Instead of giving up your favorite Mexican food, make it your goal to order the healthier options that can help support your New Year’s resolution rather than derail it.
Q: My #1 New Year’s resolution this year is to eat healthier to lose weight, but I don’t think I can give up my favorite – Mexican food – which I hear is SO unhealthy. Can I find healthy choices at Mexican restaurants?
A: Have no fear! You CAN find healthy choices at Mexican restaurants! Mexican food is one of our favorite cuisines, too (along with Chinese, American, Indian, Japanese and just about anything else!), and the thought of anyone having to give up such mouthwatering choices just makes us a little misty-eyed. Instead of giving up your favorite Mexican food, make it your goal to order the healthier options that can help support your New Year’s resolution rather than derail it. These dietitian-recommended choices and tips can help:
Skip the Chips and Salsa
If your goal is to eat healthy for weight loss, these are extra calories that you may not want. Chip baskets are a staple of Mexican restaurants and can often lead to mindless munching while you’re waiting for your meal. We know. We’ve been there. Instead, ask for the basket to be removed, or ask about veggie dipping options, such as jalapeno carrots for crunch, a little heat AND nutrition.
Make Vegetables Your Friend
Vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals as well as fill you up without too many added calories. Look for burritos, tacos, fajitas, tamales, and more that include a variety of vegetables from cabbage to bell peppers. Opt for whole black or pinto beans or salad on the side to add even more filling and flavorful veggies.
Avoid Fried Choices
Fried foods are most likely the ones you’re referring to as “unhealthy. “ While any food can be enjoyed in moderation and without guilt, fried foods may not be the best choices to support your goals. In general, avoid items like chimichangas, gorditas, taquitos and the fried tostada shell often served with salads to limit calories and fat in your meal.
Go Whole Grain with Your Tortilla
Warm, soft and a staple in Mexican food, tortillas can have a big impact on your meal. When choosing what to fold around your taco, burrito, or enchilada, choose corn or whole wheat tortillas to get fiber-rich whole grains, often with fewer calories than their extra-large flour counterparts.
Choose Extras Wisely
Whether it’s your happy hour drink or the sides of cheese, sour cream, and guacamole, the extras can add up quickly and work against your goals. Skip the often high-calorie and sugar mixed drinks and request less of those sides to save on calories and fat without avoiding your favorite Mexican restaurants all together. To indulge without going overboard, the Rule of Two can be a good long-term strategy.
Don’t give up your favorite restaurants; let them help you reach your health and nutrition goals instead!