Looking forward to some delicious Mexican food this holiday? Here are a few healthy substitutions to enjoy all of the flavor without feeling stuffed or over-full after a meal out for Cinco de Mayo.
Fun facts about me:
My birthday is Cinco de Mayo (and I love my birthday!)
I speak Spanish fluently (es una lengua muy bonita)
I *heart* Mexican food (everything about it)
Yes, that last bullet point is especially true. Bring on the tacos, guacamole, fajitas. Avocado salsa? Oh yes, you’re my jam. Especially on the fresh tamales we find at the farmer’s market in the summer – you just can’t beat homemade tamales!
In honor of the celebration that will take place tomorrow, I’d like to offer a few simple suggestions for how you can substitute a few more nutritious options without missing out on this tasty holiday.
Keep in mind that not everything in life is about calories. Choosing what you enjoy – which leaves you feeling the most satisfied – is the most important piece of intuitive eating! Make sure to tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues so you leave the restaurant feeling full and satisfied, but not overstuffed.
With that in mind, here are a few of my personal swaps I (sometimes) choose – especially if I’m not very hungry, but want the delicious flavors.
Swap #1: Chicken Fajitas instead of Chicken Burrito
Contrary to popular belief, Mexican food is packed with nutrition!! The key is to seek it out, because often the “traditional” Mexican food we think of (i.e. Tex-Mex) are a lot of the “specialty” foods which in a traditional Mexican eating pattern are only consumed on occasion.
So instead of the super-heavy burrito smothered in cheese sauce, consider an option which has more fresh, whole ingredients and gets the flavor from herbs like cilantro rather than sausage.
My favorite option? Chicken Fajitas! When building your fajita:
Choose lean chicken with lots of veggies. Beef is usually another good lean option, and sometimes restaurants have a vegetarian version which uses mushrooms. Yum!
Add a little cheese or sour cream – but don’t forget about the tasty salsa (it’s a vegetable!) or the guacamole, which contains lots of heart-healthy fats
Pick corn tortillas instead of flour (2 corn tortillas = 1 flour tortilla in terms of calories!); added bonus: this gives you a more authentic Mexican-flavored meal
Approx. Calorie Savings: 300-500
Feel like it’s still too much food? Leftover fajitas keep well! Take home half of the meal and enjoy Mexican food again the next day.
Swap #2: Black beans instead of rice or re-fried Beans
If you know me, you know how much I love legumes (check out my collection of recipes featuring beans & lentils). Black beans are no exception.
I recommend black beans over refried beans because you get allll of the goodness (vitamins, minerals, fiber, flavor) without saturated fat, which is usually used to make refried beans. If it’s all the same to you, choosing black beans is a great option!
If black beans aren’t on the menu, choose another whole bean side
If a dish comes with both beans & rice, instead choose whole beans & veggies
Approx Calorie Savings: 100-150
Not a fan of beans? Look for grilled veggies or a side salad to go with your meal instead!
Swap #3: Salsa instead of Queso
Sometimes there’s nothing quite like that hot melty queso mess. Trust me, I’m a fan of it, too.
BUT the salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurant is fan.tas.tic. It’s so full of flavor I don’t even miss the melty cheese. This is one of those swaps I enjoy so I can save room for a margarita or dessert instead.
Keep a high salsa-to-chip ratio so you don’t overeat chips!
Portion chips on your napkin in front of you to keep track of how many you eat
Pour salsa on everything (it counts as a veggie!)
Approx. Calorie Savings: 80 calories per 2 Tablespoons (gasp!!)
Craving something more filling than salsa but looking for a more nutritious option? Enjoy fresh guacamole instead! Avocados are a great source of heart-healthy fats – and, again, you can’t beat the brilliance of fresh guac from a good Mexican restaurant.
Swap #4: Skinny Margarita instead of the Strawberry Swirl
No surprise; those sugary cocktails contain – well, contain a lot of sugar. If you’re looking for a refreshing alcoholic beverage but not interested in all the extra sugar, a skinny option is usually pretty good about giving you the flavor without all the additives.
Full disclosure: I rarely choose this option. Because, personally, If I’m going out, I’m going out! I like to plan ahead to enjoy a real margarita.
But that’s me. You can choose what’s best for you based on your preference, hunger, and satiety.
Eliminate the extra syrup in flavored cocktails
If you prefer the taste, have the smaller version of the real thing
Other ideas: Choose a cocktail with a diet mixer (rum + diet soda) or a high-end liquor on the rocks (sipping tequila on the rocks)
Approx. Calorie Savings: 100-300 calories
Better yet? Corona Light for an additional 80-100 calorie savings!
Swap #5: Coffee instead of Sopapillas
Are you somehow still hungry after that delicious Mexican feast? There are a lot of tasty desserts on the menu!
But if you’re really not hungry – even though everyone else seems to want dessert – consider finishing off your meal with a cup of coffee and just a bite of what everyone else is having.
If you decide to have dessert, share with friends: research shows you get the most enjoyment from the first 3 bites of food – you probably need just a taste to curb your craving!
If you’ve chosen a sweet cocktail, enjoy this as your dessert instead!
Approx. Calorie Savings: 200-500 calories
Better yet? Try a fresh fruit Paleta – a Mexican popsicle. Super yum and an extra 100+ calorie savings! Find them in a Mexican grocery or (if you’re really lucky) a local Paletaria
Note: references for calories based on On the Border Mexican Grill nutrition facts and Calorie King estimates
Are you looking for more ways to enjoy healthy eating? I promise vegetables taste good – as long as they’re eaten when they’re in season and cooked properly. To try it yourself, check out this 3-Step Roasted Vegetables Recipe which walks you through how to make vegetables taste the best.
If you’d like a curated menu sent to you every week, complete with tasty, tested recipes which are balanced nutritionally and picky-eater approved, try a two-week free trial of the Peas & Hoppy Meal Guides. With this simple meal planning system, busy families spend less time arguing about dinner and more time enjoying good food and each other.
At the end of the day, remember that life is all about balance and all about choice. Listen to your body, savor what you eat, and nourish your body AND your soul.
Happy Cinco de Mayo to all of you and Happy Birthday to me! Or, as they say in Spanish, ¡Salud!
Ann from Peas and Hoppiness
2 thoughts on “5 Simple Swaps for a Healthier Cinco de Mayo”
What a fun post!! That quest gets me every time 😉 I will definitely refer to this the next time we’re out eating Mexican food!
Meant "queso". Silly autocorrect!