Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How To Eat Mexican Food And Not Get Fat

Every Sunday my friends and I head to our local Mexican restaurant to catch up, try and put together what happened the night before, and throw back some casual margaritas and coronas before the weekend come to an end. However by the time our meal arrives we have already inhaled all of the bottomless baskets of chips and salsa on our table, our hands are soaked in oil, our lips smothered in salt, and we are feeling guilty and vow never to eat chips again... until the following Sunday. But the chips aren't the only evil at your favorite taco stand, and If you don't know how or what to order you could be consuming up to two day's worth of calories in a single sitting, pumping your body with nasty artery clogging saturated fat, and causing those dreams of fitting into your summer swimsuit and gracing the cover of next month's Men's Health Magazine dashed within minutes.

We were pursuing the Mexican menu on a usual Sunday when one of my friends asked "What's a chimichanga?" We all looked to one another for the answer but none of us knew and someone added "I don't know but it sounds tasty" and we all agreed. We flipped out our iphones and blackberrys and crazily googled what a chimichanga was and gasped as we were petrified to find out it was a deep fried burrito. Consuming just one would set us back well over 1000 calories and in my opinion wouldn't be worth it. So I gave it some thought and put together a list below of some favorite Mexican menu items. Which ones are good. Which are bad. And which ones your health insurance company would jack up your premiums for if they found out you were consuming.


Salsa is an excellent topping to add to your tacos or fajitas, over guacamole or sour cream, and your heart and skin will thank you for the lycopene obtained from the tomatoes. Just don't use chips to shovel it into your mouth! Just 7 tostada or corn chips can equal 120 calories and 7 grams of fat. If you can't resist the urge to nibble before your meal, put some salsa on your plate and eat it with your fork and ask your server to remove the basket of chips - your hips will thank you and you wont feel as guilty before your meal has even arrived.

Who doesn't love this creamy goodness spread on top of some chips or added to your taco or fajitas. The monounsaturated fats in avocados are incredibly good for you, and outside of a Mexican restaurant avocado is an excellent alternative to put on your sandwiches to replace butter and mayonnaise. But they are still extremely calorie dense and if you are watching your weight you need to be mindful of your serving size. Just make sure you only treat yourself to a spoonful...or two.

Ceviche / Seviche
A fantastic option on the menu because it traditionally only contains shrimp or fish, along with some vegetables and all marinated in healthy lime juice which is jam packed full of vitamin C for healthy skin and eyes. A healthy lean protein source with nutritional vegetables will fill you up rather than out.

Burritos are full of empty calories. All that white rice, beans, cheese, meat and other ingredients, wrapped up in a refined white flour tortilla can add up to around 700 calories. Ask for a burrito bowl instead and you could be saving close to 500 calories just by eliminating that nasty rice and wrap.

Avoid the nachos altogether. All that cheese, sauce and cream, not to mention the fattening chips, deceives you to think you are only snacking, however you could be consuming close to 2000 calories in one sitting.

If you choose fish tacos ensure you ask them to be grilled rather than fried and you will be saving yourself a few hundred calories and copious amounts of fat. Ask for the soft shell taco's over the hard shell and you will shed off another 200 hundred calories. Corn tortillas have less than half the calories than wheat tortillas, so asking for those will also fill you up rather than fill you out.

Fajitas can be tricky and can add up in calories pretty quickly if you don't know what ti look for. Ask for corn tortillas over wheat and ask for chicken rather than beef, as the beef they use in fajitas are normally lower grade cuts of meat and are heavily marbled in fat. Avoid the meal that include beans, rice, sour cream and cheese used to pack into your tortilla and you will automatically save hundreds of calories. Opt for the low calorie onions and peppers instead...just take some gum along with you if you want to have some close meaningful conversations with your friends afterwards.

What could be worse than a calorie packed burrito? How about a deep fried calorie packed burrito? Yep, that's what a chimichanga is. The flour tortilla acts like a sponge and soaks up all the oil that it is fried in leaving you with a meal that has more fat than most fast food burgers.

An enchilada is essentially a tortilla that has been filled with either meat, cheese or beans, wrapped up and baked in a tomato sauce and covered in fattening cheese. Considering these normally come in 3's they aren't the best option for your waistline. Ask for just one, preferably with a meat filling and without the cheese smothered on top and you will save yourself hundreds of calories and fat.

Taco salad
Think you are safe by ordering a salad? Think again. They pack that hard deep fried tortilla shell with mounds of ground (and fattening) beef, rice, beans and sour cream adding this meal up to around 1000 calories. Not all Mexican salads are bad however. Just look for ones with leafy greens, vegetables and a lean meat and ask your server to hold any rice, beans, sauces or creams.

Think of it like a Mexican style pizza. It is a "toasted" tortilla that has meat, vegetables and beans added on top. Ensure you are adding a lean, grilled meat and that will keep this meal a relatively healthy, low calorie option. Don't eat the tortilla and you could be saving yourself a further 250 calories.

What could be bad about eating beans? They're healthy and packed full of protein and fiber right? Wrong. They are healthy but most Mexican establishments cook them (and serve them) in lard. What is that exactly? Its the rendered fat of a pig! Yummy. Makes you want to just lick your lips doesn't it? Chose black beans over refried beans and always ask your server how they are prepared just to be safe.

Another side dish or add on that can be potentially healthy but isn't. Most Mexican rice is white rice, meaning it has been bleached to avoid being eaten by pests, and contain very little nutritional benefits. Opt for brown rice if they have that as an option on the menu. If not, ask for no rice altogether; just a small 4 ounce serving of Mexican rice can have close to 250 calories and 7 grams of fat!

Unfortunately, our favorite Mexican tipple has one of the highest amount of calories out of all the possible cocktails, with just one 10 once glass having close to 740 calories. Not to mention the rim is covered in salt that will leave you bloated and raised blood pressure. Ask for your drink minus the salt, and for the sugar free mix if they have that available.

If you find yourself at a Mexican restaurant and want to eat healthy but have forgotten what you read today and without Healthy Boy in your pocket to point you in the right direction, don't worry. Whatever meal you choose, ask for it without the cheese, rice, beans and sour cream and you will automatically save yourself hundred of unwanted calories...and avoid overdosing on that basket full of chips or by the time you leave the restaurant you will be little less poco and a little more loco.

Healthy Boy x

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