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Healthy Food Choices When Dining at Mexican Restaurants

Updated on August 20, 2012

What Mexican Dishes Are Healthy?

If you’re watching your diet and counting calories, but you want to eat Mexican food, what are your choices? Chips and nachos, are two obvious foods to avoid at Mexican restaurants. Included in the list are chimichangas, taquitos, and chiles rellenos, all of which are deep-fried. Now that they're out of the way, let's take a look at the other dishes. Quesadillas are usually supercheesy, and enchiladas are often covered with cheese, so avoid them too. Burritos, while basically filled with healthy ingredients (rice, beans, salsa and sometimes chicken), can be too big that they hold two meals' worth of calories. If this is usually the case of burritos at your local taqueria, have somebody to split it with you or take home half of it. If they're reasonable in size, a bean, rice, and salsa burrito is a good choice, but do hold the cheese.

Mexican food uses plenty of healthful ingredients, but it's usually cooked using a lot of fat, including lard. So you have to be choosy for example, you might wonder how bad a tamale—small packs of cornmeal flavored with vegetables or meat—might be. Sadly, it takes plenty of fat to give tamales their smooth texture. A taco salad seems like a nutritious choice; it is, after all, a salad. Check the numbers, and you'll see that it contains 790 calories! Even if you don't eat the deep-fried shell, it's still has 420 calories, more than you might have bargained for.

At several upscale places, the tostadas (a Mexican salad atop a fried tortilla) can also be lead you astray. They often contain beans that are refried in lard, sour cream, and guacamole. It all adds together quite a calorie fest. That being said, you could still order a tostada and do right by yourself. Simply ask for the chef to hold the sour cream and guacamole and forgo the shell. Use the salsa on the table (which normally doesn't have any fat) for your dressing. Salsa is usually served with chips, which you would want to skip. Still, some restaurants will give you carrots and other vegetables for dipping or serve pickled vegetables and radishes as an alternative for chips.

Several places feature plain black and pinto beans that have not been refried and are cooked without using oil. If they have those, a bowl of beans having a side of rice is an excellent Mexican meal.

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