Choose Wisely continued...
You can enjoy Mexican cuisine if you follow a few guidelines for selecting the more healthful offerings at these restaurants or when you whip up the cuisine at home:
- Beans, beans, good for the heart -- these nutritious nuggets are loaded with fiber, complex carbohydrate (the good kind), protein, vitamins, and minerals. The best part, they are low in calories. If refried beans are your delight, buy the fat-free version in the grocery store and check the nutritional content for restaurant fare.
- Grilled seafood, lean meat, and poultry are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Protein helps to keep you feeling full and is a dieter's best friend.
- Choose dishes that have plenty of fresh veggies, lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa. These foods are loaded with nutritional goodness from the high fiber content to the disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Load up on these foods to help fill you up.
- Ask for low-fat sour cream and if unavailable, use sour cream sparingly.
- Choose corn and whole-wheat tortillas over flour tortillas because they have fewer calories, less fat, and more fiber. Six-inch tortillas will help you keep your calorie intake under control.
- Mexican rice is often made with tomatoes and very little, if any, fat. At Rubio's, they offer a rice with "Healthmex" items for only 110 calories.
The only way to be sure you are getting healthy food that fits into your eating plan is to check out the nutritional profiles of the foods. Many restaurants have this information compiled and will provide it upon request. Others send you to their web site. My advice is to check it out before you go and make a plan -- select the items that are the most nutritious that also fit into your eating plan. Some restaurants, like Rubio's, have "Better Bite" entrees that have no more than 5 grams of fat per serving. At Taco Bell you can now select the "Fresco" option, which substitutes more veggies and salsa for the sour cream and cheese. At La Salsa, the "Mexico City" versions of dishes have no cheese. Baja has its "Baja" style that is lighter in calories.
The great news is that restaurants across the nation are lightening up their cuisine in an effort to help stem the tide of obesity. The bad news is that the large portions of heavily laden calorie and fat offerings continue to sell. You can still have your Mexican "fix," however, as long as it comes from the lighter side.