Meet Charla, an expert in healthy Caribbean cuisine

| May 9, 2016
Charla co-founder of That Girl Cooks Healthy

Charla co-founder of That Girl Cooks Healthy

1. Could you tell us briefly about what you do?

Yes, certainly. I am the co-founder of a website called That Girl Cooks Healthy my niche is in dairy and gluten free cooking but I also tap into my Caribbean heritage. My website is dedicated to showcasing a selection of the aforementioned cuisines. I want people to realise just how easy it is to cook healthy meals from scratch. I act as a guide for my readers on this culinary adventure. In 2012 I attained a discipline in public/holistic health so this affords the opportunity to offer nutritional advice. Presently, I am working on two projects the first one being meal plans for busy individuals which I shall launch on my website very soon and the second project is my contemporary Caribbean cookbook which I hope to publish next year.

2. How did you start cooking?

Cooking is very innate to me, it’s practically in my blood. I grew up in a traditional, patriarchal household where it was the woman’s duty to do the domestic chores. I watched both my mother and grandmother cook as a little girl and involved myself in cooking around 9 years old. I’ve been cooking for a very long time now (although I’m relatively young) it is second nature for me and I love every moment of it.

Caribbean Paella

Caribbean Paella

3. Your site is  and along with that your recipes are dairy and gluten free. What has prompted your health conscious approach to cooking?

Well I have been afflicted in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for a number of years now so consequently this has caused me to revamp my diet and lifestyle, not only that my grandmother has type 2 diabetes so that was another reason to review not only my own diet but also her’s. There are a plethora of people in society who are affected by some type of disease be it cardiovascular, autoimmune or gastrointestinal. These diseases often result in making dietary adjustments such as eliminating dairy and gluten from their diet so my website acts as an aid to facilitate the free from gluten/dairy lifestyle.

4. What advice would you give to someone trying to cook Caribbean cuisine healthier?

To be open minded and embrace change. In the Caribbean community health related conditions like stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease and diabetics are the primary killers, many of these diseases are lifestyle related and preventable by simply adhering to a clean diet, so with that being said, you can cook Caribbean cuisines healthier by doing a number of things, bake rather than fry the food i.e bake plantain instead of frying it. Also salt, we need a small amount of salt in our diet as a good source of iodine and to help induce muscle contraction, however use unrefined salt in moderation. A good example of unrefined salt is himalayan pink salt or sea salt and get rid of the white tablet salt. Foods that are cured in salt i.e saltfish, I would strongly advise reducing consumption or better still eliminate it altogether. Eat more starch enriched root vegetables like breadfruit, dasheen (taro), cassava (yuca) sweet potatoes with grilled fish/meat and eat more iron enriched pulse/beans.

It’s all about identifying which components of the Caribbean diet can be maintained and which portion of it either needs to be removed altogether or modified. You eat the Caribbean as healthy as can be but there are things that we may eat from the days of our ancestors that aren’t good for us (souse comes to mind). In order to move in a more positive direction with Island food, one must be receptive to the idea of change and that is what I’m trying to achieve.

5. Do you ever feel like you miss the less healthy ingredients such as dairy?  Do you see a difference in taste?

Yes, to both. I was raised consuming dairy, it played a crucial part in my life and so did wheat based goods. Right now I make copious amounts of coconut milk on a weekly basis to ensure I have some milk in house to drink or cook with. My favourite nut milk is coconut milk and sometimes when I’m making a dish I face difficulty masking the pungent taste. I use almond and cashew milk at times but there’s only so much you can do with them, it cannot be used in stews or curries because they don’t have a full fat content like coconut milk does and the taste is acquired.

Trinidadian cou cou

Trinidadian cou cou

I used to love eating bread all the time and gluten free bread is hard to master. You cannot fully replicate wheat flour bread using gluten free flour blends. The result are close, but never quite the same and the taste varies. Those are the two main things that I miss with my alternative lifestyle but I am growing used to it.

6. What is your favourite Caribbean dish to cook?

I love preparing Jamaican hot pepper shrimp because the level of heat/flavour is so intense. Any recipe that contains scotch bonnet is a favourite of mine. Also, this recipe was well received not only by my immediate family but also by my readers as well. It’s a special recipe that pertains to my heritage, immediate family members and the wider audience.

7. In your opinion what island has the best cuisine?

Now this is a TOUGH question……I haven’t visited every Caribbean island YET…..I’m going to be biased and say Jamaica and Cuba, only because that’s where my family are from. However I do enjoy Trinidadian and Grenadian food. I think all the Caribbean islands bring something unique to the culinary table. This was a hard question to answer, really it was!

8. Here’s a big one.. What island does the best roti?

The best roti? Trinidad hands down, although Guyana is very, very close but nothing beats some Trini style buss up shut roti.

9. What are your thoughts on cooking shows? Have you ever thought of entering one?

I enjoy a lot of the cooking shows that are out there, especially the ones that showcase cultural cuisines. I’m always looking at inventive ways to tap into my Caribbean roots while infusing another cultural dish, so for me it’s more of a learning curve. When I’m at home I ALWAYS have the television on one of the cooking channels.

Sorrel recipe1

An age old favourite: Sorrel

I would love to participate in a cooking show although I haven’t been approached. I’m the type of person to create my own opportunities (hence why I’m working on various projects) rather than wait for someone to present me with the chance. Last year I entered a cookery competition and came second place, so that instilled me with some confidence. Going on a public mainstream domain is something I would love to do eventually, given the right circumstance.

10. How can people get in contact with you?

My website is

Email address –

Facebook fan page is –

Twitter –

Instagram –

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Category: CaribFood Corner

About the Author (Author Profile)

We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.

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