How to Make Healthy Mexican Food: Tips and Recipes

Why eat out when you can have a spicy meal at home?

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Eating in a Mexican restaurant can be tricky for people who are trying to lose weight. Many traditional favorites are loaded with fat and calories.  And for many of us Mexican food is easy to overeat.  But does that mean dieters should skip this flavorful cuisine?  Definitely not!.

I recently sat down with Adalis Velez to get tips on how to enjoy diet-friendly Mexican food.  Adalis and partner Henry Fernandez own La Gringa Taqueria in Brooklyn.

The restaurant specializes in preparing fresh, healthy Mexican fare. Adelis gave me a list of the best Mexican food for dieters and provided tips for making healthy Mexican food at home. 

Add More Flavor to Eat Less Food

At La Gringa Taqueria, you'll find plenty of menu items made from fresh, spicy ingredients.  This is the key, says Adelis, to cooking healthy Mexican food.  "You can use the pre-packaged seasonings that you find at the store, but they are often more expensive and they don't taste very good."  She suggests using natural ingredients like the ones she uses in her restaurant.  "Stock up on cilantro, onions and peppers to create foods packed with flavor.  That way, you'll be satisfied with less food and you won't be tempted to overeat."

If you are a newbie when it comes to cooking with peppers, she says to start with a mild variety such as a green or red pepper. Then graduate to a medium heat pepper, like the jalapeno.

  "Many people think of jalapeno peppers as being one of the hottest varieties, but they are not that hot."  "Just don't roast or grill them," she says, "as this boosts the heat level."  She also suggests that pepper newbies avoid chili peppers.

Add Fresh, Lean Protein

Chicken is a popular low-calorie option for diet-friendly Mexican food.

  But Adelis suggests that the home chef should experiment with fresh fish.  At La Gringa Taqueria they use grilled tilapia in their Mexican dishes, but there are other varieties to try as well.  Mahi mahi, red snapper and even salmon can be used in tacos or salads, she says. 

If you're ready to give it a try, Adalis and Henry provided a favorite recipe to try at home.

This recipe, from the owners of La Gringa Taqueria, contains fresh, healthy ingredients and is easy to make. 

Blackened Fish Tacos & Chipotle Sauce

Chipotle Aioli Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1/3 cup chopped sweet onion
Salt to taste

Tilapia Tacos:
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon crushed red peppers
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets
Cooking spray
4 to 8 corn tortillas
Lime wedges

Sweet Red Coleslaw:
4 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
4 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
½ carrot, shredded
1 cup sugar or 1/2 cup sugar substitute
1 cup white distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons coconut oil
¼ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon salt


Sweet Red Coleslaw:

Combine cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. In a small saucepan bring the sugar, vinegar, coconut oil, celery seed, and salt to a low boil. Add to the cabbage and carrots, toss well, cover and store overnight. Drain all the liquid from the slaw before serving. This slaw was at its prime after 2 days of marinating. If you can, marinate for 2 days I'd highly recommend it.

Chipotle Aioli Sauce:

Combine crema, chipotles, adobo sauce, and onion in a food processor or blender. Blend until creamy and smooth. Salt to taste.

Blackened Tilapia Tacos:

Combine spices, honey, and lime juice in a bowl. Using your hands, coat both sides of the tilapia.

Spray the grates of your grill or hot griddle before heating. Heat the grill or hot griddle. I like using my small kitchen griddle that has ridges, leaving charred lines on my fish. Grill each side about 3 to 4 minutes.

Warm corn tortillas on a comal (hot griddle); add chunks of blackened tilapia, coleslaw, and drizzle with spicy chipotle aioli sauce.

Serve with lime wedges.

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