Hispanic Heritage Month Comidas

As we kick off the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, we round up four traditional kind of Latin food that are both tasty and healthy to serve your family and guests every week during the month.

Venezuela: Arepas

For either breakfast, lunch, or even as an appetizer, arepas have a great advantage: their versatility. To keep them healthy, we need to stay away from the oil, instead of frying them consider baking or grilling them. Arepas are made of cornmeal, a great source of energy and nutrients like iron and phosphorus. They also are a great option for those following a gluten-free regime.

But, what is an arepa without the filling? Depending on the time of day, we can fill them with a variety of ingredients, while keeping them light. For breakfast, we can fill them with low fat cheese, turkey and egg whites. Later in the day, add tomatoes, avocados, and your favorite grilled protein.  

Perú: Ceviche

Ceviche is one of those guiltless dishes; it is light and healthy. The key to making a successful ceviche: Selecting fresh lean fish with white meat like grouper, mackerel, tilapia or corvine. These fish options contain protein, phosphorus, omega 3 and other nutrients. With ceviche, we also get all the vitamins from the ingredients we add to the fish to marinate it, including: onions, garlic, tomato, cilantro, and fresh lemon juice.

México: Tacos

We can’t leave tacos out of our list of plates for Hispanic Heritage Month. To keep our tacos light we should always consider corn tortillas over flour, they have less calories, less flour and less carbohydrates. You can fold in grilled chicken or fish and vegetables. If you like adding in some cheese and crema keep in mind low fat options -- or you could swap crema or sour cream for salsa, which is usually less fatty.

Puerto Rico: Flan de Coco

Let’s go to the Island of Enchantment for a sweet treat. Many traditional desserts in Puerto Rico showcase fruits like: papaya, passion fruit, guava, mango, and of course coconut. One of the most delicious ones is Coconut Flan (Flan de Coco). To create a healthy version of rich flan de coco: substitute the whole eggs with egg whites, and use low fat milk. For the simple syrup, instead of refined sugar, switch to either brown or even agave nectar. These little changes will cut the calories and sugar content, without sacrificing flavor. Remember, it is all about the coconut, which will provide the punch.

Escuela Lunch Box Remix

Teaching kids to make healthy food choices throughout the school day begins en la casa with their lunch box. “Start creating nutritious family food habits early in your child’s life, so it becomes a preference for kids in school,” says Judith C. Rodriguez, Ph.D., RDN, Chairperson and Professor of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Brooks College of Health. Here are easy tips for packing your kids’ lunch boxes with healthy eats.

Plan Ahead

“The key is to plan and do bulk prep,” says Rodriguez. Instead of waiting until the school morning, take the time to make five nutritious sandwiches for the week and freeze them on Sunday night. Add soup in a travel cup, cheese and crackers, sliced fruits, sliced veggies and mixed nuts for variety. Dinner leftovers can also be heated in a microwaveable travel cup, if that is possible, at your child’s school.

Incorporate Essential Nutrients

“Include a variety of food groups, such as fruits and veggies, grains, lean proteins and dairy,” says Rodriguez. Cover your bases with:

  • Healthy proteína: low-fat cheese sticks that kids have fun peeling; lean turkey or chicken; beans; hummus; reduced-fat peanut butter.

    Sándwich saludable
    : Roll peanut butter (a child-favorite) and a thin slice of guava jelly, or mashed beans and avocado on a whole-wheat tortilla.

  • Complex carbohidratos including fiber: whole grain crackers; dry cereal; whole wheat bread; whole-wheat bagel.

Sándwich saludable: Roll a slice of lean, low-sodium ham and cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla and freeze.

“Other nutrients of concern to emphasize for growing children include calcium, vitamin D and potassium,” says Rodriguez. Sneak in these essential nutrients with a fruit and yogurt smoothie served in a fun cup featuring their favorite character; fresh fruits such as bananas, peaches and melon; low-fat cheeses; and dark leafy greens such as spinach, which can also be thrown into smoothies.

Be Creative

Try your own combinations of food to find the perfect mix for your child’s individual taste. Rodriguez suggests finger foods as easy side options, such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, nuts, raisins, crackers and yogurt packs.

Make your kids more interested in the foods they’re eating by serving them in colorful containers, cutting sandwiches into hearts, stars or Mickey Mouse ears, and even making silly faces on sandwiches with raisin ojos, a cherry tomato nariz and a red pepper boca.

Lastly, pop in a little love in your kids’ lunch boxes. “It’s important to feed children’s soul and spirit,” says Rodriguez. “Include a note with an inspirational message such as ‘I am proud of the way you did x,y,z,’ ‘Remember to eat -- not trade -- the apple’ or a simple ‘I love you.’” Include stickers or stars for an extra sweet smile upon opening their lunch box.

