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Brazilian Chef Leticia Shares Her Favorite Diabetes-Friendly Recipes

Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, aka Chef Leticia, may not have diabetes, but she’s doing everything in her power to stay healthy and educate others on the types of foods to reach for to prevent diabetes or to help manage diabetes. She has a strong family history of type 2 diabetes and her grandfather died from diabetes complications.

Chef Leticia Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Chef Leticia has built a career on her passion for her native Brazilian cuisine. She studied culinary and pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, has cooked at such legendary New York restaurants as Le Cirque 2000 and La Grenouille and is the author of two cookbooks, including The Brazilian Kitchen.

But since 2013, she has become dedicated to diabetes, partnering with Merck and serving as the spokesperson for Desafiando La Diabetes campaign which is part of America’s Diabetes Challenge. Her goal: to raise awareness of the importance of working with your doctor to set and reach your A1C goal.

Her strategy: providing traditional Latin recipes that are diabetic-friendly. This is especially important as an estimated 12.2 percent of U.S. Hispanic adults have already been diagnosed with diabetes and diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death within the Hispanic community.

“In our community, we’re so attached to ingredients,” she says. “Whenever someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, people immediately think that their eating is going to be boring. I’m on a mission to change that.”

For Chef Leticia, this means helping people learn how to make amazing meals that don’t sacrifice flavor. And, when it comes to cooking, she is the first to encourage people to cook more at home.

“We have a tendency to eat takeout a lot,” she says. “We can better control what goes into our foods if we make them from scratch.”

She also hopes people will swap out the sodium by using more spices in their cooking.

“As Latins, we tend to use a lot of Goya Adobo in our cooking and those blends contain a lot of sodium,” she says. “But if you use more herbs and spices, you don’t need that much salt.”

She also recommends going the DIY route when it comes to chicken stock since store-bought varieties can be loaded with salt. Take chicken stock, a key kitchen staple for so many dishes, including braising and making sauces, as one example.

“One of the things I learned as a chef working in restaurants is that there’s a real benefit from making chicken stock every week,” says Chef Leticia, who considers chicken stock a kitchen staple that’s used for braising and making sauces. “I never throw out the bones from a chicken and my stock isn’t loaded in sodium, like the canned version.”

Shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables is another key message Chef Leticia likes to share.

“There something so amazing about fresh fruits and vegetables,” she says. “I love shopping at the farmer’s market for arugula, green lettuce and spinach.”

Smart substitutions can also go a long way, she adds.

For example, when it comes to a favorite meal such as rice and beans, Schwartz suggests switching out white rice for brown rice. “The same thing goes for pasta,” she says. “Instead of regular white pasta, sub in whole wheat pasta.”

And dessert shouldn’t be entirely off-limits.

“One bite is too little, two is just good, three is a lot,’” she says. “In other words, everything in moderation.”

So, a taste of Arroz Con Leche (aka rice pudding) doesn’t have to be a thing of the past. But fruits are also wonderful ways to get a taste of sweetness.

“I encourage people to eat natural sugars,” she says. “If I feel like something sweet, I’ll make a smoothie with papaya and oranges, for example. With the sweetness of papaya, you don’t need any additional sugar. But it’s important to keep in mind that too much sugar from any source can be an issue for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes."

Is all this talk about sweet and savory foods left your mouth watering? That's good, because Chef Leticia shared a handful of recipes with DiabeticLifestyle that are not to be missed! Try them out and let us know what you think by leaving a comment or recipe ranking.

Updated on: July 26, 2017
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