Feliz Navidad

Making some popular Latino dishes diabetes-friendly this season

By Manny Hernandez


Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

January 2008 —The holidays are upon us. With them comes the nostalgia over a year that is about to be over and the hope and expectations for the coming year. We also face an avalanche of challenges to our diabetes management, manifested in the form of delicious meals, deserts, and drinks loaded with carbs and fat.

To help us through this "sweet" holiday season, Hola Diabetes! this month is dedicated to taking some of the most popular holiday dishes among Latinos and making them "friendlier" for someone with diabetes.

Mexico: Romeritos
Among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, romeritos are an integral part of Christmas. They consist of patties made of dried shrimp and rosemary-like sprigs of Romerito served in a mole sauce with potatoes and/or nopales (prickly pear).

If you plan on dining romeritos, try to use low-fat ingredients when preparing the mole and boil them or broil them. Also try to avoid using oil when preparing the mole and try to cut on the amount of potatoes to help with the carbs.

Cuba and the Caribeean: Lechon Asado
In the Caribbean, starting with Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, the lechon asado (roasted suckling pig) is a staple meal during Christmas time. The pig is roasted on top of a pit that everyone feasting on it helps to dig.

Although the tradition is to roast the pork loin, lining it with banana leaves and covered in oil, a lower fat alternative is to do the roasting in the oven, removing the skin and using broth or orange juice instead, to keep it moist.

Puerto Rico: Coquito
A typical drink among Latinos over the holidays is the ponche, which is comparable to the traditional eggnog, but normally made with less sugar and adding rum and/or fruit. In Puerto Rico, ponche is known as coquito, since one of its ingredients is coconut cream.

Besides cutting down (or altogether) on the portions of alcohol to help reduce the possibilities of a hypoglycemic episode, another healthy idea is to substitute the coconut cream with coconut milk, which has significantly less carbohydrate content per serving. As a result, you may need to sprinkle a little bit of Splenda to sweeten up your coquito.

Central America, Venezuela: Tamales, Hallacas

The tamale, in its multiple variations, is a dish that hardly ever escapes Central American tables over Christmas. In Venezuela, a similar dish is known as bollo and at Christmas people also eat hallacas. Most commonly made up of corn flour, tamales, and their close culinary cousins normally contain chopped pork and crushed peppers and are heavily seasoned.

Any effort to reduce the fat content of this dish will be beneficial. One way to accomplish this is by substituting half the portion of lard in the recipe for olive or canola oil, and using chicken or some other low-fat meat instead of pork. However you decide to prepare it, you may not want to eat more than one tamale (or hallaca), since anywhere between 40 and 70 grams of carbs will still be present.

Generally speaking, it is a good idea to make an effort to control the portions you eat, especially if you are at the house of a relative or a friend where the Latino meals being offered have been prepared the traditional way.

There you have them - ways to make some of the most popular Latino Christmas recipes more diabetes-friendly! Share any other recipes or culinary ideas you may have that may be useful to other people with diabetes this holiday season. And until next time, here's wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: May 29, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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