By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
This weekend is Cinco de Mayo, and I believe that almost any excuse for a well-made margarita is a good one. But Mexican food can be so hit or miss – while the traditional cuisine is heavy on vegetables, beans, and spices the Americanized version has every item triple the size and load extra queso on the queso. We all know the chips will be endless and the tequila will be flowing this weekend, but it doesn’t have to be a total disaster. Mexican food is actually one of my favorite cuisines — here’s how to navigate the menu:
- Tortilla chips, aka the Mexican bread basket: Ready for terrible news? After being fried in oil, seven chips can have an absurd 140 calories. Seriously, SEVEN chips are barely two handfuls. The chip bowl is not to be refilled.
- Salsa and pico de gallo are a big yes. Add it to everything.
- Guacamole: Avocado has really good fat and tons of vitamin E. A serving size is ~1/2 an avocado but some orders of guac can use 5+ avocados and have 1500+ calories (not including chips). That’s no big deal if 10 people are sharing but it’s going a little overboard in a small group.
- Soup: In hot weather, go for gazpacho. In cold weather, black bean soup (skip the sour cream)
- Shrimp cocktail or ceviche are always great options
- Just say NO to queso. You’ll thank me come beach season in three weeks.
- Poppers, flautas, chimichangas: fried, fried, fried. Skip
- Fajitas: hands down the best option. You’re in total control of how much or how little cheese, rice, and sour cream go on there.
- Burritos: The burrito wrap, the rice, and the beans are all carbs, so choose one and skip the others. And if it says “overstuffed burrito,” chances are, it will overly stuff you.
- Quesadillas: can be ridiculously cheesy. If you are going to order them, add extra veggies and get some protein (fish, chicken, beef) in there.
- Enchiladas and tacos: careful with the cream, sour cream, and cheese.
- Margaritas: Classic, fresh ones contain only three ingredients: tequila, lime juice, and a little agave. Order a fresh one on the rocks and skip the icky pre-made mixes (sugar and food dyes). When it comes to salt, less is more.
- Frozen/blended margaritas are full of sugar and can have up to 700 calories per 12 oz. And we all know there’s a second one calling your name…
- Cervezas are another good bet, as most Mexican beers are between 130-150 calories each
- Careful with the tequila. Just remember “one tequila two tequila three tequila floor”!
Are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo? What’s your favorite Mexican food? Share your top picks in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking community.