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Joe Medina

Personal Trainer

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Healthier Alternatives to Our Favorite Traditional Foods

10/08/2018 06:00AM | 9686 views

Growing up as a Latino in a “traditional” Latino household, I’ve been able to enjoy many different delicious foods. While a lot of the foods of our culture taste great, indulging in them too much can lead to some problematic situations over time.

 This article is meant to highlight staple foods or eating practices that should be enjoyed in extreme moderation instead of on a daily basis.


I’ll start with a food that is as common in the traditional Latino household as it is dangerous, especially if unmoderated. I’m speaking about the tortilla. The tortilla is so common that it is often used as a utensil!

Typically, a corn tortilla will contain about 60 calories, while a flour tortilla would gain you around 94. Most of these calories come from carbs and fat, and can add up very quickly over the course of several meals, days and weeks.

One of the things we can do to combat this is, first: be aware. Second, begin to replace and moderate the tortilla with alternatives, like a lettuce wrap. Try a lettuce-wrapped taco or a carnitas salad, instead of the traditional way. For that meal, you will cut your carb intake in half.


Another area in the kitchen we should examine is the cupboard. We’re looking for the types of oils that we use to cook with. Often we as a culture love to work with things such as vegetable oil or canola oils. Good replacements would be coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. 

There are many reasons why we should avoid vegetable oils. We know that they tend to be littered with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which will reduce the level of good bacteria or probiotics in your system. Probiotics are important because they aid in keeping your immune system strong and also increase your ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from your food. 

Vegetableoils are also high in trans fats, which are hard for the body to metabolize. They get stored as fats and plaque in the body, which means over-consumption can lead to coronary artery disease. 

Coconut oil is the more ideal choice because it contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are healthy fats that can actually be used as fuel rather than being stored as fat. Olive oil is another healthy alternative because it is rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin E, which has been shown to be good for heart health as well as good for the skin.

Rice and Beans

Let us next look at the rice and beans that we all love. A good option for controlling caloric intake here would be to try to replace high-calorie pinto beans with lower-calorie Peruvian or black beans. Also, rotate in brown rice and quinoa from time to time. The typical long-grain white rice can net you 40g of carbs. Replacing that with brown rice adds in some dietary fiber, which will in turn reduce your caloric intake. 

Sugary Drinks

Another easy yet effective change in order to be our healthiest selves would be to cut down on sugary drinks. We all remember going to Buelita’s and getting a “sodita con llelitos” or a glass full of Tampico orange juice.We should instead aim to drastically bring down the frequency in which we stock these in the fridge.

Instead, focus on the amount of water that you are taking in per day. If you desperately miss the carbonation you can try flavored sparking water. Sparkling water sales have been increasing quite a bit in the United States as a sign that people are replacing soda consumption. These all contain zero total calories!

Pan Dulce

Lastly, the one I most hate to mention is the beloved “Concha,” or Pan Dulce. While I will concur that eliminating this particular delicious part of our Latin background is almost blasphemous, I do offer a few tips on how we can indulge this delicious treat a bit more conservatively. 

Start by buying fewer pieces at your local panadería than you usually buy. Then, as soon as you get home, cut them into smaller pieces so more can be shared throughout the home. Also, consider healthier treats like gluten-free,low-calorie brownies or “no-bake” protein balls. They would be a more nutritious alternative.

It’s of the upmost importance as an emerging community to be the healthiest, strongest and happiest version of ourselves. This is a journey that starts with what we put into our bodies daily. So, let us be successful in this endeavor by eliminating or limiting the foods we know can be the most counter-effective toward that goal. If we all do this on a consistent basis it will ensure a bright future ahead when it comes to healthy Hispanic living.


Joe Medina is a personal trainer and fitness entrepreneur in Southern Orange County, California.

Instagram: @fitness__untamed (two underscores)

Facebook: @MedinaFitnessUntamed

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