Nutritionist Richelle Rada gives wholesome Filipino recipes



Nutritionist Richelle Rada shares 3 tips for a healthy diet

Pacific Daily News

One of my biggest goals as a dietitian is to break the stigma that healthy food is tasteless, bland, expensive, or too time-consuming to cook. (If you’re okay with the latter two, I recommend reading my May article, “How to Eat Healthy When Pressed for Time”.) You already know that eating more fruits and vegetables has health benefits, but the The task of preparing and cooking healthy foods can be daunting.

I wanted to start this column to promote the discovery of healthy dishes and explore the diversity of vegetables. I’m not saying that to meet your recommended veggie intake, you need to get rid of the romaine lettuce and spinach salad that you eat frequently, I just want you to try something different.

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The dietitian in the kitchen section will highlight kitchens from around the world that I’ve cooked that I think you might like. As an added bonus, I’ll be including cooking modifications that align with health goals.

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Ilocano food

As a tribute to my Filipino ancestry and in honor of Filipino Independence Day on June 12th, I wanted great food from the northern Ilocos region of the Philippines. My parents grew up in this area and immigrated to Hawaii in the 1980s.

As a Filipina in Hawaii, I loved food not only for its taste and diet, but also for the sense of community and community. Food was plentiful in church, potlucks, graduation ceremonies, wedding parties – whatever, there was always some kind of party going on.

From a young age, I loved listening to the adults’ talk story while rolling sticky rice flour into balls for Paradusdus, a sweet coconut milk dessert served with plantain, purple sweet potato, jackfruit and tapioca. I even loved the tedious chore of helping my mom pick marunggay leaves (ilocano for moringa leaves) from the stems.

In my childhood, the dish inabraw (also known as dinengdeng), pinakbet, eggplant omelette, and sari-sari were staples.

The Filipino dish inabraw consists of vegetables boiled in water and bugguong, a brown condiment made from fermented fish. (Photo: Courtesy Richelle Rada)


This dish consists of a variety of vegetables boiled in water and bugguong, a brown condiment made from fermented fish. Bugguong would be the equivalent of using a flavor enhancer like salt, soy sauce, or monosodium glutamate (MSG). Bugguong gives the raw broth the umami or savory flavor that makes food so desirable.

To prepare Inabraw, add vegetables of your choice to a boiling broth. I would suggest hard vegetables first (kabocha, boiled beans, chinese long beans, etc.) jute leaves, bitter melon leaves, marunggay) last.

Lots of people enjoy adding a whole grilled fish to the broth, but honestly I find it tedious avoiding the choking hazard on the fish bones. I often get my protein from lentils, shrimp, mussels, clams, etc.

To this inabraw I added ginger (perfect with the seafood), Chinese long beans and kabocha. I’ve included deveined and peeled shrimp, canned clams, eggplant, pre-cooked lima beans, and black-eyed peas. Lastly I added marunggay leaves and spinach leaves for fun.

Multipurpose your vegetables

My main concern is that my vegetables are versatile and can be used in another dish to avoid waste. So my recommendations are to try a parboiled vegetable dish, egg omelette, and vegetable soup.

The Filipino dish, pinakbet, can contain a wide variety of vegetables. (Photo: Courtesy Richelle Rada)

Parboiled Pinakbet

This dish is a mixture of colorful vegetables, parboiled in water and bugguong. You will be surprised that Ilocano Pinakbet is different from what you find in Filipino restaurants, where the vegetables are fried in alamang, a fish paste. I assure you that both types are delicious.

Vegetable options are endless again! My favorite low-carb vegetables include Chinese long beans, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, bitter melon, eggplant, and okra. If you want, you can add a starchy vegetable like kabocha or beans and peas. Chicharon or bagnet (Ilocano version of fried pork belly) can be added as options.

Egg dishes

You can easily make an omelette with eggplant. You’d have to grill or roast them in the oven first, then remove the eggplant peels. Second, combine the eggplant with a whisked egg. Finally, you fry. You can cook a few ahead for a great breakfast option. If you’re not a fan of eggplant, tomato, onion, and a small amount of fish sauce would make a delicious perfect scrambled egg.

Vegetable soup sari-sari

With eggplant, Chinese long beans, tomato, onion, garlic, kang kong, and the addition of tabungaw (bottle gourd), you can make an incredible soup. Sari-sari, which means variety, was also a childhood favorite.

To make sari-sari, I like to make the fat from the bag and fry it with garlic, onions, tomatoes and patis. Then I fry eggplant and tabungaw. After the vegetables are soft, I add just enough water to cover the vegetables and bagnet. When it starts to boil I add the Kang Kong and turn off the heat once it is wilted.

What to Look For, Sodium and Saturated Fat

A little is enough for Bugguong, Alamang and Patis. I would recommend a light hand adding the seasoning as 1 tablespoon could quickly exceed your sodium needs for the day.

If these condiments are your “non-negotiable” ones that you don’t want to give up or avoid, look into other ways to reduce your sodium intake before or after you eat the dishes. Options include slimming salted chips, snacks or crackers, or frozen ready-made meals, which may be higher in sodium.

Bagnet is a very delicious, rich protein that is easy to overeat. Choosing Bagnet make sure you know about other saturated fat that you will be eating that day and week. You may want to choose leaner pieces of protein like breast, loin, flank, rounds, or experiment with pouched vegetable proteins like tofu, beans, peas or lentils before or after eating dishes.

Richelle Rada is an online diet trainer and owner of Richelle Rada Nutrition in Tamuning. (Photo: Courtesy Richelle Rada)

Have fun cooking!

I hope you discover one or more of these dishes from my culture. If you try, I would appreciate if you send me an email and a picture. The July Dietician in the Kitchen column will feature a kitchen I love to explore. Stay tuned for CHamoru food!

Richelle Rada is an online diet trainer and owner of Richelle Rada Nutrition LLC in Tamuning. You can send her questions and comments to

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