The Best Mexican Food for Dieters

Learn to make healthier decisions when you eat in a Mexican restaurant

La Gringa Taqueria
Visit a restaurant that makes fresh, healthy Mexican food. La Gringa Taqueria

Do you crave Mexican food? If you're on a diet you might avoid Mexican restaurants because the calorie and fat content of traditional tex-mex foods can be very high.  But according to Adalis Velez, it doesn't have to be that way.  Velez and partner Henry Fernandez own La Gringa Taqueria in Brooklyn.  They specialize in serving fresh, flavorful foods that will satisfy your cravings without ruining your diet.

  I asked Adalis for advice to help dieters order healthier Mexican food when they dine out.

3 Tips to Avoid Overeating Mexican Food

The first thing that Adelis acknowledged is that it is easy to "binge-eat" Mexican food.  Not only are endless bowls of chips and salsa usually brought to your table, but portion sizes are typically large in many restaurants. To avoid overeating, she suggests these three tips:

  1. Order foods with more flavor.  If you order spicy, flavorful foods, you are more likely to be satisfied with a smaller portion.  So if you can handle the heat, get traditional favorites that are flavored with peppers and spices.
  2. Order a la carte. Skip the platters and combos.  Instead, says Adelis, order single items without the sides.  "Eat one flavorful soft taco with fish," she suggests, "rather than getting the 3 taco meal."
  3. Pack your meal with protein.  Skip the chips and other starchy side dishes. Focus on protein foods for a healthy diet. At La Gringa Taqueria, for example, they make a delicious, grilled tilapia taco that is filling and healthy.

    Foods to Order, Foods to Avoid

    So which menu items are best for dieters?  Adalis recommends that dieters find items that are made with blue corn. "Blue corn is healthier because it has 30% more protein than yellow corn," she says.  She also suggests that dieters add plenty of black beans, onions, and cilantro to their meals.

      "These foods add flavor to help you eat less, they are full of nutrients and black beans are higher in fiber." 

    She also suggests that dieters avoid fried foods. "Choose soft taco shells instead of the hard fried variety and fill your taco with vegetables, grilled fish or chicken," she says. "A small quesadilla is a good option, too," she adds.

    So what about foods to avoid?  "No dieter should eat a burrito," she laughs, "but really, any food can be eaten in moderation, even guacamole."  The calories in guacamole are very high because it is made from fatty avocados.  But they provide a form of fat that can be healthy when eaten in small amounts. "So just eat a small serving," she says.  Adalis blends her guacamole with a very hot salsa to add flavor and minimize the amount that she eats in one sitting.

    Of course, another great way to enjoy healthy Mexican food is to cook it yourself at home. Adalis gave me a great recipe for Blackened Fish Tacos & Chipotle Sauce.  Give it a try or if you are in the New York area, head over to La Gringa at 800 Grand Street in Brooklyn.  The small restaurant is easy to find between Humboldt and Bushwick off the L train.

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