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Dining Out: Mexican Cuisine

Restaurant-Specific Strategies

-- By SparkPeople

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
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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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