By Julie Upton, RD
Cinco de Mayo is one day of the year that we all are a bit south of the border. Our homage to the day that celebrates Mexico’s independence generally involves eating liberal amounts of Mexican foods and beverages.
Guacamole and chip, enchiladas, chalupas and chimichangas—not to mention the cervesas and margaritas—can make you feel like a stuffed piñata. Because while traditional Mexican fare is rich in healthy beans, fruit, vegetables and light on meat, cheese and frying, the North of the Border versions are typically cheese-, meat-, and fat-rich.
There’s plenty you can do, however, to make these classic dishes more delgado (slim) rather than gordo (fat). Use these tricks whether you’re going out to celebrate or making a dish yourself.
We’ll eat over 51 million pounds of avocados on Cinco de Mayo—nearly as much as Super Bowl Sunday, one of my favorite days of the year! I have one word for guacamole: Yum.
Avocados are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fat, and have more than 25 different vitamin, minerals, and phytonutrients like lutein, which is essential for healthy eyesight. To keep guacamole calories in check, bulk up your recipe with lots of tomatoes and onions. Another option I like is add black beans or corn to my guacamole for additional taste and texture.
Here are a couple avocado recipes I love from the California Avocado Commission:
Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl, tossing well but maintaining a chunky consistency:
- 2 ripe medium California avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
- 1 large ripe tomato, diced
- ¼ Cup finely chopped red onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- Juice of 1 large lime
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:
- 1 firm ripe avocado, seeded, peeled and cubed
- ¾ Cup frozen corn, defrosted
- ¼ Cup red bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ Cup green bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ Cup thinly sliced green onion
- 1 tbsp grated lemon peel
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp coarse ground garlic salt
- ¾ tsp ground cumin
- 4 drops red pepper sauce
The endless supply of baskets of fried chips (about 150 calories and 10 grams of fat per ounce) served at Mexican restaurants can add up to more calories than your main dish. If you can help yourself, skip the chips. If you can’t, ask instead for baked pita chips that any Mexican restaurant can easily make for you with corn or flour tortillas.
Lighten up enchiladas, burritos, and nachos
These Mexican faves are all fine, as long as you go light on the cheese, nix the sour cream, and ask for extra vegetables, beans, and salsa instead.
Fajitas or grilled fish tacos are the healthiest offerings, as they are made with grilled meat, fish or chicken. You can ask for them on corn tortillas rather than flour for more fiber and antioxidants. In addition, ask for plenty of vegetables, guacamole, and beans and skip cheese or sour cream.
Cerveza vs margarita
Your waistline will like light beer best at about 100-calories per 12-ounces, while margaritas are a diet disaster at about 300 calories a piece. Double or tripe those calories if you order popular sombrero-sized margaritas served at most Mexican restaurants.