Go Red on Valentine’s

whatweoffer_AFP152Published on Latino American Today, February 2014 -by Amalia Moreno-Damgaard.   February is heart health month. This Valentine’s Day let us celebrate by raising awareness about how precious life is. 

According to the American Heart Association, Latin women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women are and only 1 in 3 Latin women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer. How can we help reverse this trend when culture and habits shape our lifestyle? We know that education is important, but rather than focusing on well-documented statistics, let us concentrate on what we can do each day to help our families and ourselves be well and healthy.

In the Latin culture family plays a central role in everything and women take leading roles in caring for the family, especially in the kitchen, often times disregarding their own self-care. Cooking is an expression of love, and because of tradition and lack of knowledge, it can miss out on healthy eating practices. Assimilating into the American culture often compounds the problem as lack of awareness of another culture’s food system can complicate making healthy choices when buying food. A trip to the store can be easier by learning a few healthy shopping and cooking tips and techniques in order to make healthier choices.

Rather than cooking with lard or corn oil, choose canola or olive oil instead. Substitute traditional cuts of pork and beef for leaner cuts, such as loin, top sirloin, and flank steak and trim any fat.  Minimize the consumption of red meat and eat more fatty fish such as salmon and herring. Remove the skin and visible fat from chicken and turkey. Steam, broil, roast, bake, or grill foods instead of deep-frying them (see recipe below). Cholesterol comes from animal meats and their by-products (cheese, butter, milk, eggs, and lard). Free or low-fat cheeses and milk are better choices. Lastly, salt and salty foods and sugar are present everywhere, from fast food to processed foods (canned, bottled, jarred, bagged, and packaged foods). In place of these, choose free or low-sodium, and trans fats-free foods.

Processed foods are not a good substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables because not only can they contain high levels of salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, trans fats, and chemical additives, but also their nutrition level is inferior. Nutrition-dense foods (legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables) contain not only vitamins and minerals, but also healthy fiber that can help satiate hunger longer on fewer calories and help control weight. Basing everyday menus on fresh ingredients and healthy cooking techniques will make your cooking experience easier, more nutritious and delicious. Vegetables should be the stars of our kitchen as they are naturally delicious and need little intervention to enhance their flavor with herbs, lime, vinegar, chiles and spices.

Old habits are hard to break, but for ours and our family’s health is worth changing our lifestyle. Good eating behaviors are learned at home and can help guide childrens’ eating habits for a lifetime and switching from a sedentary to an active lifestyle and managing stress with any kind of exercise 3-4 times a week puts us in the right direction of living healthier lives for many years to come. Change is part of life. Make a commitment for change today to make your heart happy!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

PURÉ DE PAPAS CON PEREJIL – Potato Purée with Olive Oil and Parsley

Side dishes don’t get any simpler than this. For a twist on this delicious recipe, add other herbs or sautéed shallots.

 Serves 4 to 6 people

 3 cups plain mashed potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 ounces (3/8 cup) hot fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup lightly mashed and chunky cooked potatoes

 1.         Combine the mashed potatoes with the oil, stock, parsley, and seasonings and mix well to blend.

 2.         Add the chunky potatoes and incorporate them into the mashed potato mixture using folding strokes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.