Eat This, Not That This Cinco de Mayo

Who doesn’t love a holiday dedicated to throwing an all-out fiesta with good food and drinks? But, as much as we all love Mexican cuisine, most of the culinary staples are full of fat and sour cream (not to mention tons of fried items), which translates to hundreds of unnecessary calories. It also means countless, unhealthy servings of saturated fat. Not only do sour cream- and cheese-laden dishes leave us feeling bloated, lethargic and overly full, but they also raise cholesterol and risk a variety of other health problems if consumed on the reg and in large amounts.

The good news is that you don’t need to cut Mexican food from your diet at all {cue the huge sigh of relief because it’s my favorite type of food}! There are countless healthy options and even meal swaps and tweaks that guarantee a nutritious and well-balanced Mexican meal. So during your Cinco de Mayo celebration, keep these healthy swaps on—and these gut-busters off—your plate.

Swap a margarita for a skinny margarita

Margaritas are delicious, but they’re often made with a sour mix that’s loaded with sugar and calories. Even just one drink can run you about 400 calories! A skinny margarita, which most Mexican restaurants offer now, contains less sugar than the traditional one and usually are half the calories. Instead of a pre-made mix that’s made with fruit juices or sour mix, its ingredients often include tequila, lime juice and other citrus juice plus agave nectar. I prefer it to be sweetened with honey over agave but only some restaurants will offer honey at the bar.  Not a drinker? Me neither, so try my Mock Sangria recipe , which includes fresh orange, apple and pomegranate juices, sparkling water, chopped fruit and an optional (but delicious!) slice of ginger.

Swap flour tortillas for corn tortillas

The corn ones have even more flavor and are also sometimes half the calories than their flour-made counterparts. In fact, most flour tortillas contain up to 200 calories, depending on the size, which can add up to over 600 calories from the tortilla alone if you have three tacos or fajitas. Corn tortillas typically contain anywhere between 50-90 calories and are whole grain, which means more fiber. Plus, they are typically gluten free, which are a must for me.

Swap sour cream for guacamole

I understand fully that this recommendation is not a popular one! However, guacamole’s the more classic Mexican dip or topping. While a little sour cream isn’t the worst thing, a few servings add-up fast and this significantly ups the calorie content of the dish with little-to-no nutrition to show for it. In guacamole, avocados are the main ingredient. These creamy, green fruits are loaded with heart-and brain-healthy fats, so they’re a much better choice for a topping or dip than sour cream. Also, ask for all ingredients on the side of your dish so you can control how much you add on!

Swap refried beans for black beans

Like it or not, refried beans are usually cooked in lard (aka fat), making them tip the scales in fat and calorie content. Black beans, on the other hand, are typically cooked in water (though some restaurants may cook them in oil, so be sure to ask your waiter how they’re prepared!) and are loaded with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They’ll not only fill you up more than their refried counterparts, but they’ll also add a nutritional boost as well!

Swap pan-fried or ground meats for lean cuts

On the menu, search for words such as “a la parilla” or “asada,” which contain grilled options. One of the most common popular meat options at Mexican restaurants, ground beef, is typically cooked on a frying pan with lots of oil and fat (there’s usually no draining involved). And fried foods are, well, fried! Instead, choose lean protein sources like steak, chicken or fish. Fish is my favorite choice since it’s the leanest protein option, especially salmon, which is full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as a powerful combination of antioxidants including DMAE and astaxanthin (which is what causes the pink hue we love so much!). All of these help control inflammation and keep hormone levels in check. I recommend that my patients eat fish twice a week to make sure they’re getting their fill.

Swap fried or heavy appetizers for ceviche

Most Mexican restaurants have some sort of ceviche on the menu, which typically contains shrimp, fish and scallops dressed in a fresh, tangy and light dressing that’s mainly citrus-based. I love scallops especially when they’re prepared eight Mexican spices and herbs. Ceviche also contains fresh vegetables, including tomatoes, jalapenos, peppers, cucumber and onion. You can enjoy ceviche as is or use it as a dip to be eaten with cucumber slices or carrots.