or (more often) that I refuse to make because they are unhealthy.

My son wants some arroz con habichuelas and lechón like his abuela makes, and my stepdaughters are constantly requesting flan and tostones. Basically, they want salt, sugar, and grease! I’m the last person on the planet that anyone should look to for unhealthy foods. I can bake up a storm, but usually only do so for special occasions.

I’m a huge fan of the flavors in Mexican, Cuban, and other varieties of Latin food, but I try to avoid the ones that are fried or soaked in lard. Nor am I the drive-thru mom. I run in the other direction when I see a greasy plate of anything, and unfortunately, I associate a lot of Latin foods with this very image.

Part of this reluctance on my part to venture into true Latino cooking is my paranoia that the kids will end up like all of their grandparents: with diabetes and high blood pressure from years of sugar and salt overload. Hispanic Americans are nearly twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, and it freaks me out that our children already have the genetic odds stacked against them. Half the time (with the other parents), they are exposed to the dietary factors that may eventually create health issues, which makes me feel pressured to fight that with healthier habits at our house.

Does this mean I’m denying them an important cultural ritual, or looking out for them?

I don’t want to leave a bad taste in their mouths about the foods they love and associate with family, but there must be a better way to preserve the positives than to feed them the lethal goodies, right?

I love the healthy, flavorful recipes that have been shared on SpanglishBaby, and wish there were more resources for those of us who did not grow up cooking traditional Latin recipes. I’m searching for ways to make healthy foods, disguised as the Puerto Rican meals they love.

How do you balance nutritional concerns with your kids’ taste for the bad stuff? Any advice on how to cook up culture with a little less grasa?

{Image via Daquella manera}

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