How to Divorce From Rice and Beans in a Latino Household

Rice and Beans BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of hispanickitchen.com

Rice and beans have been stapled into our lives like the daily habit of checking out our social media at some point during our busy day. 

It is so ingrained into our everyday meals that we automatically add it to our weekly grocery lists. White rice, arroz rojo, brown rice, Peruvian beans, black beans — you name the variation, and it is most likely we are cooking at least two kinds of it month by month.

The ‘marriage’ between rice and beans and the Latinx household is incredibly traditional, and because tradition is so vital in our Raza, they are almost impossible to ‘divorce.’ So unheard of that we talked to our BELatina News family to give us their stories upon attempting to do so.

For this article, we talked to Iris Rodriguez, an associate producer at BrandStar, about her personal experience once she started to ‘divorce’ the two:

“The day I nearly lost my honorary title of ‘good cooker’ [bestowed on me by my youngest daughter when she was 4] was the day I made dinner consisting of steak, roasted vegetables, and salad,” she told us. “My husband and kids looked at me like I had grown three heads, and my youngest said, ‘Mami, where are the rice and beans?’  ‘I didn’t make any.’ I said.  ‘WHAT?!?!’ said all three kids. My husband said, ‘Seriously, honey, no arroz con habichuelas?’ I was like, ‘we need to cut back on carbs; one day won’t hurt, right?’ Pa’ que fue eso! They all groaned and picked at the food like it was worms and spiders, all disgruntled, basically just moving the food around on their plates.”

“Needless to say, the only one who ‘cleaned their plate’ was my husband,” Iris added. “ I tried it again the next day, and my husband flat out said, ‘NO, you can forget about it.’ Short-lived attempt that was voted never to happen again!”

This anecdote is so relevant to my personal experience. When I started to eat ‘healthier’ in my traditional Mexican home, the new ideas were basically ‘worms and spiders’ as well. The transition from the daily rice and beans to steamed vegetables was hard but now has my household feeling more energetic than ever. 

That’s the great thing about our modern resources; we learn what causes our bodies to fluctuate and modify our traditions. 

As time passes by, we have discovered new food replacements that have now been highlighted in mainstream media and shifted to become more accessible in fast food as well as in restaurants. The diverse options are now more common and should be recognized as such, especially if you’re actively looking for new foods to enrich your diet

Different fulfilling and low-calorie side options to consider instead of rice can be quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, riced cauliflower, and lastly, chopped cabbage (personally, in my household, we consume a lot of cabbage as a rice alternative). 

Now for beans, we have a variety of options that will bring in much (if not more) of the same nutrition: peas, soybeans, cauliflower florets (cauliflower is such a magic food — it can be transformed into anything, even wings!), lentil and mushrooms, to name a few. These options tend to have lower calories but bring in the same energy, without the unnecessary feeling of bloat after consuming too much. A win-win situation! 

I know, it seems like cheating or discarding a family tradition — but it’s not entirely avoiding the beloved rice and beans forever! 

I’m not saying I’m bringing chopped cabbage instead of rice to my brother’s carne asada. It is all about balancing your diet and exploring new options that with the same sazón can bring you a similar sense of home but with more nutritional value. Take care of your body; it’s your temple.