Author Archives: HispanicFoodCommunications


About HispanicFoodCommunications

Sylvia Meléndez-Klinger is a registered dietician of the American Dietetic Association and a licensed dietitian nutritionist. She was awarded Outstanding Dietitian of 2009 by the Illinois Dietetic Association - West Suburban Chapter. The Chicago Dietetic Association honored her as "Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year" in 1994. She is an active member of the American Dietetic Association, and the Grain Foods Foundation Medical Advisory Board. Hispanic Food Communications is a proud sponsor of several not-for-profit organizations that serve the Hispanic community, including Namaste Charter School, Cristo Rey High School and Hinsdale Adventist Academy.

Five Reasons to Love Hispanic Cuisine

Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos

When I look around and see so many people enjoying Hispanic food, it reminds me that not long ago people couldn’t recognize a tortilla! Prior to the 1970s, little food, cultural, behavioral and health research addressed Hispanics in America and their socio-demographic status. Four decades later, as a result of dramatic growth in the Hispanic population, and limited information about Hispanics’ food/culture and health-related behaviors, there is a surge of interest in Hispanics and their health.

The Hispanic population in the United States represents a diverse array of ancestry, culture, socio-economic conditions and needs. It is important to remember that Hispanics are a very heterogenous group, despite the fact that they speak the same language and share a number of cultural commonalities. In spite of their differences, there are a number of commonly consumed foods in all Hispanic countries that are packed with essential nutrients. Hispanic cuisine is bursting with color and excitement. Hispanic foods reflect a history of many influences, resulting in an abundance of variety and nutritional elements. Below are my top five favorite Hispanic foods, which pack an abundance of essential nutrients. Viva la Latino cuisine!

Fish and seafood – Fish and seafood naturally contain omega-3-fatty acids, which are essential for proper brain development and growth. It is by far one of the healthiest fats around. Fish and seafood, such as shrimp, salmon, and popular tilapia, to name a few, are natural sources of :
• Lean protein
• Iron
• Zinc
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin B
• Vitamin D

Beans – According to the U.S. Dry Beans Council, beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein and minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc. They are rich in folic acid, which may help with the reduction of such birth defects as Spina Bifida and also protect against heart disease. They are rich in soluble dietary fiber, which helps to bring down cholesterol levels, and also contain estrogens of vegetable origin, which contribute towards reducing certain cancers caused by hormonal action.

Mangos – One cup of mango provides:
• 100% vitamin C, an important antioxidant that promotes a healthy immune function and collagen formation.
• 35% vitamin A, another powerful antioxidant and an important nutrient for healthy vision and bone growth.
• 12% of your daily dietary fiber. Studies have confirmed that diets low in fat and high in fiber-containing grains ducts, fruits and vegetables may be associated with a reduced risk of some types of cancer.
• Mangoes are fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free, which means they can be part of a heart healthy diet.

Papayas – Papayas contain large amounts of antioxidants and folate. They are also rich in Vitamin A and C.

Sweet potatoes (camote) – Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C and are a good source of fiber.

Below are a few recipes to help you incorporate some of those wonderful nutrients found in Hispanic foods:

Grilled Tilapia Fish Tacos

Yield: 4 tacos

2 (7.6 ounces) packages Gorton’s frozen grilled tilapia fillets in garlic butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground chile ancho
3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice, divided
1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
3 cups shredded lettuce or coleslaw
4 corn tortillas, warmed
1/2 cup finely shredded Mexican-style cheese


Sprinkle fillets with 1 tablespoon lime juice; rub with garlic powder and chile seasonings.

In a medium skillet, spray with no-stick cooking spray, and cook seasoned filets over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily with fork, drizzling fish with 1 tablespoon of the remaining lime juice for the last minute. Flake with fork into bite-size pieces.

In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, remaining lime juice and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Add to lettuce; gently fold all the ingredients.

To serve, build tortillas with lettuce mix, prepared fish, cheese and remaining cilantro.

Fiesta Fruit Salad

Yield: 4 servings (~1 cup for each serving)

1/2 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half
1 cup strawberries, cut in half
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup honeydew melon, cut in chunks
1/2 cup papaya, peeled and cubed
1 cup mango, peeled and diced
½ to 1 cup vanilla low fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, fold all ingredients together gently.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Ginger
Yield: 6 servings (~1 cup for each serving)

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch round slices
2 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes with oil. Add cinnamon-ginger spice mixture and toss to coat.

In a shallow baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, spread sweet potatoes in a single layer .

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender and slightly browned, turning halfway through the baking time.

Salmon and Vegetable Ratatouille

Power up Your Summer with Seafood

Salmon and Vegetable Ratatouille

It’s no secret that proper nutrition is a key component to feeling good and looking your best. With the official start of summer behind us, now is a great time to focus on making nutritious choices that will give you and your family the energy you need to keep up with a full calendar of summertime activities.

Thankfully, the USDA Dietary Guidelines, as illustrated by MyPlate, help Americans to decipher the most nutritious food choices. The MyPlate model recommends making half of your plate at each meal consist of fruits and vegetables and going lean with protein. Because Americans tend to consume more fats, saturated fats and cholesterol in their diets, the dietary guidelines also suggest varying the types of proteins consumed and including lean protein such as seafood twice a week.

