Adopt Healthier Eating Habits the easy Way!

Most likely, most of us have already thought about New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps some of us has a list posted on a wall, at your office, on your fridge or in your cell phone. The truth is that a lot of us feel the need to “start fresh” at the beginning of the year and make resolutions in hope to accomplish them throughout the year and beyond.

New Year’s resolutions like losing weight, exercise more and eat healthier are at the top of the list. Although this is all great, it may be a bit confusing as to how to start and keep on the new healthy habit. The need to become healthier affects us all, and in the Hispanic community where rates of obesity and related chronic conditions are on the rise, a plan of action toward healthier eating is crucial.

Authentic Hispanic foods generally include fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices for seasoning, grains, beans and legumes, which are all healthy options. However, with acculturation, there is an increase in the consumption of processed, convenient and ready-to-eat foods that are all associated with weight gain and higher incidence of obesity and related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

One exceptional way to accomplish eating healthier is to switch as much as possible from processed to more wholesome foods and keep portion sizes under control. The great advantage about this is that you switch from the “I’m on a diet” mindset to a rather more “liberating” approach where you can develop an appreciation for real food and flavors.

Remember, changing your eating habits is a process that requires time, determination, motivation, and support; it doesn’t happen overnight! These delicious substitutions are a great way to start. You’ll be a step ahead toward your goal of becoming healthier.

Here are just some examples of smart swaps that I recommend and personally use all the time. Some are totally related to products commonly found at most Latino kitchens.

Instead of this

Use this

Canned beans with sauces

Dry beans, including garbanzo and lentils (you control the salt)

Pancake syrup

100% real maple syrup and fresh fruit

Juice drinks such as Sunny Delight

A mixture of 100% no sugar added juice and water

Jarred sandwich spread

Mashed avocado

White flour tortillas

Small corn or whole wheat tortillas

Canned refried beans

Cook the mashed beans at low heat moving constantly until desired consistency

Fried empanadas

Baked empanadas

Regular ground meat for picadillo, pastelón or empanadas

93 – 95% lean ground beef

Jarred salsa

Make your own Pico de Gallo (Mexico) or Chimol (Honduras): diced tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, cilantro, lemon juice and salt, pepper to taste. Low sodium tomato juice can be added for a saucier consistency

Fried nacho chips

Baked nacho chips: cut the tortillas and line them up on single layer on baking sheet, slightly spray with cooking oil

Adding extra oil to rice right after is cooked to make it fluffy

Add just a small amount of canola oil at the beginning of the cooking process and let simmer until tender. Let it sit to rest off the heat and then use a fork to separate the granules NO EXTRA OIL NEEDED!

Artificial coloring such as sazón Goya

Annatto paste for a reddish color or turmeric powder for a yellow touch

Luncheon meats such as hams and salami

Low fat herbed chicken sausages

Regular evaporated milk (widely used to make smoothies or batidos)

Low-fat evaporated milk

Iced tea mix powder

Brew your favorite green tea and add ice for a truly refreshing iced tea





Bottled Mojo Criollo

Make it fresh: sour orange juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Olive oil is optional

Regular coconut milk

Low fat coconut milk

 Suellen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in the Rochester, NY area.  Connect with her at or follow her on Instagram at @Suellen_Pineda


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