Nutrition: 3 Ways to Keep the Hispanic Diet Healthy

Many people realize that Taco Bell is not authentic. But did you know that a traditional Hispanic diet inspired by your abuela's cooking can help you stay healthy?


Healthy staples of corn tortillas are low-fat, as are beans. Frijoles as my suegra calls them are also chock full of fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates which make you feel full longer. Fresh vegetables in salsas and entrees provide important vitamins and minerals. Love guacamole? Avocados are a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to good blood flow resulting in a healthy brain.

"Nutritious" and "Mexican" describe my favorite foods: grilled tacos de pescado, sopa de papa, veggie enchiladas.  ¡Qué rico!


Pero con cuidado: not all of your favorite dishes have equal health benefits. Keep your traditional diet nutritious by following:

3 Guidelines for a Healthy Hispanic Diet

1. Use fresh ingredients: Processed versions (canned beans, etc.) may contain too much sodium, sugar, and don't provide the quality or quantity of nutrition of whole foods.

2. Avoid toppings that add fat like too much cheese or sour cream: Lime or jalapenos will give your plato sabor without the extra calories.

3. Treat red meat as a garnish. Beef fajitas a must? Fill at least half of the skillet with peppers and onions!


Regularly eating healthy, fresh foods can reduce your risk of diet-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, keeping you out of la clínica.

Don't think diet makes a difference?

As I discussed in Two Ways to Bring Back Abuela's cooking, second generation Mexican-American teenagers are 2.5 times as likely to be obese, and third generation twice as likely to be obese than their first generation counterparts because they are replacing their traditional with a Western diet high in saturated fats and processed foods.

Also, a recent study that found 30% of heart attacks can be prevented by switching to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits, vegetables, and wine. Other key elements include restricting processed food and red meat, as well as incorporating a variety of fruits, veggies, and legumes. Sounds like a Latino diet to me!

Your comida has a huge impact on your health. Our abuelas knew that. Eat well by eating like them.

A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.

How have you made your favorite traditional meal healthy?