Mexican Food: Making Healthier Choices
Here are some tips for making healthier choices when eating at a Mexican restaurant:
- Fish first. Fish (when it's not fried) is often the lowest in fat and saturated fat of the meat choices. Chicken is usually next, followed by steak -- if the restaurant uses a leaner cut and doesn't add extra fat.
- Stick with soft tortillas. Most restaurants offer the choice of soft or crispy, corn or flour tortillas. Generally, soft tortillas -- whether corn or flour -- are lower in calories and fat than the deep-fried, crispy option. And soft corn tortillas can be healthier than flour ones. At Rubios, for example, choosing a stone-ground corn tortilla instead of a flour tortilla will save you 50 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 340 mg sodium (while giving you 1 extra gram of fiber).
- Skip the sour cream. This saves you 120 calories, 10 grams fat, and 7 g saturated fat for a 2-ounce serving. Some Mexican restaurant salads and entrees also come with creamy dressings, like ranch sauce. Leaving this off can shave 240 calories, 27 grams of fat, 4 grams saturated fat, and 240 milligrams of sodium.
- No cheese, please. Leaving the cheese off your grilled meat or fish burrito will usually shave off about 110 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 5 grams of saturated fat.
- Guacamole is good for you. While a big side of guacamole (3.5 ounces) adds considerable calories (about 150) and fat (about 13 grams), guacamole made mostly with avocados is low in saturated fat (about 2 grams), high in fiber (6 grams), and most of its fat is the healthy monounsaturated type.
- Go for grilled. Instead of fried fish, meats, or veggies, choose grilled fish or shrimp, charbroiled chicken, and grilled vegetables. They will have less fat and still taste great
- Add fajita veggies. A flavorful and easy way to boost your daily veggie intake is to add "fajita vegetables" to your burrito or burrito bowl. For just about 20 calories and 0.5 grams of fat, a 2.5 ounce serving of fajita vegetables will add a gram of fiber, about 30% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, powerful phytochemicals, and tons of flavor.
- Skip the chips. OK, just steal a few from your tablemate! Half an order of tortilla chips from Chipotle (2 ounces), for example, adds 285 calories and 13.5 grams of fat to your meal total, along with 210 milligrams of sodium.
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, writes the Healthy Recipe Doctor blog for WebMD and is the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.