Mushroom Silvestri is flavored with garlic, red wine and parsley to create a healthy side dish.For many, Mexican food is thought of as a treat, that delicious splurge that throws off your daily caloric intake leaving you feeling guilty.
But celebrity chef and certified nutritionist Chef LaLa is fighting that stigma as she creates healthy recipes without abandoning her Latino heritage and flavors.
The chef’s cookbooks “Latin Lover Lite” (Spencer Publications, 2004) and “Best Loved Mexican Cooking with Chef LaLa” (Publications International, 2008) are aimed at creating healthy ethnic cuisine.
But now she has taken it a step further by partnering with Merck, a global health care company, to launch Sazone Su Salud, an educational campaign designed to educate the Latino community about type 2 diabetes and to offer diabetes-friendly recipes.
“My part as a chef and certified nutritionist was to be able to speak about my experience,” says LaLa, whose birth name is Laura Diaz. “My position, personally, is not only of understanding what it is to live with a family member who has diabetes, but also of one that I have to take special precautions because I understand I’m predisposed to diabetes.”
LaLa got involved with the campaign because the disease runs in her family, and because it’s prevalent in the Latino community. Her goal is to make healthy recipes, suitable for those with diabetes, without having to give up the flavor.
“As a chef, I love to cook. I mean, I became a chef because I like to cook as much as I like to eat and I wanted to re-create the dishes that I love to eat,” she says.
And at the same time, because I’m a foodie it’s important that it tastes good. If someone gives me rice cakes to eat and says that’s what I’m stuck with, I’m not happy. I have a strong heritage and traditions - I didn’t want to forget them.
There are ways to create flavor without all the fat, says LaLa, such as using chiles, lime and cilantro. It’s also key to stay away from stuffing entrees with cheeses and creams, using more natural ingredients instead.
The chef recommends staying away from processed foods because they are high in fat and limited in nutrients.
It really boils down to a healthy cooking method and the quality of ingredients. I always say, if it comes from its own package like an apple, it’s a good idea,” LaLa says. “Cooking methods like boiling, baking, steaming, sauteing and also adding flavor mechanisms of the heritage like cilantro or lime or herbs or spices.
LaLa provides more tips and recipes at sazonesusalud.com, which offers content in Spanish and English.
“There’s all kinds of fun and healthy solutions because what we want to do is to provide solutions to make your life better and healthier and have a better quality of life for you and your entire family,” LaLa says.