My all time favorite kind of food is Latin America/Spanish. They use simple ingredients and there is so much flavor. Black beans and salsa are staples in my every diet and never get old. Cilantro, mm mmm.
I am studying abroad this summer in Merida, Venezuela and I am already drooling about eating the cuisine there. I have been doing a lot of research and I am excited to try one of their main dishes, The Arepa. An Arepa is a small corn cake-like bread topped with different meats and cheeses. In Merida, it is made with thier staple crop: wheat. It is served similar to a sandwich. It looks sort of like a cross between an english muffin and a pita.
Spanish food is tricky health wise. It can be extremely healthy, but you really have to watch out for some key ingredients that lower it on the nutrition scale.
What to look for?
The first thing I look for on a menu is key words such as: baked, grilled, and fresh. If I am in the mood for a tortilla, I choose soft and when possible, whole wheat. I look for a dish that is loaded with veggies and beans. Veggies are always a yes in my book. Sauteed peppers, onions, and tomatoes are among my favorites used in Mexican dishes. When it comes to beans, my preference is black. They have great flavor and texture and have many benefits! Black beans are low in calories, high in fiber and protein, and are a great source of complex carbohydrates (good carbs). When choosing a protein, I suggest going with a lean meat, such as chicken or grilled seafood as opposed to beef because they are lower in fat. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to load up on the salsa! Salsa clocks in at a mere 15 calories per 2T.
What to avoid?
Try and avoid anything fried, refried, or “crispy”. These foods are usually high in fat and calories. I would also be careful with guacamole. Although avocados are full of monounsaturated fats (good fats), guacamole is very high in calories and too much is not good. Cheese, sour cream, and sauces are other things not to overdue. A little cheese never hurts but serving sizes these days use exemplified proportions. Plus, cheese and sauce tend to mask the real flavor of a dish. When it comes to rice, again watch your portion size. Most mexican rices are made from refined grains and are fried, so limiting or removing it from your dish is a good idea! Last but not least, try and limit yourself to a few chips. Tortilla chips are fried and high in fat. Their salty crunchiness and kiss of lime is irresistible, but can also fill you up before your dinner even arrives!
Here are some suggestions on what to order at my favorite Spanish/Mexican style places around town.
1. Qdoba Mexican Grill (Dinkytown): Naked Burrito or Naked Taco Salad – hold the cheese and sour cream (Fun fact: by cutting out Qdoba’s tortilla, you save 330 calories!)
2. Burrito Loco (Dinkytown): Skinless Burrito with grilled chicken, black beans/pinto beans, lettuce, tomato, corn salsa, and guacamole on the side!
3. chino latino (Uptown): Enchaladas de pollo and a side of black beans, no cheese please!
4. Chevy’s Fresh Mex (Bloomington): Grilled Fajita salad, dressing on the side!
5. Brasa (Northeast MPLS): Rotissere chicken with a side of black beans. (I cave every time and get their fried plantains.. SOO GOOD)
Tonight the roommates and I are headed to Uptown to celebrate Kelly and Kelly’s 21st birthdays, SPANISH STYLE at Solera! Stay tuned for my first “restaurant review” post!!
What is your favorite spanish style restaurant? What is your favorite spanish dish?