Mexican Choices Made Easier

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Mexican food is probably my all-time favorite cuisine. It tastes delicious, is easy to whip up a quick meal at home and is versatile. I’ll often make tacos and then turn it into nachos or quesadillas on other nights during the week, to use up the leftovers in a different way, that way you don’t feel like you’re eating the exact same meal over and over.

If you’re like me and prepare more of your meals at home, then when Cinco de Mayo rolls around, whether you’re at home or out at a restaurant, you can be a little less selective about your food choices. If you want a margarita, or an entree with extras like beans and rice, along with some chips and dip beforehand, then this one meal is not going to make or break your nutrition goals. Your choice should be easy, simply eat what you love.

While one meal won’t sabotage your plans, if you eat out more frequently either, it does take a bit more planning and choices to help stay on track for the long haul. One meal won’t ruin it, but repeated similar choices over time can snowball into not seeing any progress or improvements.

If you’re in the boat to be a bit more mindful in your approach this year or if you just want to know what a dietitian would recommend when eating Mexican-type food, here you go:

1. Pick something to order that you wouldn’t or couldn’t normally make at home yourself. All too often we complain about getting bored by eating the same foods. When someone else is cooking, take the opportunity to pick something that you wouldn’t normally cook.
2. Avoid feeling deprived by ordering something you like. You can keep the calories in check more naturally without all the worry by being mindful of the various additions that are available:

• Choose a drink or cocktail, an appetizer like chips and queso or a dessert.

• Don’t eat the entire portion of guacamole, sour cream and cheese that are provided. Instead choose a little portion of each and save the rest for later or select just one.

3. When selecting an entree, think about picking something with filling and satisfying protein and veggies.

• Try sizzling plates like fajitas with any protein from steak, chicken or shrimp you prefer. Consider asking for extra veggies, not just in quantity, but also other types of vegetables that may be available. If you’re not a fan of bell peppers and onions, you may be able to substitute those for veggies that you prefer (mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, etc).

• Tacos of all sorts are a good option. Aim to consume 1-2 tacos shells or the beans or rice. The beans have good fiber but may be made with unhealthier saturated fats like Crisco. This is something you can always ask your server before ordering to verify. When choosing a tortilla or taco shell, I often go to corn because it’s a whole grain option whereas the “wheat” ones available most places now aren’t 100% whole wheat.

4. Plan for leftovers.
It’s okay to be hungry enough or have the food taste good enough to finish your entire plate. But remember there’s other opportunities to eat tomorrow. So, if you have leftovers, box them up and enjoy them later.

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Rebecca Miller, MPH, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist who shares recipes + inspiration on her blog, Twisted Nutrition. She can be reached at TwistedNutritionBlog.com or via email BMillerRD85@gmail.com

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