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Restaurant Dining Guide: Healthy MEXICAN Food Choices

Posted Nov 20 2009 10:01pm
Enjoy dining out? Learn even more healthy eating options with our complete Restaurant Dining Guide!

From tortillas to posole, mariscos to mole, Mexican food is big on taste. Forget the goopy stuff most American Mexican restaurants serve. Real Mexican food is complex, balanced and varied.

While it is true that much of Mexican cuisine is based on corn, you can also savor delicious mariscos, or seafood dishes, that are a specialty of Mexico's coastal cities, or enjoy the stews and complex sauces of Mexico's mountain regions. There is even a specific cuisine of the Mexican desert based on a variety of cactus plants.

But common to all the many regions of Mexico are chilies, an essential ingredient in Mexican cuisine. There are roughly 60 different kinds grown, from mild Anaheims (usually stuffed) to smoky poblanos and fiery serranos, and they may be used fresh or dried. Other flavors components include cumin and coriander, cilantro, tomatillos (resembling tiny green tomatoes in husks and with a tart flavor), Mexican cinnamon and the slightly sweet-crunchy root vegetable called jicama. You will also find pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, added as a crunchy garnish, and quinoa, a grain served as a side dish.

Many Mexican restaurants have wood grills for cooking meats, poultry and fish. Stick to the grilled specialties and you can't go wrong.

Know Your Menu
Posole: A spicy stew, usually of pork, made with hominy, onions, garlic, chilies and spices

Ceviche: Raw seafood marinated in citrus juice

Escabèche: A sweet-and-sour vinegar mixture with aromatic vegetables, spices and hot and sweet peppers; usually used to cook shrimp and other seafood

Tamales: Masa (a kind of dough) enclosing meats, vegetables and chilies, which is then wrapped in corn husks and steamed

Mole: A complex, rich sauce usually served with turkey, chicken and other poultry. It includes sweet and savory ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves, garlic, raisins and chocolate
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At Mexican Restaurants

grilled chicken wings with ranch dressing

Instead of...
chili poppers or chilies rellenos

sopa de albóndigas (meatball and vegetable soup)

Instead of...

jicama salad

Instead of...
beef nachos

grilled pescado special (fresh fish of the day) with grilled vegetables and chilies, or mixedseafood (marisco)

Instead of...
any taco platter

pollo asada (grilled marinated chicken) with pico de gallo salsa

Instead of...
chicken chimichanga

camarónes al ajili (Shrimp in garlic sauce)

Instead of...
shrimp enchilada

grilled skirt steak with onions and chilies

Instead of...
beef burrito

turkey mole

Instead of...
chicken tortilla

-- Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, flautas and chimichangas are all prepared with either a corn or a flour tortilla. It's fine to order these, but be sure to pass on the tortilla wrapper for lower carb diets. In addition, almost every Mexican dish will be accompanied by a heaping plateful of tortillas, just as Italian restaurants serve a breadbasket with meals. Ask your waiter not to bring these to the table.

-- Guacamole, made with nutrient-dense, fiber-rich avocados, is a good start to a meal. Instead of tortilla chips, ask for cucumber or jicama sticks for dipping.

-- If you are past the Induction phase and crave a margarita, ask for a real one made with tequila, lime juice and triple sec. It will be lower in carbs than one made with a sugary sour mix.

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