Many professionals believe that Latin American foods are unhealthy and that they
contribute to obesity among the Latin American population. Sometimes, these studies do not take into consideration the socioeconomic factors that affect these populations. In fact, there are many Latin American dishes that are not only balanced, but nutritious as well. This is important to remember as future dietitians or health professionals so that we can give clients and/or patients a better experience when working with them. With that said, below are five popular Latin American dishes and their nutrients.
Ceviche is a popular dish all throughout Latin America. However, Peru is known to
have the best ceviche. This dish is made from marinating raw fish in citrus juice
(most often lime) and mixing it with diced vegetables such as tomato, cilantro, red
onion, and avocado. This plate is a good source of protein, however the amount
does vary depending on the fish used. The fresh vegetables and citrus juice also
provide a high amount of vitamin C to the dish.
2. Arroz con Gandules
This dish originates in Puerto Rico and is a rice dish with pigeon peas. This can
be considered a nutritious dish because when legumes and grains are paired
together, it makes a complete protein. Legumes also have fiber and a variety of B
vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. The most important ingredient in
this dish is the sofrito, which is made from green peppers, onions, and garlic,
which are sources of vitamin C.
3. Huevos Rancheros
Huevos Rancheros is a Mexican dish in which fried eggs and beans are placed
over a corn tortilla and topped with a tomato-based salsa and vegetables. This
dish itself is a balancing meal as it contains carbohydrates in the tortilla, protein
in the eggs, and vitamins, as well as fiber, in the vegetables. One may choose to
add onions, cilantro, avocado and even cheese to add more flavor and nutrients to
Pozole is another traditional Mexican dish and is often consumed on big holidays
or celebrations. It is a soup that is traditionally made with pork, but a different
meat may be chosen such as chicken or beef as well as hominy kernels and garlic.
More spices and vegetables are added such as oregano, radish, cabbage, avocado
and lime juice. Pozole can be considered a balanced meal because the meat
provides a protein source and the hominy grains provide a good amount of
carbohydrates as well as some fiber. Radishes and cabbage both provide folate,
thiamine, niacin, and pantothenic acid (also in avocados).
Tacos are another dish originating in Mexico, however there are many varieties of
tacos all across Latin America. The reason this meal may be considered balanced
and nutritious is because it contains both a carbohydrate and protein source with
the tortilla and the choice of meat. No taco is complete without some form of
salsa, whether it is pico de gallo, a tomato-based sauce, or even a mango sauce for
fish tacos. Fresh vegetables such as cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and avocado are
always added to tacos, assuring that there are a variety of vitamins as well as
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