If you live in Mississippi, then I feel really sorry for you right now. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just found that Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the country. And no, it's not the first time that the southern state has topped the list.  

The sadder news, though, is that a total of 12 states have an obesity rate that's higher than 30 percent of the state population. With Latinos' obesity rates climbing too (the Office of Minority Health reports that "Hispanic Americans were 1.2 times as likely to be obese than Non-Hispanic Whites"), how do we make the nation healthier? Well, it all starts in the kitchen with these 5 easy tips on how to lighten up meals.

Read more ¿Qué más? 5 best tips for eating your favorite Latino foods on a budget

1. Cut out (most of) the white foods: Typically, nutritionists and health-conscious people (such as myself) advise to cut out white foods like sugar, white bread, pasta, potatoes and white rice. As a Latina, I know how difficult this can all be (seriously, cut out my dulces AND arroz?!) so my strategy has been to cut out most of it, most of the time. Whenever possible, I'll use brown rice instead of white (you get used to the difference, trust me) and also dramatically cut those portions. The reason to do this is because white foods are simple carbs and spike your insulin levels, then leave you hungry much faster. If you stick to whole grains as much as possible, you'll be doing yourself a big favor.

2. Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream: I know, I know! Yogurt instead of sour cream on your tacos? I know it sounds funny but plain Greek yogurt is super healthy for you and you will barely notice the difference in taste. The big benefit here is that Greek yogurt has less fat and a good amount of protein. It's a small change that will definitely add up in the long run.

3. Drink water and eat your veggies first: This is one of my favorite tricks for saving calories. Whenever I get hungry, I drink a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes. The reason to do this is because two-thirds of the population actually has a broken thirst signal in the brain, so we often think we're hungry when we're actually just needing some liquid. If you're still hungry after waiting, then it's okay to eat BUT I would urge you to eat your vegetables first! I do this because often I'll fill up on the veggies and just half of the protein and carbs on my plate and, well, since they have a lot less calories, it's a pretty good strategy for keeping the weight off.

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4. Try swapping out beef for chopped mushrooms: This one's an awesome trick that I learned from Alejandra Ramos of AlwaysOrderDessert.com when she gave me tips for eating your favorite Latino foods on a budget. She recommended swapping out half of the beef for coarsely chopped mushrooms in dishes with ground meat. Mushrooms are healthy and definitely MUCH lower in calories and fat than beef, but still have a similar enough texture that you won't really notice the switch. Plus, you'll be saving some money, too!

5. Flavor with spices, not with butter and lard: Okay, it might be kind of obvious that you should cut back on the butter and lard to save calories but I also know that a lot of us don't do it because we're afraid of losing flavor. What I love to do, though, is replace all of the butter with a little bit of olive oil and plenty of spices. That doesn't necessarily mean that I make my food spicy (I don't), but it does mean that I add more salt and pepper, oregano, garlic, mint, dill, and other dried and fresh herbs to my cooking. You'll be surprised with how much flavor, without the calories, they add to your meals!

Are you concerned about lightening up your family's meals? How do you cut back on calories but not flavor? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via Thinkstock

About the author

Irina Gonzalez is a Staff Writer for MamásLatinas. She loves pop culture, social media, photography and, above all, discovering new places. She's also a foodie eating healthy and learning to enjoy exercise.

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