Enjoying delicious Latin foods can be difficult if you have hypoglycemia, diabetes, and have to watch your blood sugar levels. Between Mexican nachos dripping in fatty cheeses, burritos swimming in carbohydrates, and super sugary sweets like Cuban tres leches, it may seem impossible to enjoy Hispanic foods without harming your health. And for the hundreds of thousands of Latinos in the United States suffering from diabetes, not being able to enjoy your traditional Latin American family dishes seems like punishment. But you can enjoy your favorite foods, just follow these tips.
Go Whole Wheat and Natural Vegetables
Want a simple way to change up your carbohydrate intake to maintain your diabetes? Simply opt for whole wheat tortillas and vegetable chips. The body takes a longer time to break down the sugars in whole wheat products, and many vegetable chips taste delicious with our favorite Mexican favorites like low fat cheeses, salsa, and refried beans.
Another great option is to substitute a lettuce leaf for a tortilla, especially with fish tacos or dip. By substituting real vegetables for high carb tortillas, you can help maintain your hypoglycemia. Be sure to read packages. Corn tortillas typically have less carbohydrates than the flour versions. And if you want to make your own homemade tortillas, split the flour between whole wheat and regular flour to make a hypoglycemia happy tortilla!
The Power of Salsa
No, I am not talking about the hot Cuban dance or the high fructose corn syrup salsa at the grocery store chips aisle. I am talking about making your own natural salsa. All you need is a food processor or blender. Even a good knife will work. You can opt for the easy way out by purchasing a can or two of crushed tomatoes and then cutting in your choice of peppers, onions, and garlic, or go organic by buying fresh organic tomatoes and vegetables.
For a fun twist add in some mango or pineapple. My dietician recommends that I opt for real fruit over other sugar options. Natural unprocessed products are better for maintaining blood sugar levels because you can control how much sugar is put in your food, like salsa. If you like spicy, I recommend chopping in some hot peppers or a few drops of ghost pepper sauce.
Eat this not that!
My family is Cuban and Dominican, and if anyone is familiar with Cuban cuisine, vegetables and healthy options are buried under mounds of delicious fried foods. Because my hypoglycemia is severe, I need to choose good healthy options. For example, I eat my frijoles without rice and opt for tostones over their sweet counterpart platinos maduros (or fried sweet plantains). I do not drink my favorite Caribbean soda options like Materva and choose water instead, especially if I know that I want to indulge in a bite of dessert. I will share my dessert with my spouse or a friend, since most postres, or desserts, are extremely high in sugar, even when homemade.
When I go to a Mexican or South American restaurant, I skip the complimentary nachos and will substitute broccoli for yellow rice. Maintaining my hypoglycemia is important to me, and I choose high protein options like steak, chicken, or fish, over food options that are extremely high in carbohydrates like paella, a Spanish favorite that involves seafood cooked with rice. Give me a bistec de palomilla with tostones and I am in food heaven. Delicioso!
Final food pointers
As you can see, it is possible to enjoy good Latin American food favorites without causing your diabetes or hypoglycemia to act up. If you are eating out, skip unnecessary carbohydrates like chips, rice, and soda, and try to substitute low carb options like black beans with salsa. Share sweet treats. Most Spanish restaurants will give you huge portions. Split your dinner with a friend or save the rest for lunch tomorrow. And if you decide to cook at home, find ways to incorporate whole wheat and protein into your favorite family recipes.