Happy almost Cinco de Mayo!
Mexican food has got to be the best thing. Ever created. In the history of the world. And, I’m from L.A., so I’ve had my fair share.
That being said, our Americanized version of Mexican food can be really fattening and unhealthy. So before you inhale 400 greasy tortilla chips, or pour yourself a 1,000-calorie sugary pink margarita, have a look at some of my favorite “fake out” healthy Mexican food tricks.
1. Kill the tortilla. Yes I know, we all love tortillas. But really… what do you love about them? When I lost 25 pounds after the birth of my second son, it was because I made a lot of small changes in my daily decision-making. And getting rid of tortillas was one of those. I realized that I truly didn’t want the tortilla. What I wanted was flavorful, filling and well-spiced food in a warm pouch that I could use my hands to eat. And guess what? A lettuce wrap got me to the same place. (Seriously. I know. I surprised even myself.) I still put the same awesome goodness inside the lettuce wrap, I’m just not consuming six grams of fat in a white flour pancake to eat it. (And if you’re not down for the lettuce wrap, you can at least switch from flour to corn tortillas. That will take you from 210 to 55 calories per tort. HUGE difference.)
2. Use sweet corn instead of cheese, and fat-free plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. What I’m about to say is going to blow your mind. Are you ready? You don’t need to put cheese on it for it to be Mexican food. I realize this is groundbreaking information, so allow it to sink in. Again, making healthy life choices starts with making food we REALLY love, not food we THINK we love. Once I started really thinking about what I wanted on my taco lettuce wrap, it was easy. I wanted something sweet and just a little salty to be a counterpoint to the hot spices on my beans or meat. So, I ditched the cheese, and instead, heated up some frozen corn in the microwave. Done! Another great substitute is fat-free plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. The yogurt is thick and so rich, you won’t even miss your runny ol’ sour cream.
3. Use hot sauce, herbs and spices. Most skinny people I know do one simple thing: they flavor their food with spices, instead of fat. Think about all the ways you can flavor a Mexican meal: chopped red onion, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, minced garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Use those incredible God-created flavors to shape your Cinco de Mayo meal, instead fat from a 20-year-old fryer in the back of a sweaty restaurant kitchen.
4. Make non-fried refried beans. These are bomb. And they are suuuuuper cheap, since the only ingredients are dried pinto beans, garlic, onion, cumin, salt and water. They take 8 hours in the Crockpot, but they are so worth it. I found the recipe on this blog, they are so good that the husband regularly requests them for our Sunday afternoon supper. And I recently made them for our friends visiting from Indiana, who are big meat-eaters, and they said that they were truly full and satisfied after our meal, and didn’t even miss the meat. WIN.
5. Bake your own corn tortilla chips and make your own salsa or guacamole. Baking your own corn tortilla chips couldn’t be easier, and it’s a great way to use up that huge bag you bought at Sam’s Club that’s sitting in the back of your fridge. Cut the torts into triangles or strips, spray a baking sheet or two with cooking spray, throw them on the cookie sheet, spray again and sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper. Broil and watch carefully until they’re crispy. Sprinkle with another layer of salt when they’re hot. Homemade baked corn tortilla chips are delicious, healthy, and sooooo much cheaper and less fattening than store-bought tortilla chips.
If you have a food processor, make your own salsa by throwing in some red onion, tomatoes, garlic, lime juice, jalapeño and salt. (I recommend putting all ingredients except the tomato in first, pulse, and then add tomato and just pulse a couple times more. This way, it’s nice and chunky, not a runny tomato soup.) And use chopped fresh avocados, red bell pepper, juiced tomatoes, red onion, minced garlic, garlic salt, cumin and fresh lime to make your own guac. Store-bought guac DOES NOT COMPARE.
Yes, you will dirty more dishes and it will take you a few extra minutes. But you WON’T wake up on Seis de Mayo feeling heavy and sluggish!