Mexican food is as rich and pungent as the country that inspired it. But if you are doing your best to eat foods that are as healthy as possible, you may be under the illusion that you need to give up most south of the border selections. These zesty options prove that you can still say “si” to Mexican food while eating well.
CHANGE YOUR TOPPINGS
Cheese and sour cream are tasty, but they don’t do your health or your waistline any favors. However, never fear; the avocado is here. Guacamole, a thick spread made from avocados, garlic and lime juice, contains a healthy fat that makes burritos, tacos and other Mexican dishes creamy and flavorful. Buy it already made at the store if you must, but put it together yourself in just a few minutes if you can to give it that special, fresh edge.
CURB THE CRUNCH
When you eat a tortilla with a hard shell, bear in mind that it got crispy by virtue of being fried. You can save lots of calories by opting for its soft shell counterpart. If chips and salsa have always been your weakness, change it up a bit by making soft shell tortilla salsa sandwiches. While they’re messy and by no means the same as what you’re probably used to, they do satisfy your desire to snack Mexican-style.
SAY YES TO BLACK BEANS
Of all your bean choices, black are the best. They are low in fat and contain protein and fiber. Steer clear of their refried cousins, which are often prepared with lard, cheese and bacon.
DENY THE DIPS
As tempting as they are, adding rich toppings like nacho cheese and queso sauce to your chips is far from a healthy choice. Even guacamole, while it possesses a healthier fat, can quickly boost the calories. Salsa is your best topping, hands down.
WHAT TO CHOOSE
If you’re out at your favorite Mexican restaurant, you don’t need to fast. As long as you choose carefully, you can enjoy your food in the knowledge that its ingredients are, for the most part, good for you. In general, avoid entrees such as chimichangas, nachos, taquitos and chili relleno, all of which are deep-fried. Better selections include bean burritos, chicken fajitas and soft shell tacos. Many restaurants are also now offering lower-calorie sides such as brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, low-fat cheese and marinated vegetables. If you have the irresistible urge to pig out on something, make it salsa, which is a fat-free, low-calorie source of lycopene.
Enjoying healthier versions of Mexican food is even easier if you’re at home since you have control of the ingredients and recipes you use. For a tasty way to savor this flavorful cuisine with the minimum of work, cook up a big pot of slow cooker tortilla soup. When you walk in the door after a long day at work or school, you will smell the pungent aroma emanating from your kitchen and swear you were in Cancun.