3 Steps For Healthy Mexican Food

3 Steps For Healthy Mexican FoodIt might surprise you to learn that the food of the original inhabitants of Mexico was almost entirely vegetarian and fat-free. Influence from Spain inspired the use of ingredients like lard (solidified pork fat). American cooks further popularized preparing Mexican dishes loaded with fatty ground red meat and cheese.

Your favorite Mexican food can still be healthy by making simple substitutions. These recipes for healthy Mexican food go easy on the dairy and use fresh vegetables, lean protein, and fiber-rich beans to get the same great taste with less saturated fat and calories.

1. Substitute Red Meat with Lean Protein

Red meat has a lot of saturated fats. Saturated fats are digested into LDL, the bad kind of cholesterol, which can increase the risk for developing heart disease. Make soft tacos and substitute beef with poultry or fish. Both are relatively low in saturated fat.

  • Roasted or grilled chicken soft tacos
  • Turkey tostadas
  • Baja fish soft tacos
  • Baked tilapia
  • Mexican tortilla soup

You can also substitute meat with another lean protein: beans. Black beans have 8.5 grams protein and 7.5 grams fiber per half cup. Meat in enchiladas, quesadillas and tostadas can be replaced with beans and other vegetables cooked in a skillet or cut fresh to use as toppings.

  • Black Bean and Chicken Chilaquiles
  • Black Bean Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
  • Chicken Quesadillas with Roasted Corn Salsa
  • Mushroom, Corn, and Poblano Tacos

2. Reduce Bad Fats

Whole fat dairy foods also contain saturated fats. Reduced-fat sour cream can help cut calories, but not many. A serving size is 2 tablespoons, with 60 calories for the full-fat product, 40 for the low-fat, and 20 for the non-fat version. Some nutritionists advise that instead of opting for a reduced fat version, it’s better to simply use dairy in moderation.

Cheese from skim or part-skim milk is about 7-15% fat, compared to 30-40% fat of full-fat cheeses. Look out for certain brands of highly processed low-fat cheese. Some contain over 20% more sodium than full-fat cheese and a long list of artificial ingredients.

Natural cheese recipes usually contain four ingredients: pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, and enzymes. A good low-fat cheese should have a similar ingredient list to the natural version, except with pasteurized low-fat milk, and vitamin A palmitate. Certain types of cheeses are naturally low-sodium, low-fat and high in protein. Think about substituting mozzarella, parmesan, or feta onto one of your Mexican dishes,

Avocados contain naturally heart-healthy fats. Over 75% of the fat in avocados is monounsaturated fat. If you’re trying to cut calories, remember avocados still calorie-rich. The recommended serving size is smaller than you’d expect: about 1 ounce is 50 calories. To reduce calories, use cilantro and lime juice or hot sauce as toppings on tacos. Spicy foods increase satiety, which helps you to feel full while eating less, and help boost metabolism.

3. Use Good Carbs

The healthiest option is a non-fried corn tortilla instead of fried or flour tortillas. Frying the shell adds a lot of fat and calories, and corn tortillas are generally more filling and contain fewer calories than flour tortillas.

If you want crispy tacos or tostadas without all the calories, steam a few corn tortillas to make them more flexible and then fold and bake them in the oven at a high temperature for a few minutes to get them crispy.

You can also cook Mexican rice without oil to reduce fat. For an even healthier option, replace white rice with brown rice or quinoa. Quinoa is a very healthy grain with 21% of your daily fiber.

Incorporate these steps into your next Mexican meal and you will have a delicious and healthy dish the whole family will love. Or, come visit Ixtapa Mexican Grill & Cantina and try one of our healthy Mexican dishes! We have locations in Acton, Groton, Lexington, Lunenburg, and Woburn, MA.