If you’re like me Mexican restaurants are wonderful and awful at the same time. They are wonderful because I love all the food there, baskets of chips, burritos as big as your head, sour cream, huge margaritas, fried chimichangas, and cheese, cheese, cheese! Actually, these are also all the reasons Mexican restaurants are awful too, calorie laden, fried, greasy, and unhealthy food choices. I used to leave them and feel so bloated. I have actually gained 2 pounds in one night of debauched, unrestrained Mexican food binging!
Now, I’m not talking about those high brow, classy, upscale Mexican restaurants that have been springing up in the last few years, today I’m writing about your local, strip mall, every day Mexican restaurants that we all visit frequently for a quick bite to eat. I do mean quick because usually the food arrives about 3 minutes after ordering it! I have found a way to eat healthily while visiting one of these slice of life type establishments and I’m going to share that with you right now!
My daughters and I went to a Mexican restaurant just outside of our neighborhood the other night when coming home from a long day of shopping for their college dorm and sorority needs, and I just did not feel like cooking after all of that exhaustion. However, when the girls suggested Mexican food I hesitated because I wasn’t sure I had the will power to make healthy choices when I was so tired. I strengthened my resolve and was determined to choose good food that wouldn’t make me feel horridly bloated and agreed to stop and eat there. Here’s how I did it:
1. Push away the tortilla chips- If you’re like me and the chips come to your table, warm, salty and delicious, I can’t resist them and I want to eat the entire basket by myself. The servers even continually refill your basket as it empties so you don’t know how many you’re eating. Remember that I’m not into deprivation as I’m convinced that it makes you eat more, so what I do is count out 10-12 chips, put them on my little appetizer plate and PUSH THE BASKET AWAY TO A PLACE ON YOUR TABLE WHERE YOU CANNOT EASILY REACH IT. That way, I’ve indulged in that salty goodness without ruining my healthy eating plan. Good deal!
2. Avoid the “margarita”- The margaritas at most strip mall Mexican restaurants are full of sugary mix with a tad bit of tequila. It is a pale resemblance to a real margarita made with lime juice, fresh fruit, and quality tequila. If you’re at a Mexican restaurant with fake margaritas, then my strategy is to avoid them entirely and order a glass of wine instead. Some I’ve been to have offered a “skinny” margarita, which is fresh lime juice, a small amount of simple syrup (sugar and water boiled until it becomes intensely sweet so less of it is needed to sweeten), and quality tequila and it’s delicious! A drink I highly recommend. However, in the absence of that kind of margarita I order a glass of wine.
3. Order the fajitas- Fajitas consist of strips of grilled chicken, steak or shrimp- or a combination of the three, grilled onions and peppers, in a flavorful marinade. They come sizzling to your table on an iron platter, a presentation that I really enjoy. They’re high in protein from the meat and fiber from the vegetables and they’re fairly low in calories too. Half of the skillet without tortillas is approximately 200 calories according to My Fitness Pal app. They’re delicious too, especially the chicken fajitas, my personal favorite. I don’t feel deprived at all when I eat them.
4. Show some restraint- When I order fajitas, I ask for corn tortillas instead of wheat. First, because I don’t do well with gluten and second, because corn tortillas are smaller and more flavorful. I fix ONE gorgeous taco filled with my fajita meat, veggies, pico de gallo, and a little guacamole at the top and chow down on that sucker! Then, when I’m finished with that one, I eat the equivalent of half the platter without making another taco, I just eat the chicken and veggies with my fork. It’s still as satisfying, and I haven’t eaten too many tacos because those calories really start to add up! I take home the other half of the platter for lunch the next day, and I’ve got another meal for tomorrow!
5. Skip the sour cream- Now I know this is difficult for some of you (Danielle and Mom!), however if you need the creaminess on your taco add a dollop of guacamole instead. Guacamole is good for you so you’re adding in some nutrition too. This is a win-win situation for your body!
6. Black beans instead of refried- One cup of refried beans is 367 calories, and remember they’re called refried because they take those healthy, little pinto beans and fry them. Not a good nutritional choice for me. If you have the choice, and sometimes you don’t, order the black beans instead. You gain the fiber from the beans in a healthy, flavorful preparation instead of from frying them. And it’s a better caloric choice too as a cup of black beans is 220 calories- that’s a savings of 147 calories, woohoo!! If I don’t have a choice I will have just a few bites of refried beans, and usually I’ll share them with one of my daughters so neither of us is taking in too many calories in our meal.
Well, that’s how I order in a healthy way at my local Mexican restaurant. Let me know what your tips are that help you to live a life of vitality- like Valerie!