Celebrity chef Ingrid Hoffmann has a simple philosophy: Food is medicine. We can either mindlessly fuel our bodies with junk or we can choose foods that nourish and heal. And Hoffmann—who has the autoimmune disease lupus—practices what she preaches. A self-described “lupus warrior,” she has embraced a diet rich in alkaline foods. By doing so, she has been able to wean herself from most of her medications and feel better.
“I don’t believe in letting my diagnosis prevent me from living a happy, active, and delicioso life,” says Hoffmann, author of Latin Comfort Foods Made Healthy: More Than 100 Diabetes-Friendly Latin Favorites (American Diabetes Association, October 2018, ISBN: 978-1-580-40681-9, $21.95). “Neither should anyone, whether they have lupus or diabetes, or any other diagnosis. Eating mindfully and healthfully is easier than people think. We can all do it.”
Hoffmann says when the body is too acidic, it sets you up for disease.
“A diet made up of alkaline foods reduces the acidic ‘ash’ in your body and gives you a more alkaline pH,” says Hoffmann. “That’s why your best line of defense is to enjoy as many alkaline foods as possible while limiting acid-producing foods.”
Some of the most acid-producing foods include meat, high-sodium processed foods, sugar, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol. These are the foods that should be consumed in moderation. Meanwhile, fresh vegetables and fruits produce an alkaline pH. Make them a part of your eating plan and you’re well on your way to better health.
While the cookbook is not overtly “about” creating an alkaline diet, many of the easy-to-prepare recipes in Latin Comfort Foods Made Healthy fit nicely into this approach. It offers lighter, healthier versions of the Latin comfort foods that are traditionally carb heavy, deep fried, and full of salt and fat. (Good news for the 12.8 percent of Hispanic/Latino adults in the United States living with diabetes.) And yes, the cookbook offers tons of alkalizing ingredients and recipes, featuring plenty of good-for-you Latin ingredients like chayote squash, tubers, and beans. It even has a whole section dedicated to fresh and delicious salads.
“I urge everyone to eat more alkaline foods and fewer acidic foods,” says Hoffmann. “It may be unrealistic to cut out acidic foods altogether, but we can minimize them. For example, it’s okay to enjoy a serving of meat at dinner—just choose some delicious vegetables to go along with it. And please curb your intake of sugar and refined carbs. Regardless of whether you have diabetes, it is wise to avoid the blood glucose fluctuations that these foods can cause.”
Keep reading for some of Hoffmann’s signature “chica tips” to help you add more alkalizing foods into your eating plan.
Sip lemon water in the mornings. In the mornings, drink a tall glass of water with about half an organic lemon’s worth of lemon juice. For a comforting morning drink, you can also drink it hot with a little grated ginger.
Cut back on coffee. It’s sad but true: Coffee is an acid-producing food. If you drink several cups a day, consider cutting back or switching your morning hot drink to an herbal tea instead (like green tea, which has caffeine).
Choose plant-based foods as much as possible. No one is expecting you to go full vegetarian or vegan if you love your chicken, pork, and beef. But be aware of how much meat you consume, as it is an acid-producing food. Try to fill your plate with no more than 25 percent meat. And if you can commit to a few meatless days each week, all the better.
Brighten your dishes with lemon or vinegar. Despite the fact that they both taste “acidic,” lemon juice and apple cider vinegar are two extremely alkalizing foods. Finish your soups or stir-fries with a splash of either to brighten the flavor of your dishes. Or, mix either with a little olive oil and fresh herbs for a deliciously healthy salad dressing.
Eat a “rainbow” of organic fruits and vegetables. “Fruits and veggies are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals,” says Hoffmann. “While it’s a good idea to avoid eating too much fruit because of its high sugar content, you can eat your fill of veggies—especially those that are non-starchy. Eat a colorful mix of them to ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need.”
Avoid soda and energy drinks (and consume alcohol in moderation). “You really should cut down on your soda and energy drink consumption—if not cut them out altogether,” says Hoffmann. “They are packed with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. As far as alcohol goes, be extremely moderate. You likely can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail every now and then but don’t go overboard.”
Add a side salad to every meal. A green salad is a great way to pack extra nutrition into your meals. Add a light vinaigrette of olive oil and vinegar for healthy fats and added flavor. Toss in fun extra ingredients like olives, red onion, peppers, or artichoke hearts to keep things interesting.
Enjoy a low-sugar smoothie. A great way to get raw veggies and fruits with plenty of nutrients is to pulverize them into a cold and refreshing smoothie. Puree handfuls of romaine lettuce or spinach with celery, lemon juice, a couple of ice cubes, and a cup of cold filtered water for a healthy and refreshing snack. Sweeten it with a banana or a drop of liquid stevia. Of course, this is just a template. Make up your own unique alkalizing blend.
Don’t try to be perfect; just try your best. “When you are making dietary improvements for the sake of your health, it’s important that you still enjoy your food,” says Hoffmann. “So try not to stress about achieving a ‘perfect’ diet. If you take all the joy out of food, not only will you be miserable, but you’re also more likely to backslide into unhealthy food choices. Just try your best.”
“Remember that ultimately you really are what you eat,” concludes Hoffmann. “Whether you have an illness like diabetes or lupus or you just want to feel better each day than you do right now, making better food choices is one of the simplest ways to improve your health. Don’t overthink it—just eat more alkaline foods. Your health is totally worth it.”
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Chef Ingrid Hoffmann’s Veggie-Stuffed Poblanos from
New Cookbook Latin Comfort Foods Made Healthy
Excerpted from Latin Comfort Foods Made Healthy: More Than 100 Diabetes-Friendly Latin Favorites (American Diabetes Association, October 2018, ISBN: 978-1-580-40681-9, $21.95)
Poblano peppers are mostly used in Mexican cuisine. They are packed with flavor and are great to stuff with just about everything but the kitchen sink. I encourage you to give them a try if you are not familiar with them. They do have a hint of spice, just enough of a kick to enhance the flavor.
Serving size: 1 stuffed poblano
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes + 15 minutes standing time
Nonstick olive oil spray
4 poblano peppers (about1 lb total)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 (8-oz) package mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
4 scallions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
4 Tbsp crumbled queso fresco
Preheat the broiler. Line a broiler pan with foil. Lightly spray the foil with nonstick spray. Place the poblanos on the pan and broil, 4 inches from the heat, turning occasionally, until the poblanos are tender and slightly charred in spots, about 8 minutes.
Place the poblanos in a zip-close plastic bag; squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Let stand 15 minutes. Leave the broiler on.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, carrots, scallions, garlic, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the basil until well mixed.
Meanwhile, peel the poblanos. Make one slit to create a pocket and remove the seeds. Stuff each pepper with one-quarter of the mushroom mixture and top with 1 Tbsp of cheese.
Broil the stuffed peppers, 4 inches from the heat, until the filling is hot and the cheese begins to melt, about 4 minutes.
3 Nonstarchy Vegetable, 1 Fat
Basic Nutritional Values
Calories from Fat 50
Total Fat 6.0 g
Saturated Fat 1.5 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 5 mg
Sodium 160 mg
Potassium 550 mg
Total Carbohydrate 13 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Sugars 6 g
Protein 5 g
Phosphorus 125 mg