One of the things I miss most about my homeland, Peru, is the food. I remember being at my grandparents' beach house during the summer, sitting on front porch facing the ocean, eating fried plaintains with cheese with my grandpa while my grandma worked wonders with the freshly picked chilies from her garden for dinner. Looking back, I realize some of the traditional dishes that were near and dear to my heart weren't exactly the healthiest of nutritional choices, so I decided to take it upon myself to find ways to make them lighter. With this goal in mind, I met with Ani Aratounians, Beachbody's new in-house nutritionist (see next article for an interview with Ani!), and shared with her my mission to "healthify" some popular Latin dishes. After much chatting and delicious experimentation, Ani and I came up with three healthier versions of very typical Latin dishes. Each new version is packed with flavor and shouldn't disappoint even the most discerning of palates.
These recipes include some chili peppers that might not be familiar to some people, but both Ani and I feel that replacing them with anything else would end up taking away too much from the authenticity of the dishes. We really want you to have the full experience, just as if our grandmas were cooking for you. Your best bet for finding the right chilies is to check the ethnic food aisle of your local supermarket or Hispanic specialty market, if there's one near where you live. If you can't find them fresh, dry ones should be just as delicious. If you can't find them at a store near you, look online at Web sites like Chili Pepper Madness or Marx Foods. (Remember that when you cook with hot, spicy chili peppers, you need to be careful—wear gloves and be careful not to touch your face or eyes while working with the peppers. In fact, if you have contact lenses, it's a good idea to take them out before you even touch the chilies.)
One thing you might not know about Peru is that during the 19th century, the country experienced an infusion of Chinese indentured servants, who helped to diversify both Peru's population and its cooking, including what has become one iconic Peruvian dish, lomo saltado, a sautéed beef dish that's traditionally cooked in a wok with soy sauce . . . and French fries! To lighten this recipe, I've replaced the beef with chicken or shrimp, lost the French fries in favor of sautéed jicama, and significantly reduced the amount of oil used in the dish.
Place a wok over medium heat. When heated, place 1 teaspoon of oil in wok; add garlic and limo chili pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Turn heat to high and add chicken or shrimp; cook until almost done. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin.
Remove chicken or shrimp from wok and set aside.
If needed, add 1 teaspoon of oil to wok; add onions and sauté until barely soft; season with more salt and pepper if desired. Add a few drops of vinegar and continue sautéing until vinegar has evaporated. Remove onion (it should still be a little crisp) from the wok and set aside with chicken or shrimp. Repeat with tomato (heat just until hot, then remove quickly before it gets too soft), then jicama.
When jicama is done, return all cooked ingredients to wok. Add amarillo chilies and soy sauce and cook for a minute or two until chicken or shrimp is completely cooked (for chicken: no pink left in middle; for shrimp: firm and opaque white all the way through). Place on serving dish and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro. Serve immediately, accompanied by cooked quinoa (a very nutritious grain-like seed that's native to Peru, and which you can now find at most health food stores and supermarkets—it can be cooked the same way as rice). Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Important Note: You can also replace the shrimp or chicken with firm tofu to make a vegan dish. Also, if jicama is not readily available in your area, you can replace it with baked sweet potato fries, which should be added at the very end of the cooking process.
Mole poblano is probably one of the most famous Mexican dishes that originates in Puebla, south of Mexico City, and its long preparation time is well known, simply because there are so many different ingredients and steps. Mole is versatile, because it can be made ahead of time and frozen in small batches to be used in the future, over turkey, chicken, shrimp, tamales, enchiladas, etc. Traditionally, every ingredient is fried in lard, then blended, and then sometimes fried again! Some people claim that unless lard is used, the flavor just isn't the same. I beg to differ, because I've done it without lard using a fraction of the fat and oil in the traditional recipe, and it still turns out great! There are so many complex flavors in this dish, the lard isn't a major factor in the taste.
Soak dried chilies in hot water to soften them. Toast almonds, anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, and sesame seeds in a dry nonstick frying pan over medium heat so they release their fragrant oils. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil, then add garlic, onions, tortillas, baguette pieces, raisins, almonds, anise, clove, cinnamon, pepper, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup sesame seeds and cook for a few minutes. Drain chilies and add to pan; cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and place mixture in a food processor or blender with 1 cup vegetable broth and blend, then press through a medium mesh strainer to obtain a smooth puree. Put puree in a thick pot or Dutch oven, add cocoa powder, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until reduced to a paste. Add remaining 3 cups vegetable broth to pot and simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. Taste and season with salt and sugar (it should be slightly sweet). Enjoy over chicken, turkey, pork, black beans, eggplant, seitan—or whatever meat, vegan protein, vegetable, or side dish you prefer. Garnish with remaining sesame seeds. Makes up to 16 servings of sauce.
Important Note: Prepared according to these directions, this sauce is vegan!
This very popular Puerto Rican recipe is a staple of that small Caribbean island's home cooking. If you cooked it in the traditional way, you'd need to work out like champion Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps to burn all the calories in each serving, but this updated version makes it a much more nutritious—yet still hearty—meal to consume after an intense workout for us non-Olympic athletes.
Place olive oil and paprika in large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, and turkey bacon. Cook for 4 minutes, or until vegetables are soft but not browned. Add cilantro and tomato and cook for 2 minutes or until juice from tomato cooks down almost completely. Add ham and quinoa and cook for 1 minute. Add pigeon peas and water; season with salt and pepper to taste. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil; allow to boil until most of liquid has been absorbed. Reduce heat and cook 20 more minutes. Makes 4 servings.
