I once had a fitness trainer tell me to stop eating Mexican food. He said that it was the worst choice for weight loss. He obviously wasn’t the trainer for me. While it’s true that there are some calorie bombs on the menu at Mexican restaurants, there are still a wide variety of menu choices and recipes that you can enjoy while you lose weight. What better time to dig into some of those good and good-for-you Mexican food picks than Cinco de Mayo?
That’s right, Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. It’s not the celebration of Mexican independence that so many Americans think it is, but that won’t stop us from spending time with friends, getting moving and eating some good, good food into our bellies. These 20 recipes for Cinco de Mayo can help, and don’t miss the tips for making similar healthier choices at restaurants.
- Ceviche de Pescado from El Torito – Ceviche is growing in popularity, especially on restaurant menus. This recipe from El Torito blends mild white fish with flavorful citrus and herbs and then kicks the flavor up with jalapeno and mango. Serve as an appetizer with baked chips or cucumber slices for a refreshing and protein-rich choice. At restaurants, skip the tortilla chips or tostadas with the ceviche to save on calories.
- Pork Tacos with Summer White Mango Salsa – These tacos are loaded with fruit and veggies and served on whole wheat tortillas for a beautiful and nutrition-packed dish. Deconstruct the different components to add to a taco bar or serve them ready to eat for a Cinco celebration. At restaurants, load up your tacos, burritos and tostadas with veggies whenever possible. Most restaurants are happy to add extra cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers, onions and other vegetables to your meal when you request them (be sure to ask about extra charges).
- Low-Fat Sunset Sauce from California Tortilla – Make your own sauce to use for tacos, burritos and more this Cinco de Mayo! This recipe is a blend of tomatoes, herbs, lime and more creating a savory choice that you’ll want to use on everything. At restaurants, request sauces on the side to use as needed and stick with vegetable-based sauces (i.e., tomato, tomatillo, etc.) vs. creamy choices.
- Easy Chilaquiles with Greek Salsa & Avocado – Yes, you can have Mexican food for breakfast (and lunch and dinner!), and why not get Cinco de Mayo started off on the right foot with a chilaquiles recipe like this? Simple and delicious, the pan-cooked tortilla triangles can also be baked ahead of time and kept on hand for this recipe or a crispy snack. At restaurants, egg dishes such as huevos rancheros can be a protein-rich breakfast, complete with spicy Mexican food flavor that can help keep you on track. Do always check the nutrition information before ordering to find the best choices for your goals.
- Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad – Spice up your day with this salad. Complete with chicken, corn, black beans and even some light sour cream, it’s an easy one to throw together and doesn’t skimp on flavor. At restaurants, skip the fried shell that many taco salads are served in, and opt for salsa and lime in place of dressing.
- Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos As you may have heard, jackfruit is one of the hot new trends on restaurant menus and in home kitchens these days. It has become especially popular as an alternative to pork in recipes like this. This recipe is made with loads of spices and served with a variety of vegetables to make for a satisfying, nutritious and totally vegan choice. At restaurants, give jackfruit a try in dishes like this to add waist-friendly fiber (and an extra serving of fruits and veggies) to your diet.
- Roasted Tomato Salsa from Taco John’s – Looking for a classic salsa recipe? This roasted version delivers rich flavor to your favorite Mexican food from tostadas to taco salads. At restaurants, check the nutrition information to verify salsas and similar sauces meet your health needs. Salsa can have higher sodium depending on the amount of salt in the recipe.
- Avocado, Mango & Cucumber Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing – This salad is light, bright and easy to make with just a handful of ingredients. Make it even easier when you use pre-cut mango, or follow these tips for how to cut a mango at home. At restaurants, look for flavorful sides like this that combine fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices and even fruit juice to fill you up with fewer calories.
- Baja Fish Burritos – Skip the dipped and deep fried fish tacos this Cinco de Mayo, and go with this lighter pan-cooked version (grilling is also a tasty preparation choice). Pairing the lean fish with a variety of vegetables, brown rice and crowd-pleasing avocado makes this a tasty and well-rounded meal.
- Roasted Bell Pepper Tostadas – Want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with minimal-effort Mexican food? This recipe from Pinch of Yum is a good one to try. It can be carnivored up with the addition of some shredded roasted chicken or made full-on vegan when you skip the sour cream. Either way, it is loaded with fiber and the yummy goodness of those roasted sweet peppers. At restaurants, request whole beans for your menu choices whenever possible to get the nutritional benefits without added ingredients that can add calories, saturated fat and sodium to your meal.
- Grilled Pineapple Watermelon Salad – Fruit and fruit salads are a natural balance to more savory and spiced dishes on your Cinco de Mayo menu. This salad adds a sophisticated twist to the usual fruit salad with smoky flavor and the bright, summery flavor of basil. At restaurants, request a side of fruit in place of more traditional dishes like rice and beans to add nutrients and fiber with fewer calories.
- Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Recipe – It wouldn’t be Mexican food without salsa, so here is another recipe for those of you who prefer salsa verde. Tomatillos are a good source of vitamin C and lend a tangier taste to your foods than the sweeter tomatoes. At restaurants, give tomatillo salsa a try as salad dressing to make any salad a fiesta.
- Vegetarian Baked Sopes with Salsa Verde – You won’t generally find sopes on a list of healthy dining choices (they’re generally fried), but this recipe reinvents the classic into baked little bits of deliciousness that just about anyone can get behind. Throw in some black beans and creamy avocado, and they make a tasty little appetizer for your Cinco de Mayo bash. At restaurants, if sopes are your one true love when it comes to Mexican food, then by all means, enjoy and consider sharing with a friend.
- Grilled Salmon Tacos with Grape Pico de Gallo – Add some heart-healthy omega 3s to your meal with the salmon in this dish. Paired with juicy, sweet grapes, these tacos wow with flavor, lean protein and whole grains. At restaurants, opt for soft corn tortillas with your tacos for whole grain benefits without added fat and calories from the fryer.
- Skinny Margarita –If a margarita is a must for you on Cinco de Mayo, this lower calorie recipe is one to add to your list. This version is made with fresh fruit juice and a little agave nectar instead of the usual sugary, lime green mixer for fresh flavor and a dash of vitamin C. Check out the list of recommended variations here, too. At restaurants, check the nutrition information that will soon be listed at many restaurants to find a lower calorie alternative to the traditional margarita. Instead, indulge without losing ground on your weight loss goals with a lighter cocktail like this or opt for a beer or glass of wine for a few antioxidants.
Losing weight doesn’t have to mean skipping Mexican food or the Cinco de Mayo fun. Rely on recipes like these and dietitian-recommended menu choices on HealthyDiningFinder to help you meet your goals.