February is Heart Health Month and, I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but seeing American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women information everywhere I turn. With heart disease being such an important topic in the Latino community, you can bet I’m noticing what’s being said – and one of the words of wisdom is coming from chef Ingrid Hoffman.
The star of Simply Delicioso on Food Network and author of the new book Latin D’Lite, I was lucky enough to sit down with the famed Colombian-American chef to talk about my (and her) favorite topic: healthy eating made easy for Latinos!
The fan of Latin food opened up about how she keeps a good figure (it’s easier than you think!), her secrets for portion control, how she keeps from over indulging – and when it’s okay to do so a little, the easiest way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our lives and her favorite go-to recipe for those nights when we all know that we’re too tired to slave away in the kitchen. Plus, I learned why she’s such a huge fan of Mazola® Cooking Oil, which has recently been found to be more effective in lowering “bad” cholesterol than the typical favorite extra virgin olive oil. I mean, who knew that our mami’s favorite can now easily become our healthy go-to?! I certainly didn’t! Read on for more healthy eating tips and tricks from chef Ingrid Hoffman.
Healthy Latin Food: What’s the secret to you keeping a good figure?
Ingrid Hoffman: The secret for a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle is making little lifestyle changes that add up to make a difference in your health without leaving you feeling deprived. For example, simple swaps in recipes can be big on flavor and big on health benefits. I don’t believe in diets – they only cause us to fall off the wagon and binge.
Whenever possible, I like to include more fruits and vegetables in my diet and I make sure to exercise portion control. I also don’t forget to let myself splurge once in a while.
It’s also important to get up and move! Whether it’s dancing to your favorite song, taking a long walk around your neighborhood or hitting the gym, exercise is a very important part of getting and staying healthy.
HLF: Do you have any rules when it comes to portion control?
IH: For portion control, I use a small or medium sized plate, which helps me serve the proper portions of meals. It can also help stop overeating and the pressure to clean your plate. I also make sure I have at least one vegetable or salad on my plate to balance out my meal.
HLF: How do you keep from over-indulging on unhealthy foods, especially around special occasions?
IH: When I’m craving something starchy, I swap it for brown rice or quinoa, like my Yellow Pepper Quinoa which has a spicy kick. I also make sure to have healthy snacks throughout the day, like half an avocado so I don’t overindulge. One of my favorite ways to celebrate special occasions is lightening up family favorites, but also remembering it’s okay to indulge once in a while! In my new book Latin D’Lite, I give an indulgent recipe at the end of each chapter to remind us we can splurge sometimes.
I also avoid overindulging by adding tons of flavor to my food so I don’t feel deprived of taste while I make healthy choices. I use what I call my “power powders,” or spices, to add flavor and kick to lean protein, vegetables and so on without adding calories or fat. It also starts with cooking oil, which we all use from our eggs in the morning to sautéing vegetables for dinner. Mazola Corn Oil is my go-to oil because it’s versatile enough to use in all my dishes whether I stir-fry, sauté, grill or bake, and most importantly, a recent study found corn oil lowers LDL or “bad” cholesterol more than extra virgin olive oil. Swapping to corn oil in the kitchen helps the natural flavors of my food shine through and gives me the big flavor I crave while also providing health benefits.
HLF: How can Latinos incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our diets?
IH: Color is key! Adding fruits and vegetables makes our plates look like a rainbow of color – and flavor! The great thing about vegetables is you can prepare them in a variety of different ways. I like to sauté fresh veggies with my lean protein, and when I use corn oil, its light flavor doesn’t mask the natural taste of my food but rather helps it shine through. I also like incorporating fruit in fun ways, such as grilled on a skewer, or in a colorful salsa as a side. Get in the kitchen and experiment – you never know what fun flavor combinations you’ll discover!
HLF: What is your favorite go-to recipe for a busy weeknight?
IH: My new recipe for Chicken a la Pizza recipe is a delicious, better-for-you twist on a classic pizza that’s also something everyone in the family can enjoy. Instead of dough, I use a thin pounded chicken breast that has been marinated in garlic, rosemary, vinegar and Mazola Corn Oil. Then you can top it to your liking – I like using grilled jalapeños, tomatoes, scallions, fresh cilantro and oregano and a little bit of cheese. It has a Latin kick while having the oozy cheese of pizza and lots of lean protein!
*image courtesy of Mazola® Cooking Oil
What advice would you like to hear from the healthy cooking chef?
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