On Philippine Independence Day, try: Kalayaan Halo-halo

Community Health Jun 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Kalayaan_GdeVera_GREYFreedom from high calories and processed foods

ON June 12, 1898 Aguinaldo led the declaration of Philippine Independence from Spanish Colonial Rule and the occasion has since been known as Philippine Independence Day. A time filled with celebrations and festivities for Filipinos all over the world, I have always enjoyed this time of the year because I get to celebrate my birthday as everyone celebrates our Freedom and fittingly enough I was named ‘Kalayaan’ for this very reason.

With all the festivities planned for the next week, I am sure we will indulge in all the Filipino favorites from lechon to lumpia and everything deliciously savory in between. I personally love the desserts, cassava, ube, sapin-sapin, and my ultimate favorite is Halo-halo, which is literally translates to ‘Mix-mix’. It is traditionally a mixture of shaved ice and evaporated milk with a variety of boiled sweet beans, jelly and fruits (everyone has his/her own version) but is always served in a tall glass with a long teaspoon and topped with a scoop of ice cream (usually ube flavoured). I always like to make a healthier alternative to my favorite indulgent foods so that I may enjoy them more often without feeling bloated after from all the sugar and refined ingredients. Below is a healthier version of this sweet frozen treat to beat the heat without sabotaging your healthy lifestyle.

halo-haloHALO-HALO RECIPE: Makes 16 servings

Mix the following in a glass:

2 tbsp fresh ripe jackfruit, cut into strips

2 tbsp whole kernel corn, drained

1 tbsp sweetened garbanzo beans, drained

2 tbsp saba in light syrup (see recipe below)

2 tbsp fresh melon, cut into cubes

1 tbsp nata de coco, syrup drained

Coconut milk to taste

Crushed ice
1 tbsp low-fat custard (see recipe below)

Saba and purple yam in light syrup:

1 cup saba (plantain), sliced

1 cup purple yam

2 tbsp coconut sugar

2 tbsp Stevia

1 cup water

Mix coconut sugar, Stevia, and water in a sauce pot. Simmer until sugar is melted. Add diced saba (plantain) and purple yam. Let boil until saba (plantain) and yams are cooked. Chill well.

Low-fat custard:

2 cups coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut sugar

2 tbsp Stevia

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat milk in a small saucepan on medium-low until simmering.

2. Meanwhile, whisk coconut sugar, Stevia, and cornstarch together.

3. Add egg and whisk until no lumps remain.

4. Gradually stir in hot coconut milk into egg mixture.

5. Return coconut milk and egg mixture to pan.

6. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until thickened (as thick as condensed milk).

7. Remove from heat, and add vanilla. Chill well.)

The main difference in this recipe is the fresh ingredients as the traditional Halo-halo is made from opening jars of preserved sweet beans, sweetened coconut, and sweetened jelly. Fresh is always better and by adding fresh ingredients it increases the nutrient value and lowers the calories.

Fresh ripe jack fruit: is a great source of vitamin C, Calcium and Manganese. With only 10 calories per tablespoon, it is also lower in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium than the canned version.

Fresh kernel corn:
is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a great source of vitamin C and folate, which is necessary in building and maintaining new cells.

Garbanzos:are packed with minerals like molybdenum, manganese, tryptophan, protein, copper, phosphorus, and iron. It is high in fiber, folate, and magnesium, it can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Purple yam: is low in fat and cholesterol, a good source of vitamins C and E, potassium, dietary fiber, and iron. It is also great anti-inflammatory food, and is rich disease fighting antioxidants.

Fresh Melons: are a great source of potassium, vitamin B6, niacin (vitamin B3), dietary fiber, folate and antioxidants. Its naturally sweet taste eliminates the need for other ingredients, such as gelatin, that have empty calories.

Plantain: is very high in electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium. It is also a good source of dietary fiber and is low in calories and fat.

Nata de coco: is high in fiber and low in calories (only 25 per tbsp, even if it’s sweetened), and it has zero fat and cholesterol.

Coconut milk: is highly nutritious and extremely rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose free and is easier to digest, it is a great alternative for those that are lactose intolerant.

Coconut sugar: unlike the refined white sugar, has retained much of it’s nutrients, it is rich in Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants. It contains a fiber called Inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.

By adding low fat custard it will reduce the fat content without losing the creaminess of leche flan.

With only 39 calories per serving as opposed to the 70 calories leche flan provides. Topping your Halo-halo with a small scoop of vanilla ice-cream is the tradition and this doesn’t have to be substituted unless you have issues with dairy then a rice/soy based frozen ‘ice cream’ will do the trick.

With a little creativity you can make any of your favorite Filipino food healthier without sacrificing the taste.


(Kalayaan Garcia de Vera is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who graduated at the top of her class with honours at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. As a member of the Canadian Holistic Association of Nutritionist Professionals, she has conducted weight loss studies and detoxification workshops. Her website is www.yourholisticnutritionist.com)