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Dining Out: Mexican Cuisine

Characteristics:

In the United States, these dishes come in huge portions. If you’re not careful, you can easily consume a full day’s worth of calories in a single meal. Dishes are often fried with lard and topped with cheese. Most dishes are combined with several other items to create large platters.
Common Ingredients:

Mexican cuisine is loaded with potential calorie landmines, from cheese and sour cream to crispy tortilla shells and guacamole. Staples include great sources of complex carbohydrates and protein like rice and beans, along with tomatoes, fresh fish, corn, beef and poultry.
Hidden Dangers:
  • Many restaurants still make their refried beans with lard.
  • Guacamole is usually very high in calories.
  • Taco salads can carry more than 1,000 calories. Most of the ingredients inside the salad are usually healthy, but extra condiments, cheese, beef and a calorie-laden tortilla shell can sabotage your meal.
  • Avoid deep-fried entrees like Chile Rellenos, Chimichangas, and Flautas.
  • The fish in Fish Tacos is usually breaded and fried. Try to get grilled instead.
  • Watch for these words:
    • Chorizo (Mexican sausage)
    • Con Queso (with cheese)
    • Rellenos (stuffed, usually with cheese)
    • Combination (usually a supersized portion)
    • Crispy (fried, especially taco shells)
    • Plato Gordo (fat plate)
  • Cheese Quesadilla: 900 calories
  • Paella a la Valenciana: 900 calories, 42g fat
  • Refried Beans (Frijoles): 640 calories per cup
  • Nachos: 800 calories and as much as 65g fat
  • Cheese Enchiladas: 980 calories
  • Chicken Tostada: 935 calories


Healthy Finds:
  • Look for baked dishes, like enchiladas, burritos and tamales. Make sure to order with light or no cheese.
  • Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup with green peppers and cucumber. It’s fat-free, full of vitamin C and beta carotene, and only has 60 calories.
  • Salsa is packed with vitamins A and C, no fat, and is low in calories.
  • Fajitas (stir-fried meat and lots of veggies, with steamed tortillas)
  • Ceviche (fish or shrimp cocktail marinated in citrus, sometimes with tomato and avocado)
  • Mole Sauce
  • Chile Verde (pork simmered with veggies and green chiles)
  • Arroz Con Polo (chicken with rice)
  • Look for these words:
    • Asada (grilled)
    • Verde (green)
    • Picante (tomato sauce)
    • Nopales (cactus pads)
    • Chayote or Jicama (starchy vegetables)
    • Veracruz-style (tomato sauce)
  • Chicken Fajitas: 200 calories and 7g fat
  • Tortilla Soup: 240 calories
  • Black Bean Soup: 180 calories, 5g fat
  • Serviche: 150 calories, 5g fat
  • Shrimp Taco: 320 calories, 19g fat
  • Clams Marinera: 330 calories, 16g fat
  • Arroz Abanda (fish with rice): 340 calories, 8g fat

The Big Tip:

Keep it simple and order a la carte from the menu. Pass up the combination platters, which are usually more than one person can eat, and piled with sour cream, guacamole, fried food and cheese. OR, you can make an entire meal out of healthy side items, such as beans, rice, vegetables and salsa.
Substitition Ideas:

 Try This Skip That
Mexican rice Refried beans
Steamed "soft" shells Fried "hard" shells
Salsa Sour cream
Enchilada Chimichanga
Jicama & salsa Chips & salsa
Pinto or Black beans Refried beans
Whole-wheat tortillas Corn-flour tortillas
Baked Tortilla chips Fried Tortilla chips
Picante sauce Cheese sauce
Fajita Quesadilla
Guava, papaya, and mango Fried ice cream

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Member Comments

We go out every Friday to our favorite Mexican place, the owners are from Jalisco.
There's probably 100+ Mexican restaurants in my local area. I love chicken fajitas but hoya (whole) beans don't have as much flavor (the refried ones are now done w/ veg shortening) & the rice is made w/ white so I skip the rice entirely & enjoy my frijoles. I eat corn tortillas when I do have them but I don't want the same food each time. Regular size bean or beef tostadas, carnitas burritos, chili verde and no sour cream for me. I ask for guacamole & extra black olives w/ my pico de guillo. Sometimes I get a garden salad to take home for later, or have that w/ grilled chicken, fish or shrimp as my entree w/ salsa for dressing. Only then do I have a few (10-12) chips. Still if I want a chile relleno then I get it for lunch, eat salad for dinner, & walk more. I may live only on vegetables or soup for two days but I won't give up my favorite foods.
( Of course it helps that spaghetti is now on squash instead! LOL)
The other good choices are huevos (eggs) on crisp corn tortillas w/ rancheros (tomato) sauce or machaca that is shredded beef cooked w/ diced peppers often served mixed into scrambled eggs. Some places serve these breakfasts all day.
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On day 3 and really craving Mexican. This was good to help me make better choices! Thanks! Report
Mexican food is a good meal and oh, so filling as it is one of my favorites. I offset my refried beans as it just goes with my meals. Good education and thank you, SparkFriend. Report
sounds good Report
Love Mexican food every now and then. Report
Two words: Vegetable. Fajitas! Report
Good article. Report
I love Mexican food. Here, in Texas, it's practically required! But I have learned to tone it down. The article has good advice. Report
Now I want to go to dinner. Good information. Report
ELRIDDICK
Thanks for sharing Report
great info, extremely helpful Report
Great Ideas! Mexican is my favorite cuisine. Report
Great information here. I have a huge weakness for Mexican food, however, I can still have it without feeling deprived. I like someones comment about counting out the chips before hand so they don't over indulge. Report
FOXGLOVE999
Where I live fajitas are not found at Mexican Restaurants, only Tex-mex or fusion. Report