Easy and Saludable Labor Day Side Dishes

Before the outdoor parties, barbeques and eating under the stars comes to a close, send off el verano with one last bash that your friends and guests will remember through the cooler seasons. Once the main courses are complete, throw some sure-to-please side dishes into the mix that are both palate-pleasers and heart-healthy options. Here are three side dish recipes to try:

Ceviche Cocktail

The great thing about this Latin American plato is the numerous options of sabores and ingredients you can play around with. It’s a light option that goes with just about anything.


One pound of sea bass and/or shrimp (adjust depending on party size)

Lime juice (about ¼ cup)

Lemon juice (about ¼ cup)

Orange juice (about ¼ cup)

Chopped red onion


1/3 cup of cilantro



Chopped tomato

Chopped cucumber

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper


Chop the fish and marinate with citrus juice for one hour (fish should be covered). Blend remaining ingredients (minus the avocado) and let marinade in dish or bowl for one hour. Drain and add avocado just before serving. For a fun party idea, serve in individual martini or double shot glasses.

Ajo Corn on the Cob

As you fire up the grill on last time during Labor Day weekend, remember that corn on the cob is a healthy and sweet side dish you can cook all year long. But nothing beats the extra flavor and tenderness from a smoky grill.


Yellow corn (for a sweeter taste)

Butter or butter substitute



Shuck the corn, rinse it and soak it in a pot of water for about 30 minutes. While the corn is soaking, sauté the garlic clove for 30 seconds over medium heat -- don’t let it brown. Take corn out of water, and wrap it in tin foil with a light covering of butter and the sautéed garlic, chopped. Place the wrapped corn on the grill for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once during the grilling process. Unwrap and serve. Like some heat? Sprinkle red pepper flakes on the corn with the garlic.

Grilled Fresh Fruit Salad

Forget the fresh fruit salad mamá makes, and try this easy and unique spin, since your grill is already in use.


Variety of firmer fruit, such as pineapple, apple, pear, banana and cantaloupe.

Cooking oil



Cut fruit down the middle, and spray lightly with cooking oil. Grill to desired doneness, about 3 minutes to avoid a mushy mess. Add honey or brown sugar for added sweetness to your grilled fresh fruit salad.

Personal Consultant

When it comes to preparing Latin dishes, white rice has been a traditional side staple. But according to a 2012 Harvard School of Public Health study, eating too much arroz significantly increases your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes. Researchers discovered, for example, that a daily large bowl of white rice, or a serving of 5.5 ounces, increased the onset of the disease by 10 percent.

“White rice has a high glycemic index,” explains Iris Mercado EdD, CDN, a nutrition expert and assistant professor at Hostos Community College in New York City. And when your body breaks down the grain, “it converts the starch to glucose (sugar) really fast and affects blood glucose level.” To make matters worse, white rice is tasteless and depends on salt and fat before it acquires flavor. That’s why people tend to eat big portions of the grain before feeling full.

For healthier eating, Mercado recommends switching to whole brown rice, which is not refined. When it comes to white rice vs. brown rice, brown is the clear winner. “The fiber in brown rice delays the digestion and conversion of the starch into sugar,” she says. Adds Mercado, “Latinos tend to eat their rice with beans,” which are high in soluble fiber and help control blood cholesterol. “Beans make you feel full faster,” she explains, so remember “to serve more beans than brown rice.” 

Familia Summer Barbeques

With a month left of summer vacation, kids -- and padres -- want to spend as much time eating al fresco. Las Fabulosas serves up ideas for grilling up yummy meals and chevre backyard activities for any age.

All-Americano: Micro-burger Sliders

Start by heating up mini challa bread buns, or any other sweetened bread, on the grill until crisp and brown around the edges. Then divide your ground beef into three-ounce patties and cook until medium rare. Next grill finely diced onions and peppers and serve as garnish. Finally, smear a teaspoon of goat cheese on the top bun for your mini-cheeseburger.

Fun Actividad: Speaking of bite-sizes, ever thought of setting up a mini-golf course or a mini-bowling lane in your back yard? Though game sets can be as complex as you want, there are also very simple ways to set them up. Creating a bowling lane is as simple as setting ten water-filled plastic bottles at the end of a grass lane that’s outlined with streamers.

Latin Savor: Grilled Shrimp with Ajo

Add and wisk fresh thyme, fresh garlic, ground red pepper, salt and black pepper into a half-cup of olive oil in a bowl. Next, slide your shrimp onto bamboo skewers and marinate them with a brush. Leave shrimp on the grill for about two minutes on each side. While the shrimp is cooking, fill up a separate pot with a half-cup of olive oil. Add thinly diced garlic, and heat up to 275 degrees F, never reaching a boil. When the garlic chips look crispy, pour a few spoonfuls of the garlic oil over the shrimp and serve. For an extra garnish, top your dish with chopped cilantro.

Fun Actividad: Nothing announces the arrival of summer eating like the clanks of horseshoes in the backyard. But since the metal variety can wreak havoc on your backyard, use a plastic set that comes with pins and horseshoes. Your home will be a popular destination all summer long.