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Cinco de Mayo. It’s not Mexican Independence Day, as many people assume, but rather a day meant to commemorate the Mexican Army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. What it has become for many Americans, however, is a day where we excessively chow down on Mexican fare and drink too many margaritas.
Mexican culture is rich and lively, and Cinco de Mayo is an excellent opportunity to learn more about it. A huge part of its culture is its cuisine. Mexican and Mexican-inspired foods are delicious and flavorful! However, at least in America, some are loaded with grease, heavy meats and cheese that don’t always agree with our bodies. If you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, here are a couple of tips to have your Cinco de Mayo and eat it, too – still tasty and healthy!
Instead of piling on the cheese and sour cream, use guacamole! Guacamole is made with avocado, which contains good fat. It’s also made with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime, and pepper. If you order it from a restaurant or buy pre-made guacamole at the grocery store, be sure to check the ingredients! Some may contain more sodium than you’d expect.
Make or ask for grilled vegetables. Asparagus, eggplant, bell peppers, and poblano peppers are great grilled with a little lemon pepper and lime. Lime’s citrus properties will help you use less salt, and all the spices mentioned above will complement each other.
Grilling or pan “frying or sautéing” are healthier methods. Grilling is a great way to lock in all the flavors without having to use excess oils. Grill some chicken, fish or lean beef seasoned overnight with lots of garlic, onion powder, black pepper, Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes.
If you’re at an authentic Mexican restaurant, choose fajitas – chicken, steak or some sort of fish grilled with bell peppers and onions. This is one of the healthiest restaurant items because you can mandate whether or not you use the tortillas, and it’s easy to share with a friend. Ask for black beans instead of refried beans.
Carbs will be hard to avoid. If you’re trying your best to do so, nick the chips and opt for fresh vegetables. Also, order black beans instead of refried as your carb option. These are high in fiber and protein and are often a good choice, provided that they’re not cooked in a ton of lard, which they usually should not be.
Pico de gallo is your new best friend. Salsa, in general, is a healthier option over buttery, creamy sauces. Choose the variety made with fresh tomatoes, which are high in lycopene that can help fight off certain cancers! Opt for salsas that also have fresh yellow onion, cilantro, jalapeños, and lots of lime. Caramelized onions are also great toppings. Cook the onions on top of your choice of protein until they’re brown and juicy to get all those flavors.
Use a whole wheat, sprouted, or gluten-free tortilla, instead of flour tortilla, if you have the choice. Corn tortillas are another gluten-free option. If you want to go for something trendier and lighter, grain-free and cauliflower-based tortillas are popular alternatives.
Those sugary frou-frou drinks can have up to 800 calories in one glass. That could add up to more than your entire meal in calories, not to mention the sugar…yikes! The internet offers “healthier” margarita recipes for when you’re celebrating at home. At a restaurant, stick to either one drink of your choice or sip on a tequila shot.
Whether or not you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, you can use these healthy tips the next time you go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant or cook a delicious authentic or Mexican-inspired dish at home!
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Carrie Gabriel studied nutrition at California State University-Los Angeles and got her RDN through the Coordinated Dietetics Program there. She works as a dietitian for different corporate wellness companies, creating recipes for cooking demos and content for nutrition seminars.
She created her company, Steps2Nutrition, in 2012 in hopes of working more one on one with busy professionals and their specific nutritional needs. She has an advanced certification in weight management and specializes in gluten and dairy free meal preparation for various clients.
You can find some of Carrie’s healthy and delicious recipes and meal tips on her website, www.steps2nutrition.com, and on her Instagram and Twitter account, @steps2nutrition.