How To Make Your Favorite Mexican Dishes Healthy
Healthy eating is very important if you want to have a good physique and avoid future ailments. You will need to know how to change some of your dishes to be lower in saturated fats and sodium and higher in other nutrients.
When it comes to nutrition and clean eating, Mexican cuisine often gets a bad rap, and this is not entirely undeserved. Greasy, deep fried Tex-Mex has obscured the subtler, more well-rounded authentic Mexican food. While your average burrito comes loaded with fried vegetables, melted cheese and, consequently, lots of fat, many traditional Mexican recipes can be made much healthier.
Whether you’re eating in or out, there is a great, untapped healthy potential of Mexican staple foods. For the diner who might also be finding it especially hard to let go of that trademark cheesy meatiness of Tex-Mex, here are a few wholesome twists on these dishes that can try to meet your indulgent side half-way.
How healthy a burrito can be depending on a few factors? To start, consider what type of flour tortilla you have. You can eliminate fat and preservatives by purchasing uncooked flour tortillas, rather than the supermarket version which are made from highly processed flour and therefore contain trans fats. If you prepare it properly, it can even be a healthy meal on the road.
In fact, as an alternative, the corn tortilla would be the more authentic, traditional option in Mexico. These soft-shell tortillas (made from masa harina flour) have been a staple ingredient of Mexican cuisine for thousands of years. Packed with fibrous whole grains, they are also celiac friendly, unlike flour tortillas.
Mexican connoisseurs Gran Luchito even recommend losing the tortilla altogether in favour of a burrito bowl. Their collection of burrito recipes includes tortilla-less variations such as pulled pork bowls, steak bowls, and vegetarian takes on the dish.
When it comes to the filling, rather than sautéed or fried, chicken that is broiled, grilled or poached will have the least amount of added calories, with maximum flavour to boot. Generally speaking, the leaner the meat, the better. Shredded beef can be tender when cooked slowly, with a fat quantity of less than 15%, but there are other alternatives like turkey, or simply having black beans as your main protein.
Cheese is where a lot of calories and saturated fats come into play with popular Mexican dishes, and this is largely why Tex-Mex warrants its reputation for un-healthiness. Each ounce of shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese that ends up on your plate adds around 115 calories and 9 grams of fat. ¡Dios mio!
The main perk of quesadillas is that they are quick. What’s more, you can kill two birds with one stone by making this fast meal even healthier: just lose the meat. Alternatives like portobello mushrooms take less time to cook, and if served along with black beans, you will have a protein-rich, succulent supper on your hands. In the southwestern style of quesadilla, these beans are the norm, along with chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes and cheese. An extra-special, highly authentic take would be to fill your tortillas with frijoles charros instead of the more traditional refried beans. These are slow-cooked beans in a broth with bacon, tomatoes and herbs, packing a saucy punch while containing less salt and fat than its Tex-Mex counterparts.
Sour cream gives you that delicious hybrid of crisped up tortilla and tangy creaminess, but you can keep it healthier by opting for the low-fat kind. Better yet, lose the cream altogether and amp up the herbs and spices instead to achieve that crucial acidity. Coriander with salsa and pico de gallo are both excellent alternatives. If you’re not quite ready to give up the queso (after all, quesadilla does get its name from being that ‘little cheesy thing’), whack in some quinoa. This option is gluten-free, high in protein, nice and fibrous, and rich in amino acids, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins.
Tacos might seem like the hardest of these three Mexican staple foods to make healthy, as its basic composition already puts it in the trans fatty camp, with its deep-fried, crispy shell. But what if we told you that this is another Tex-Mex mistake? In Mexico, tacos are usually made from soft tortillas, only smaller than the tortilla you’d use for a fajita or burrito. If you’re home cooking and looking for a more authentic, healthier alternative, why not just make your own petite taco shells? These avoid the saturated fats and cholesterol count in the crispy taco.
In terms of filling, while shredded beef is commonly used, nutrient-rich fruit and veg are similarly a staple of your traditional taco. Just go big on lettuce, tomatoes and onions. While you’re at it, get some monounsaturated fat from adding avocado. By including black olives or pinto beans, you can also stock up on your antioxidants, which can protect you from a whole host of health risks.