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Healthy Tacos – The Reeducation Of Taco Night

Posted Jan 15 2009 11:46pm

I don’t know who is more excited about “taco night” in my house – my kids or my husband. Everything about tacos is fun and festive – the assortment of healthy ingredients, the individualized assembly and for me, most of all, the speed I can throw it all together and serve it up to an eager crowd. When preparing tacos for my family the only tugging concern I have is the overabundance of sodium and preservatives found in commercial brands of taco seasoning.

Before I talk “taco seasoning” any further let me take a quick step back for a second and share with you the dietary guidelines with respect to sodium intake. Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults consume less than 2300mg (that means less than 1 teaspoon) of sodium a day and for children the number is even lower – averaging less than 1500mg a day. With our country's dependence on processed foods it is believed that the average American gets three-fourths of their sodium intake from these types of products. Even more alarming is the average sodium intake in the United States is between 4,000 and 5,000 milligrams of sodium per day, that's more than double the recommended allowance. Too much sodium in our diets can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, fluid retention and kidney stones.

Now back to taco seasoning – with a quick scan of the “popular” taco seasonings I discovered that they had between 430mg and 390mg of sodium per serving. The Ortega brand was by far the highest at 430mg per serving. That means that one serving of prepackaged taco seasoning represents a quarter or more of the daily sodium allowance for a child. This isn’t even taking into account the unhealthy preservatives also found in these processed seasoning packs. I know what you’re thinking, I’ve thought it too. “I’ll just buy the “low-sodium” taco seasoning.” Unfortunately, these seasonings also have too much sodium per serving, not to mention they are still laced with unhealthy preservatives and other artificial ingredients.

My solution is very simple -- MAKE YOUR OWN! Listen to me before you tune me out because it already sounds too complicated. Please believe me -- it is not, in fact, it is sooooo simple and after you read the recipe I guarantee most of you, if not all, already have these ingredients in your pantries or cabinets. One recipe of this seasoning works just like the processed stuff, but tastes a whole lot better and is a whole lot healthier too. Here are the details:

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon each of the following: Cumin, Garlic Powder, Paprika, Oregano and Sugar

  • Mix all ingredients in small bowl.Equals one commercial taco seasoning package.

    In case you need a quick reminder on the taco meat preparation, here is the taco meat recipe I like to follow:

    -Brown 1-1/2 pounds ground turkey
    -Add one grated zucchini (you’re kids won’t even know its there, I promise)
    -Add one 15 oz. can rinsed and drained kidney beans (adds valuable protein and fiber – beans have been proven to reduce cholesterol, risk of cancer and diabetes, among other wondrous things)
    -Add seasoning mix to 2/3 cup liquid. In addition to water I like to include a small can of unsalted tomato sauce – it seems to richen the flavor
    -Add to cooked meat and allow it to thicken a 3-5 minutes
    -Serve with your favorite mix-ins

    Great Mix-Ins

    Shredded Lettuce
    Chopped tomatoes
    Diced avocado
    Low-fat shredded cheese
    Low-fat sour cream
    Hard taco shells or for something a little different soft corn or flour tortillas, warmed

    Believe me – its a weeknight fiesta!

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