Say ‘Ole’ to South of the Border Cuisine
If it seems like there’s a Mexican restaurant on almost every block, you’re right.
Mexican cuisine is the fastest growing ethnic food category in the U.S., second only to Asian food.
And while the number of healthy choices is slowly increasing, most menus are dominated by fatty favorites like nachos, burritos and quesadillas.
However, it’s certainly possible to eat Mexican without blowing your diet!
We’ll show you how.
As our palates become more sophisticated, the variety of available Hispanic-inspired foods keeps expanding.
On your trips to the grocery store you may have noticed crossover foods, such as chipotle-seasoned cheddar cheese, chewing gum in mint mojito and tortillas flavored with spinach, basil and sun-dried tomato.
Yet most of us still head straight for the waistline-expanding, artery-clogging mainstays.
Mexican-Food & What to Avoid
The biggest calorie and fat offenders should be easy to spot, and yet many of us accidentally make bad choices.
Steer clear of these high-calorie food items:
Tortilla shells: Many healthy sounding Mexican salads come encased in a deep-fried, crunchy shell.
Tastes delicious, but it’ll cost you 200-300 extra calories.
Sour cream and cheese: Some restaurants use a low-fat variety, but most slather on the sour cream and cheese, adding 150-300 calories to your meal.
Beans and rice: Often fried, refried or cooked with grease, these side dishes pack fat, calories and sodium.
While you can eat any of the above in moderation, it’s best to avoid temptation and seek out healthier alternatives.
Mexican-food & Bean Me Up, Scotty
In general, eating this food is a great opportunity to focus on bean-based entrées and appetizers.
High in protein and fiber, beans are a better choice than beef or cheese.
However, not all beans are good for you.
Many restaurants use refried pinto beans, which are frequently cooked in lard or bacon, then smothered with cheese.
Opt for black beans, instead.
Less creamy than re-fried beans, black beans are lower in calories and virtually fat-free.
To boost flavor, top them with salsa, lime juice, cumin, and cilantro which are all low in calories and naturally fat-free.
Mexican-food & Get the Salsa
A condiment all-star, salsa can give nearly any dish a low-cal flavor boost.
The word “salsa” means sauce.
Traditionally, it has referred to a very specific combination of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and spice from chili peppers.
However, many different varieties of salsa are now used at home and in restaurants.
For a twist on tradition, try mixing black beans, sweet red pepper and hot chili pepper with orange and avocado to create a refreshing, healthful and delicious side dish.
Mexican-food & Thinking Small
Massive portions are a signature of Mexican-food.
Fast food Mexican restaurants have jumped onto the size bandwagon, offering “grande” and “muy grande” portions.
Burritos the size of our thighs, tostada salads piled over our head with everything but lettuce, quesadillas as big as Frisbees.
Not only is the entrée itself far more than the average person can, or should, eat, but many dishes also come with rice, beans and even a third side dish.
Don’t be seduced by the idea of more food for less money.
It may seem like a value (“Look how much I can get for a buck!”), but unless you’re planning to save it for leftovers, those super-size portions are going straight to your hips.
At restaurants, share entrées with your friends.
Order a la carte.
Get two appetizers instead of a platter.
First, steer clear of that tempting basket of chips.
Try starting your meal with gazpacho (cold tomato soup) or Mexican black bean soup instead.
Both will fill you up, causing you to eat less of your main dish.
Then consider healthy choices such as chili verde (pork simmered in vegetables and green chilis), grilled chicken, and salads heavy on lettuce and grilled vegetables and short on sour cream and cheese.
Fajitas, in particular, can be a calorie-conscious dish.
Order them with chicken or shrimp, which are leaner than steak.
Right there, you’re getting a ton of vegetables and protein without most of the fat that lurks in other popular Mexican-food.
Go easy on the soft tortillas though, they’re frequently softened in oil.
Oh, and about those tortillas: Request corn tortillas instead of the flour variety, if possible.
Flour tortillas are usually twice as large as corn and pack more calories.
Additionally, corn tortillas are considered to be whole grain; flour tortillas are not.
It’s not impossible to enjoy a healthy Mexican meal.
Just remember to check out the menu, order thoughtfully and pay attention to portion size.
Here's a mexican-food recipe we certainly enjoy, and hope that you will too.
Refried beans and enchilada sauce help make this lasagna super fast and really easy to make.
The flour tortillas become tender and noodle-like when baked with the beans and sauce and the whole dish is so hearty and flavorful that we're sure it'll quickly become one of your regular weeknight meals.
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 can (15-oz.) refried beans
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 can (16-oz.) enchilada sauce
2 cloves garlic
6 10-inch flour tortillas
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 16-oz. jar salsa (mild, med. or hot)
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the ground beef with the onions and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through and browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the chili powder and season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the beans in a small saucepan, stirring in 1/4 cup water.
In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, lay one flour tortilla in the center.
Halve a second one and fit the cut ends against the edges.
Layer in a third of the beans, a third of the meat and half the enchilada sauce.
Repeat to make a second layer.
3. Make a final layer of tortillas, and top with remaining beans and meat.
Pour on the jar of salsa and sprinkle with cheddar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling.
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