Cutting back on red meat doesn't mean you can't enjoy classic Latino dishes.

Cutting back on red meat doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy classic Latino dishes. (Photos/Betty Cortina)

Replacing red meat: delicious healthy recipes to try right now

Here’s some news for steak-loving Latinos:  excessive consumption of red meat – with its saturated fats like myristic and palmitic acid – can lead to high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. And while it’s true that red meat (think beef and lamb) is rich in protein, zinc, iron and vitamin B12, consuming too much red meat just doesn’t have a place in a cholesterol-lowering diet.

And if you needed further reason to eat less red meat, a March 2012 study from Harvard University found that eating one 3 oz serving of unprocessed red meat daily is associated with a 13 percent higher risk of death. So what’s a heart-healthy alternative? Poultry, of course! While some may argue that turkey and chicken could never be a delicious replacement for carne frita, we’ve proved naysayers wrong with three delicious and authentic dishes that use poultry instead of beef. Chicken ropa vieja, turkey albondigas and chicken empanadas? Yes, please!

Chicken Ropa Vieja

Chicken Ropa Vieja (Photo/Betty Cortina)

Chicken ropa vieja

Ropa vieja is a classic Cuban stew rich with melt-in-your-mouth shredded beef laced with savory onions, peppers and tomatoes. While flank steak is typically used for ropa vieja, replacing it with chicken breast meat makes a deliciously lean – but flavorful – replacement. Don’t take our word for it – try it for yourself! Click here for the recipe.

The ultimate comfort food—albóndigas—gets a healthy makeover.

The ultimate comfort food—albóndigas—gets a healthy makeover. (Photo/Betty Cortina)

Turkey albóndigas 

The type of albóndigas served throughout the Caribbean are typically a mixture of beef and pork, stewed in a sofrito sauce and served with rice. Our recipe for turkey albóndigas incorporates finely-chopped zucchini and grated cheese, which keeps these tiny meatballs moist without added fat. Click here for the recipe.

Natalie Morales' delicious chicken empanadas.

Natalie Morales’ delicious chicken empanadas. (Photo/Betty Cortina)

Natalie Morales’ chicken empanadas

Take it from TODAY show host Natalie Morales: these delicious pastry pockets filled with delicious chicken stewed with sofrito will quickly become a favorite in your home. This recipe couldn’t be simpler to prepare, making it a fun dinner option or easy appetizer. Click here for the recipe.

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