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Chef LaLa Shares Tips for Eating Healthy During the Holidays

(Image: Chef LaLa)

(Image: Chef LaLa)

The holiday season can damage those healthy eating habits. That bite…or two…or three of cheesecake, tall glass of coquito or third helping of pernil can set your diet over the edge. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in holiday treats (go on, you can grab that pastelle), but everything in moderation should be the rule of thumb.

In fact, you can even swap out certain high-calorie ingredients and still get that same sabor. Ain’t I Latina? tapped celebrity chef and nutrition specialist Chef LaLa to discuss ways to stay healthy and fit during the holidays. When it comes to Latin cuisine, what are the biggest health mistakes Latinos make when preparing traditional dishes?

Chef LaLa: Some of the biggest health mistakes we make when cooking include frying, the use of lard and fatty meats. As a chef and certified nutritionist, I always tell people that it’s best to eat things in moderation and to take into consideration how foods affect you. The holidays are a time to enjoy friends, family and food and it’s important to know your limits.

For example, heartburn is a big issue effecting thousands of Latinos, including my dad and sister, and so many of our favorite traditional dishes include ‘trigger’ ingredients that can cause heartburn.  Although everyone has different ‘triggers,’ I recommend avoiding tomatoes, onion, garlic, chile, and using more natural flavors like herbs to help add flavor to food.  You can also take one Prilosec OTC pill each morning before breakfast to give you 24-hours of heartburn relief.

What can we do on a daily basis during food prep to create foods low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium?

Choose different methods of cooking your meals. Instead of frying, opt for grilling or sautéing your meals. I would also recommend using lean meats, which are lower in calories and saturated fat, and using herbs for flavoring instead of heavy sauces. Instead of sautéing meat in a red chili sauce, substitute the heavy sauce for olive oil and a variety of herbs, which will provide a great flavor.

It’s no secret; we love our rice and beans, refried beans, platanos (maduros or fritos), tortillas and our zesty sauces. What can we swap out of the unhealthy yet tasty recipes to make them healthier?

Chile Rellenos are one of my family’s favorite recipes, but, prepared the traditional way, it can contain high amounts of fat, calories and the trigger foods my father and sister can’t have. To make it healthier for my family and so that everyone can enjoy it, I avoid frying it in egg batter and I substitute ingredients like cheese for lean meats. As tomato sauces are high in acidity and can trigger heartburn, I serve it on the side or I consider alternatives such as fresh fruit salsas, guacamole and nut-based sauces.

The holidays are a time when people who might normally eat good portions, or are on a diet, throw that out the window to indulge in their favorite dishes. What are three tips to not overindulge during the holidays?

  1. Don’t go to sleep on a full stomach. Eat 3-4 hours before going to bed or take a walk after dinner
  2. Drink plenty of water as it helps with digestion
  3. So many Latinos don’t realize that there is a proactive treatment for heartburn. You can actually stop it before it starts! That’s why I recommend those who suffer from heartburn two or more times a week to try Prilosec OTC. If taken in the morning before breakfast, you can spend your entire day; I’m talking 24 hours, without heartburn and really enjoy those special times with family.

How do you plan to eat well during the holiday season? Would love to hear from you in the comments section, below, or on Twitter (@aintilatina) or Facebook.


Chef LaLa has partnered with Prilosec OTC to educate Latinos on healthy eating practices, as well as to provide recipes that minimize the chances of heartburn. Consumers can request free samples and get information at

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