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Beachbody fitness and nutrition advisors Denis Faye, Ani Aratounians, and Stephanie Saunders in the Beachbody Chat Room on Wednesday, November 23th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.
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And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve Edwards' views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.
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As we say 'round here at Beachbody, exercise is only half the battle. No matter what your goals are, 50 percent of fitness is nutrition. Or as Tony Horton puts it, "Abs are made in the kitchen."
So it's only right that Beachbody should have the brightest and the best working for us when it comes to food. With that in mind, we're proud to introduce to you our new in-house nutritionist, Ani Aratounians, MS, RD.
Ani is what we in the food world call a "double-fisted nutritionist." On one hand, you've got her education—a master's in family environmental sciences with an emphasis in nutrition and food science from California State University, Northridge—combined with her 13 years of experience fighting the good food fight at companies like Nestlé®. During the same period, she's been spreading the word about healthy eating on Spanish-language channels like Univision® and Telemundo®. (Plus she's trilingual—she speaks English, Spanish, and Armenian.)
On the other hand, she's a true foodie. She grew up in Barcelona, Spain, where her grandmother instilled in her a love of food and an in-depth knowledge of Mediterranean cuisine. After Ani moved to the States, her passion for and about food grew to include Latin American fare. The lady knows how to cook.
Put the two hands together and you get a dietetic/culinary one-two punch that'll do a lot of damage in our ongoing fight to End the Trend® of obesity.
Our new tough-as-nails nutritionist took a little time recently to chat with me about her views to give everyone the chance to learn what she's bringing to Beachbody. Welcome, Ani!
I struggled with weight from childhood through my teenage years, and kids can be cruel when it comes to being "plump" (my grandma's constantdescriptor of how I looked). Don't get me wrong—I am forever grateful to my grandma, who taught me the basics of cooking, but she also taught me the basics of overeating.
I was lucky to pick up nutrition books from a young age. I started learning about healthy eating and not falling prey to the extreme dieting that can lead to a lifetime of eating disorders. I learned to eat right and was able to redesign all of our family recipes into healthier ones . . . my passion for nutrition and the culinary arts was born.
I have three bullet points that describe my philosophy. Enjoy and follow:
Physical activity not only benefits your body but also your mind. Let's not forget that our bodies were designed to move (and not just from the couch to the fridge!) and stay active to achieve optimal health—mental and physical.
I'm a tennis junkie. I play and compete almost 10 hours a week. It's the sport that keeps me happily active. I recommend that everyone finds a sport or exercise that makes you forget you're actually exercising, then you find yourself drenched at the end of a session. That's what tennis does to me; it's also my therapist! What a great way to get your nerves in check.
I did P90X last year and . . . wow! It was tough, but it definitely gave me an edge in my fitness, especially when I was competing. Now P90X2™ is coming out, and I heard it takes things to a completely different level. Maybe I'll be the first 40-year-old who turns tennis pro! Let's not push it, but I really want to try it and see what it can do for me. My Coach always recommends that I do yoga for flexibility (so I can do the splits like Serena Williams, and hit a forehand at the same time). I was in the yoga test group for P90X2, and it was incredible.
I cook very simply on weeknights, so I can spend quality time with the kids after work. I marinated organic skinless Cornish hen the night before with fresh lemon juice, fresh orange juice, chopped garlic, saffron, sea salt, and pepper. I baked it at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, along with sliced sweet potatoes (with the skin on—that's where a lot of the nutrients and fiber reside) and served it with a fresh green salad, with homemade oil and vinegar dressing.
Sometimes! I will not lie and say it's easy to keep my kids eating healthy all the time. I have very healthy foods at home, but I cannot, and refuse to, control what they eat at birthday parties, friends' homes, etc. I had to find a balance between teaching them to eat healthy and "depriving" them of "fun foods." I try to teach them the basics of healthy nutrition, and I'm a role model for them. They see me eat the right things all the time, and hopefully they'll grow to appreciate their health as their mom does. When they complain, I say to them, "If I'm not giving you a food that everyone else is eating, it's because I love you."
I decided to join Beachbody because I felt that they walk their talk. If I can help to elevate their philosophy to an even higher level with my passion for health and my creative and healthy but delicious recipes, I've done my part.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! But seriously, I am part of a wonderful team. You, Steve Edwards, and Stephanie Saunders are incredibly talented, passionate, and knowledgeable. I look up to all of you, and I'm learning so much . . . it's hard to keep up, but I like the challenge!
You mean mistakes? In random order:
What's the biggest piece of advice you have for athletes from a nutritional perspective?
Just as physical activity can be 50 percent of the equation for a healthier body, adequate nutrition is 50 percent of the equation in athletic performance. Athletes need to educate themselves on the power of food and its effect on their training. Each sport or exercise regimen needs a personalized nutrition plan for optimal results.
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Lightly spray a frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat. When pan has heated, add eggs and cook for 2 minutes, scrambling as they cook. Remove eggs from pan and place in center of tortilla. Add cheese and ham. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roll up burrito-style, wrap in a paper towel, and microwave for 10 seconds. Serve with salsa. Makes 1 serving.
*You can use other low-fat cheeses if you prefer. Look for cheese with 5 grams of fat or less per 1-ounce serving.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Nutritional Information (per serving):
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