Healthy recipes and cooking tips for Latino Thanksgiving

Apicha Community Health Center Nov 03, 2017  

Apicha CHC

Thanksgiving and the holidays are fast-approaching, and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. Although Thanksgiving is an American holiday, those who celebrate come from all walks of life and cultures.

As such, Thanksgiving cuisine isn’t always your traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Instead, Thanksgiving meals and celebrations often take on cultural influences.

For many cultures, food plays an important role in uniting families and during special occasions. With over 56 million Latinos living in the United States, the presence of Latino Thanksgiving has given way to delicious versions and variations of Thanksgiving dinner.

Sometimes, it’s hard to stay healthy and enjoy traditional Latino dishes that aren’t the most health-conscious, espeically during the holidays. However, there are recipes (and tips) to still enjoy your favorite Mexican or Puerto Rican dish in a healthy way. So here are a few recipes and tips you can use when cooking your own version of Latino Thanksgiving.

Health-conscious recipes

We found a few Latino recipes with a healthy spin. Here’s a few to consider adding to your Thanksgiving meal. Be sure to click on the name of the dish for the full recipe and cooking instructions. Enjoy!

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Photo credit: CopyMeThat.com

Slow-cooked pernil: Pernil is a Puerto Rican pork dish, and typically roasted with a slab of fat on top, to create savory flavors. This recipe tries to reduce the amount of fat you consume in this dish. Additionally, slow cooking pernil the night before Thanksigiving day could save you some time (and calories).

Untitled design (1).pngPhoto credit: Inspirialized.com

Plantain rice and beans: Rice is high in calories, but present in so many Latino dishes. This recipe substitutes rice with riced plantains. Plantains are a Caribbean plant, similar to a banana, that is used by many Latino cultures. Skeptical? Give it a try first, and add in your favorite herbs and spices.

yucca.jpg

Photo credit: http://mikosina.blogspot.com

Yucca turkey stuffing: We all love stuffing. However, it’s often loaded with empty carbs and, if you’re gluten intolerant, it’s impossible for you to eat it. If you’re looking for a healthier, gluten-free take on stuffing, try this yucca recipe. Yucca is a root-based plant that is found in Central and South America, and can be compared to that of a potato or yam. 

Pupusas.jpg Photo credit: Pupseria Alejandra Wordpress

Pupusas revueltas: Pupusas are a traditional dish of El Salvador, and are corn-stuffed tortillas with different fillings. This healthy spin on the traditional Salvadoran will have your guests (and your stomach) very satisfied.

Apicha CHCPhoto credit: Saveur.com

Piquant Corn Bread: Although this may not be a traditionally Latino dish, cornbread is oftenpresent at holiday meals. However, cornbread recipes typically call for a decent amount of butter and dairy. This recipe eliminates that. Although this is a relatively plain recipe, be sure to add in jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, onion, and other spices you deem fit for your cornbread.

Apicha CHC Photo credit: RealHealthyRecipes.com

Flan: For many folks, the best dishes are saved for last--including dessert. Flan is a delicious custard dish that has variations across many Latino cultures. Unfortunately, flan is high in dairy, fat, and sugar. Give this recipe a try for a healthier, but still sweet, approach to flan.

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Cooking tips

  • Salt can make any dish tip the scales against your health. Instead of using salt, try using as much herbs and spices to get that flavoring just right.
  • We all love tortillas, but their fried nature doesn’t give them the healthiest rap. Instead of frying them, lightly drizzle some olive oil on each tortilla, and bake them to your desired crunch level.
  • Skip the butter. Instead of using butter/lard, consider cooking and baking with olive or coconut oil. They each have a lower saturated fat content and cholesterol level, which is easier on your arteries.
  • Cut the crema. Heavy cream and sour cream are delicious, but unforgiving to your health. Try using greek yogurt as a substitute for these--and you can even mix in some spices for a better flavor.
  • Switch to fat-free condensed milk for your desserts--they’ll still be deliciously sweet!
  • Ease the cheese: Cheese is loved by Latinos across all cultures, but it’s high in saturated fat and sodium. If you’re going to cook or eat cheese, trying purchasing reduced fat cheeses.

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