It’s no secret that Filipinos love food and eating in general. However, Filipino cuisine is not exactly known to be the healthiest, to which our most well-known dishes speak for themselves: lechon, adobo, and lumpia—oily and fatty, but so delicious. We love flavor—and usually, that comes at a price of high sugar and sodium intake.
In a recent study conducted by REBEL, 79% of Filipinos revealed fat loss as their #1 fitness goal. And to achieve this, a key aspect of a healthy fat loss journey is a balanced diet. While some habit changes are needed to achieve this, there is no need to spend more or even introduce foreign ingredients in your diet.
Passionate about food and fitness, Erwan Heussaff shares his hacks for healthier alternatives to local favorites without having to sacrifice flavor:
1. Chicken Adobo
One of the country’s most popular dishes is Pork Adobo. It often takes hours of cooking so that the meat gets tender and fat renders. While it makes for such a delicious dish, it can be quite unhealthy, too.
- Adobo in itself is not an unhealthy dish. It’s basically protein and vinegar.
- You can opt to cook a leaner protein like chicken with just the vinegar and some aromatics, like garlic, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns. You’ll have what they call the white adobo, or the original. This in itself is a good addition to your diet.
- If you start adding lots of soy sauce, pork, and sugar; or if you re-fry the chicken a couple of times in oil, that’s when it gets complicated.
- Don’t forget what you’re eating it with! We all love pouring that delicious sauce on a mound of rice. Just remember that ½ cup of rice is 1 proper portion. If you can, opt for red or other endemic rice grains instead.
- It's not common, but I would recommend adding some vegetables to your plate when eating adobo. Something as simple as eggplants, or cabbage or carrots, will help bring up the nutrition value of your plate and will naturally help your portion control.
2. Anything Monggo
A comforting bowl of Monggo is arguably one of the more nutritious local dishes out there. We tend to only think of two to three dishes using Monggo, but honestly, there are more ways to use mung beans!
- My tip would be to use Monggo just like any other bean. It can be quite discouraging to open a cookbook and see things like butter or berlotti beans, as they are expensive and hard to find locally. So instead of not making that recipe, just use Monggo as your beans instead—they are a nutritional powerhouse and can be so versatile!
- For our local Monggo recipes, keep everything at a minimum. Cook with good healthy oil—my favorite is coconut oil. Don’t add too much coconut cream (it's good for you in controlled quantities), try not to add pork, and just watch the amount of sodium (fish sauce, salt, soy, etc.) you add to your dish.
3. Chicken Binakol
Another dish to add to the roster of Filipino comfort food is Binakol, or coconut soup. It’s easy to put together and is extremely flavorful.
- Use purely coconut water for the broth. It will be sweetish, light yet, and just naturally flavored.
- Boil the coconut water and coconut meat together for a slightly creamy texture, minus having to add actual milk or cream.
- This soup and Tinola are my go to healthy Filipino soups. They’re great! Just watch the amount of fish sauce that you add and don’t overdo it with the rice. To make it even healthier, just add more Malunggay and more unripe papaya to your soup!
Still on the lookout for more options? A simple, budget-friendly, and flavorful go-to recipe for Erwan is the Tuna Rice Bowl. It’s packed with protein and totally guilt-free!
Bonus: Tuna Rice Bowl
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pc of Bell Pepper
- 1 can of tuna in water, drained
- ¼ head of bok choy, blanched
- ¼ cup of greek yogurt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 pc cucumber, sliced
- 2 cups brown rice
Step 1: In a pan with hot oil, sauté bell peppers for 1 minute. Add tuna and cook until heated through. Set aside. Combine yoghurt and garlic powder.
Step 2: Assemble by placing a cup of brown rice in a bowl. Top with half of the tuna mixture, bok choy, and sliced cucumbers. Drizzle with yogurt sauce.