Eating Out the Healthy Weigh: Mexican
Enjoying Mexican -- without all those deep-fried calories!
The food police -- otherwise knows as The Center for Science in the Public
Interest (CSPI) -- are at it again. This time they tackled another of
American's favorite foods, Mexican cuisine. Consider this: CSPI sent some of
the menu items from the new Chipotle fast food restaurant chain off to a
laboratory for analysis since the calories were not available from the company.
The results might make you hotter than jalapeÃ±o salsa! A typical chicken
burrito from Chipotle registered approximately 1,000 calories, the vegetarian
burrito was 1,120 calories, and the pork came in at 1,130 calories!
Mexican food by nature can be a trap for calories, fat, and sodium. The
fried tortilla chips, high-fat meats, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, refried
beans, and deep-fried combo dishes can really pack on the pounds. So what's a
hungry Mexican food lover to do? Don't despair, we've got tips on how to
identify the healthier choices at your local Mexican restaurants and fast food
chains that qualify for a WLC eating plan.
Monitor Your Portions
Start with portion control. If you are like me, you probably reach first for
the tortilla chips dipped in salsa. Eat as much salsa as you like, but before
you get started, put a handful of chips onto your plate (or napkin) and don't
go back for more. Enjoy the guacamole, rich in healthy fats, only in very small
portions. Healthy fats or not, it's still loaded with fat and calories.
Likewise with cheese: A powerhouse of protein and calcium yet laden with
saturated fat, cheese should be enjoyed in small portions.
But just because it is labeled vegetarian or grilled does not necessarily
mean it is healthy. At Baja, another new Mexican fast food chain, the Especial
Combo meal contained a whopping 32 ounces of food totaling 1,730 calories, 71
grams of fat, and 3,720 mg of sodium -- more than most of you probably have in
your plan for an entire day. Many of the Mexican foods analyzed by CSPI were
over 1,000 calories, loaded with sodium and a day or two supply of saturated
fat. Not exactly the right kind of foods for WLC members.
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
- 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