Caribbean cuisine is as diverse as the different countries that make up the region. Unfortunately many of our favorite recipes have a reputation for being unhealthy. But like any other type of cuisine, Caribbean food can be part of a healthy diet. So in the last week of National Nutrition Month, let’s explore a few simple ways to enjoy healthier Caribbean food options.

Swap the Protein

Some Caribbean recipes use higher fat proteins, like pork, which often has more saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories than leaner protein sources. Luckily, there are several easy ways to make healthier choices.

  • Substitute a leaner protein. Replace beef or pork with chicken or turkey breast or lean fish such as mackerel or cod.
  • Modify the protein. Trim the fat or use a leaner cut (For pork, tenderloin or top loin roast are lean choices. For beef, try eye of round or tip round.)
  • Change the focus. Feature the fattier protein as more of a garnish while a leaner protein, like beans, plays more of a starring role.

Try a Different Cooking Method

Some of the most popular (and not so good for you) dishes from the Caribbean are fried. Yes, they can be tasty, but they also tend to be calorie bombs with a lot of fat! Consider a different cooking method to make your favorite recipes with all the flavor and far less fat and calories.

  • Stew it. If, for example, you’re thinking of making conch fritters, try it as a flavorful stew instead. Add your favorite spices and veggies for a rich and antioxidant-packed meal!
  • Boil or poach it. Did you know you can bowl dumplings? Enjoy them with this Poached Red Snapper with Avocado Salsa
  • Saute it. Sauteing is an easy and quick preparation method that’s better for you than deep frying.

Add Fiber

Whatever your favorite Caribbean dish is, make sure you include plenty of nutrient-dense fruits, veggies and whole grains. Here are few ideas to incorporate them.

  • Go for whole grains instead of refined. Replace traditional white rice with brown rice. When making dumplings or bread, replace half the white flour with whole wheat flour.
  • Let legumes shine. There are so many different kinds of beans and lentils that you’re sure to find the perfect one to complement your favorite dish and give it a nutritional boost. Think about how versatile simple beans and rice can be and get creative!
  • Add plant-based color. When we think of the Caribbean, images of beautiful, colorful plants and ripe tropical fruits often come to mind. Let that be an inspiration for some of your food choices. Add bursts of color to your meals with a variety of veggies and spices. Enjoy fresh-cut mango and papaya with lime juice and coconut flakes sprinkled on top for dessert.