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Don’t Wait for the Diagnosis: 12 Ways to Cook Healthier Caribbean Food at Home

I started eating ‘good’ Caribbean food from an early age and today it’s only natural that I promote our lavish culinary culture to a craving global audience. Curries and stews rich in coconut milk, the unique flavours from salted pork, beef and our beloved saltfish (salted cod) and the backbone of which is (the stuff your mom would say “put some meat on dem bones”) ... ground provisions or ‘food’ as it’s affectionately known in Jamaica.

I love my Caribbean food but it seems our relationship is somewhat of a one way street. Last Fall I was diagnosed with the early stages of type 2 diabetes. And if I honest about it, I’d have to admit that I saw it coming!

The signs were there.. my waist-line (and chubby cheeks) were sending me messages, but like a true Caribbean ‘man’, I was invincible – Diabetes, Heart, Blood Pressure... nah, not me! Maybe I was caught up in the ‘Yam” hype Mr Bolt created when he destroyed the 100m field at the Olympics.

Like a schoolboy in the headmasters office (principal for those too young to know what I mean) waiting for the punishment to be handed down, I sat there as our physician went though the full list of things which would go wrong if something wasn’t done immediately. This was real, not going away and lifestyle changes had to be made. Most importantly, when, what and how much (portions.. something foreign to Caribbean people) I ate had to be addressed.

That was one of the few times in my life that I can recall actually being scared. I love life and my family too much to not be terrified!

My girls... (Photo Credit Chris De La Rosa)

Though I still find excuses for not exercising as I should, making smart changes to my diet is a start in the right direction. Here are 12 tips you can implement as a start...

 

  1. Trim skin and fat off of meat before cooking.
  2. Skim off fats and oil while dishes are cooking or afterwards (ie. curry goat and oxtails).
  3. Cut back on salt in favor of more interesting spices to add flavor.
  4. Try non-stick pans to reduce oil use.
  5. Bake instead of frying (chicken, fish cakes, channa).
  6. Read labels carefully and be mindful of fat and cholesterol content of oils used in cooking.
  7. Plan meals so that you don't have to reach for the fastest foods (ie. canned corned beef, canned chick peas) - salt and saturated fats can be high in canned and dried foods.
  8. When you cook a great nutritious meal, cook enough to freeze so that you don't reach for the easy things when you are in a hurry.
  9. Consider growing some of your own fruit, vegetables, and herbs to add to salads.
  10. Cook as a couple, as a family, or with friends - support is key to changing habits.
  11. Watch how much you eat in one sitting and when you eat. Portion control is important.
  12. Try not to eat too late in the evening - that is prime time for junk food and fast food consumption.

 

Changing your diet alone is not the answer to living a healthy life. Exercise, affection, family, feeling good about yourself, how you treat others and spiritual devotion, are all as important. But practicing good eating will go a long way in preventing you from being diagnosed.

Author Profile: Chris De La Rosa  - Website

Chris De La Rosa is best known as the man behind CaribbeanPot.com, arguably the most popular online destination for Caribbean recipes with more than one million monthly visitors. His second book the Vibrant Caribbean Pot: Volume 2 is available now.

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