Learning From Experts: Lourdes Castro MS RDN on Latin Restaurants and Healthy Eating

If you’re like many people who made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier or perhaps, to lose weight, now might be about when you’re really struggling with your goals. Restrictive diets and bland foods make it pretty difficult to maintain a healthy eating goal. This is especially apparent when dining out. Large portion sizes and the high caloric content of many restaurant foods can contribute to overconsumption, derailing your healthy eating goals. But this doesn’t mean you have to give up on restaurants, especially if dining out is something you enjoy! Studies show that incorporating foods you like into your healthy eating goals increases the likelihood you’ll stick to them. This can include food from restaurants. For us, that’s Latin food. Some people might not think of Latin restaurants as places for healthy eating. We don’t think that’s the case and we asked an expert to back us up.

Raw seasoned Jicama from Lourdes Castro MS RDN

Lourdes Castro is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, entrepreneur, cookbook author, chef, educator, and food and nutrition expert. A Miami native with deep Cuban roots, Lourdes has dedicated much of her career to creating and showcasing healthy Latin food. We had the opportunity to have a conversation with Lourdes about how she eats when she goes out to Latin restaurants and how to incorporate Latin restaurants into a healthy diet.

What is your go-to healthy order at your favorite Latin American restaurant?

I tend to focus on ingredients as opposed to menu items and always try to incorporate beans and avocado into my selection, and I always look for non-fried root vegetables, like malanga and calabaza, to add to my dish. But if I’m being specific, my last order at my favorite Cuban restaurant was pollo a la plancha with a side of black beans and sliced avocado.  

What are some tips for eating healthy while dining out at Latin American Restaurants?

Order from the side dishes!  You can create a delicious meal from beans, vegetables, and avocado. If you are craving a meat item, see if something is offered in the apps section. The portion will be much smaller and don’t overlook the soup section. Latin Americans tend to get a bad rap for not eating their vegetables when in truth we do eat them, they are just in our soups.

Corn soup from Lourdes Castro MS RDN

Busy as we all are, dining out and ordering in is a necessity for some people or during especially busy times. If you’re frequently dining out or getting take out from Latin restaurants, how can you maintain healthy eating habits/goals and still leave satisfied?

Take out/delivery portions tend to be large, so before you start eating portion out half (or a part of your meal) for lunch the next day.  You are not just saving calories – you are saving money as well!

We’re now nearing the end of January/Feb when some New Year’s goals may be falling by the wayside, how can we check in on and reevaluate New Year’s goals?

New Year’s goals are tricky. I prefer to simply have a vision of where I want to go towards. That way if I stumble (which we all do), it does not signify a failure. It is good to keep in mind that we don’t gain weight or lose weight in one day (we also can’t change our biomarkers in one day). Rather it takes consistent behavior to move that needle.  Have a vision of how you want to eat – work on that vision consistently – and you will be more likely to reach that objective.

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