Top 10 tips for healthy Caribbean cooking
Mother and daughter team, Monica and Lee Cudjoe founded Tan Rosie Foods in 2010 and create Caribbean concoctions inspired by family recipes from Carriacou in Grenada. Here they share their top tips for cooking healthy and authentic Caribbean cuisine at home...
1. Fire up the barbecue
Barbecuing is a very popular cooking method in the Caribbean and is a healthy alternative to frying as you omit most of the oil. Coat your lean meat, skinless chicken or pork in a jerk seasoning or a Caribbean rub for great flavour and barbecue to perfection. Wet weather keeping you indoors? Roast or grill for a similarly healthier result.
2. Make the most of meat with a marinade
We love to marinade our food in the Caribbean to make sure it's bursting with flavour. A good tasty marinade will give your food plenty of depth, avoiding the need for added fats like cream and butter for a good taste. It also helps to protect the meat or fish from the hot temperatures used during barbecuing. For a Caribbean influenced, easy and healthy marinade, juice and zest a lime, grate some ginger, chop a Scotch bonnet chilli and combine with a little olive oil, salt and some Caribbean hot sauce. Use to marinade lean meats or salmon or alternatively use with chopped tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple and papaya for an excellent salsa.
3. DIY coconut milk
Coconut milk is a great way to add a creamy taste to Caribbean food but beware, it is fairly high in calories. Instead of using full-fat coconut milk, opt for the light or low fat versions, which taste just as good. Feel adventurous? Make your own by grating a fresh coconut and blending with water. Strain to remove the coconut pulp and add to curries, stews and more of your favourite Caribbean dishes for a healthier option.
4. Get a protein hit with beans and pulses
Beans and pulses are often used in Caribbean cooking and are added to soups, rice dishes and stews. When eaten with rice, traditional pulses such as kidney beans or pigeon peas provide you with a good dose of protein and all the essential amino acids your body needs. Protein is also reported to make you feel fuller for longer - meaning you are less likely to snack between meals.
5. The healthy secrets of the red snapper
You'll often find red snapper on the Caribbean menu - it's delicious and its health benefits are varied. Apart from being an excellent, low-fat source of protein, it makes a valuable contribution to your vitamin D intake. Serve a Caribbean citrus salad alongside for a hit of vitamin C.
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6. Balance blood sugar with sweet potatoes
I love the versatility of sweet potatoes and often use them in a variety of dishes. They are particularly tasty baked with spring onions, the juice and zest of an orange, salt and pepper plus a squirt of extra virgin oil. Apart from being a useful source of vitamin C and the minerals iron, magnesium and potassium, they release natural sugars slowly into the bloodstream, helping to ensure your body receives a balanced and regular source of energy.
7. Spice things up with a Scotch bonnet
The Scotch bonnet is native to the Caribbean and used to make hot sauces and spice up curries and stews. If you like it hot, chop a Scotch bonnet as this will release the potent heat while adding to a dish whole will add flavour but keep things cooler (though make sure you don't eat it!) Scotch bonnets contain vitamins A and C and are good sources of potassium.
8. Learn to love lean meat
Although not an obvious meat choice here in the UK, in the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica, goat is a popular option and used in popular dishes such as curried goat. Although it tastes 'meaty', goat is actually very lean - each 100g serving of raw goat meat only has 109 calories and is low in saturated fat, making it a great alternative to fatty red meats. Great for your heart and waistline. You can buy goat's meat from specialist suppliers across the UK.
9. Pineapple - a taste of paradise
This tropical fruit is synonymous with the Caribbean and reminds me of sitting on Paradise Beach in my native home in Carriacou, Grenada. A delicious and healthy dessert option is fresh pineapple sliced, drizzled with honey and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon then grilled and served with a dollop of low-fat crème fraiche.
10. Eat your greens
Callaloo is a green leafy vegetable found in the Caribbean that is used in the well-known soup of the same name in Trinidad and Tobago. It's a versatile veg and ideal for using in your own soups, stews and beyond as it's a great source of dietary fibre. If you struggle to find this super green, try spinach and kale as a great substitute.
Try out Monica and Lee's tips in our favourite Caribbean recipes
This page was last reviewed on 19th February 2018.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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