Eating Out the Healthy Weigh: Mexican

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The food police — otherwise knows as The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) — are at it again. This time they tackled another of American’s favorite foods, Mexican cuisine. Consider this: CSPI sent some of the menu items from the new Chipotle fast food restaurant chain off to a laboratory for analysis since the calories were not available from the company. The results might make you hotter than jalapeño salsa! A typical chicken burrito from Chipotle registered approximately 1,000 calories, the vegetarian burrito was 1,120 calories, and the pork came in at 1,130 calories!

Mexican food by nature can be a trap for calories, fat, and sodium. The fried tortilla chips, high-fat meats, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, refried beans, and deep-fried combo dishes can really pack on the pounds. So what’s a heart — these nutritious nuggets are loaded with fiber, complex carbohydrate (the good kind), protein, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Load up on these foods to help fill you up.

  • Ask for low-fat sour cream and if unavailable, use sour cream sparingly.
  • Choose corn and whole-wheat tortillas over flour tortillas because they have fewer calories, less fat, and more fiber. Six-inch tortillas will help you keep your calorie intake under control.
  • Mexican rice is often made with tomatoes and very little, if any, fat. At Rubio’s, they offer a rice with “Healthmex” items for only 110 calories.
  • The only way to be sure you are getting healthy food that fits into your eating plan is to check out the nutritional profiles of the foods. Many restaurants have this information compiled and will provide it upon request. Others send you to their web site. My advice is to check it out before you go and make a plan — select the items that are the most nutritious that also fit into your eating plan. Some restaurants, like Rubio’s, have “Better Bite” entrees that have no more than 5 grams of fat per serving. At Taco Bell you can now select the “Fresco” option, which substitutes more veggies and salsa for the sour cream and cheese. At La Salsa, the “Mexico City” versions of dishes have no cheese. Baja has its “Baja” style that is lighter in calories.

    The great news is that restaurants across the nation are lightening up their cuisine in an effort to help stem the tide of obesity. The bad news is that the large portions of heavily laden calorie and fat offerings continue to sell. You can still have your Mexican “fix,” however, as long as it comes from the lighter side.