For decades, health professionals have been recommending that families increase their seafood consumption. Seafood is one of those “hero foods” that packs a powerful amount of nutrients—including heart-healthy Omega 3s—and is a great lean protein option for those looking to slim down this summer. Plus, studies show that a diet containing omega-3 fatty acids, as found in seafood, offers several benefits for people of all ages including: enhancing brain growth and development, promoting heart health, decreasing blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels, lessening symptoms of depression and ADHD, improving arthritis and joint pain and even reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

As a registered dietitian and mom, I try to incorporate seafood into our family meals regularly. I found that serving our children seafood at an early age was key to developing their palates. Kid-friendly items such as fish sticks or bite size pieces of fish with dipping sauces, were a huge success.

Here are a few tips that will make it easier to eat seafood twice a week:

Keep it simple. Boost the flavors by adding a few herbs and spices such as dill, paprika, cumin, citrus juices or salsa.

Always keep seafood on hand. No time to run to the market? Stock you freezer with a variety of seafood. Frozen fish, such as Gorton’s, are frozen and packed immediately to seal in those great flavors for a little longer.

Be creative. Think outside of the box. Rather than serving up seafood fillets with a side of veggies, add seafood to salads, pastas, sandwiches, soups, etc.

Finally, to get you started eating this powerful food, I have included one of my favorite recipes! Ratatouille is a great meal-time solution that is packed with fresh summer vegetables and gives you a great way to enjoy your veggies when you are tiring of salads. Adding salmon to the ratatouille makes it even more nutrient-packed.

Salmon and Vegetable Ratatouille
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 boxes (6.3 ounces) Gorton’s Grilled Salmon Classic Grilled fillets (each box includes 2 fillets)
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, optional
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced 1-inch thick
1 cup onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons (or to taste) dry Italian herb seasonings
1/2 tablespoon (or to taste) garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced Italian seasoned tomatoes
1/2 cup ripe black olives, sliced
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons white cooking wine

Prepare Gorton’s Grilled Salmon according to package directions; set aside. Once cooled, cut into chucks.

In a resealable plastic bag, combine eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt; toss to mix. Place in medium baking pan; cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until eggplant is just tender. Uncover and set aside.

Heat remaining oil in large skillet; sauté zucchini, onions, bell peppers, Italian seasonings and garlic for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add tomatoes, prepared Gorton’s Grilled Salmon, olives, pepper and prepared eggplant mixture; simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, or until all flavors are well combined and heated through.

Serve hot over pasta or rice.


Let’s Fire Up the Grill with American Lamb

Grilling season has officially arrived and while many of us will pull out the hamburgers and hot dogs for our first grill-out, other options raise outdoor cooking and entertaining to a new, celebratory level.

Recently, I came across a delicious recipe for American lamb kabobs marinated in fruit and vegetable juices and skewered with fresh oranges, onions and spices. I like it because it is easy to prepare and there’s no other meat like lamb: it’s velvety, delicate yet rich; with a juicy, fresh taste.

Did you know that in some cultures and countries, lamb is the center of attention?  It’s the hallmark of a celebration—serving anything less only reduces the importance of the occasion.

Lamb is also quite versatile: From lamb burgers topped with garlic sauce and stuffed in a pita; to spiced lamb kabobs paired with fresh fruit and vegetables, lamb is heating up grills across the U.S. As Saveur magazine stated so well, “Lamb is an inherently expressive food; more than…any other animal, its rosy meat speaks of the place in which the animal was raised.”

This is why I recommend you try American lamb, which is about 10,000 miles fresher than imported lamb.  Personally, I’m a fan of Mountain States Rosen’s all natural American lamb, which is produced by family-owned ranchers near the Rocky Mountains “the way nature intended,” and it’s a difference you can taste.

Plus, it’s packed with nutrients.  A delicious, 3-ounce serving of lamb contains over 25 percent of your daily requirement for protein, zinc, niacin and vitamin B12, with only 8 grams of fat (Source: Lamb, Its Place in the U.S. Diet, by J.A. Carson and G.G. Hilton).  

For your next cookout, show family and friends how special they are by serving up American lamb, such as these Cozumel Lamb Kabobs.

Cozumel Lamb Kabobs

Makes: 8 servings

Preparation time:  20 minutes

Marinate time:  12 hours

Cook time:  10 minutes

1 fennel bulb

1 cup tomato vegetable juice

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

2 tablespoons fennel seed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 pounds Cedar Springs American lamb, boneless leg, cut in 1-inch cubes

1 cup small boiled onions

2 oranges, cut into chunks (with skin)

12-inch bamboo skewers, soaked in water

Remove green stems from fennel bulb.  Peel off 6 outer layers.  Cut into 1-inch squares; reserve.  Finely chop remaining fennel.  In large non-metal bowl, stir together chopped fennel, juices, onion, cilantro or parsley, fennel seed, salt and pepper.  Add lamb cubes, fennel cubes and onions; cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.

Use a 12-inch bamboo skewer to make kabobs by alternating lamb cubes, orange chunks, fennel squares and onions.  Repeat, making all skewers.  Broil 4 to 6 inches from source of heat for about 10 to 14  minutes, turning once.

Recipe and image provided by the American Lamb Board