Cinco de Mayo Without Sinking Your Diet

Margaritas. Nachos. Tacos. Enchiladas. All delicious things one might indulge in to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. But are they all that healthy? Is there a way to celebrate without the gut bomb?

In a word, yes. It just takes some clever substitutions and portion control, says Denice Taylor, a registered dietitian with Texas Health Arlington. And cooking at home is a great way to be able to create a healthy Cinco de Mayo feast for your family and friends without a whole lot of sacrifice.

“You can substitute any of the dairy you might find in those entrees—swap out the sour cream for nonfat sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt, and choose nonfat cheese,” Taylor says. She also recommends swapping out refried beans for black beans.

“And you can also cut back on the cheese and double the beans in your meal—adding more beans will give the dish more fiber,” she adds.

In fact, the dietitian has a general rule of thumb for substituting. “When making a healthy substitution, think of foods that would give it more fiber, vitamins and minerals, and less fat,” she says.

And while avocado is a good fat, Taylor says it’s still fat—loading up on it isn’t a great idea. “When you’re adding avocado, make sure you think about portion control,” she says.

And ditch the heavy, fatty cream sauces, cheese sauces, and ground beef in those tacos and nachos in favor of leaner sources of protein. “Lean ground turkey, lean ground chicken, egg whites, grilled chicken, beans, and fish that isn’t fried are great protein options,” Taylor recommends.

And what about those ooey, gooey deliciously cheesy enchiladas? Taylor says you can dial back a little on the cheese and add other ingredients to make them filling yet healthier. “With enchiladas, decrease the amount of cheese, and increase the black beans,” she says. “They don’t have to be so gooey.”

And fajitas—especially chicken fajitas—are also a very healthy choice. One serving without tortillas is about 360 calories, and if you make nonfat substitutions for the cheese and sour cream, it could be even lower. But Taylor reiterates that you don’t have to skip the tortillas—just keep in mind what a serving is.

“Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates,” she says. “One to two tortillas is a serving size.”

Cooking at home, Taylor says, means you have more control over how your meal is cooked, and what ingredients go into it.

“If you’re cooking at home, people can substitute brown rice instead of white rice, and use nonstick pans to avoid using too much fat or oil,” she says. “A good trend may be eating at home more often, and being able to control the ingredients.”

And what about that margarita? Do you have to give it up completely? “Alcohol does increase the calories,” Taylor says. “With any alcoholic drink, consider a smaller size. Skip the salt.”

In fact, the average margarita can vary from 163 calories to a whopping 500 calories, depending on how sweet it is, according to the Tex-Mex restaurant Mattito’s.

Want a completely meat-free, healthy option? Our Ornish-approved cardiac rehab team offers this Tex-Mex Tortilla Pie that is filling, delicious and healthy.

Tex-Mex Tortilla Pie

Serves 8. Serving size: one wedge.

250 calories per serving, 4 grams of fat

Two yellow onions, chopped

2 cups fresh poblano peppers, seeds and stems removed, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped or minced garlic

1 ½ tablespoons cumin, divided

1 teaspoon dried oregano, divided

½ cup water

1 14.5-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

1 15-ounce can no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup yellow corn, fresh or frozen (thawed)

1 teaspoon chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus more to taste

⅓ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon lime juice

5 10-inch whole wheat tortillas

1 24-ounce jar low fat, low sodium marinara sauce, 2 ½ cups

1 cup nonfat mozzarella cheese, grated, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In a 12-inch heavy bottomed sauté pan, combine onions, peppers, garlic, ¾ teaspoon of cumin, ½ tsp dried oregano, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and water has evaporated; about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes (including juice), beans corn, and chipotles. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid evaporates; about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Stir in the remaining cumin and oregano, and add the cilantro and lime juice. Taste for seasoning. Using a large spoon or potato masher, mash the mixture roughly, so it will stick together and be easy to spread.

Measure out one cup of marinara sauce and place in a small bowl. To assemble the pie, place one tortilla in the center of the prepared baking sheet. Using the marinara in the bowl, spread 3 tablespoons over the tortilla. Spread one cup of the bean mixture evenly over the tortilla, making sure to reach the edges.

Top with a second tortilla, spread with 3 more tablespoons of marinara, and one more cup of bean mixture. Repeat with two more tortillas, for a total of four layers.

Top with the remaining tortilla, and spread the remaining marinara over the top. Sprinkle cheese over the top, if desired. Bake until golden brown on top and warmed all the way through, about 15 to 20 minutes. To ensure that the cheese is golden brown, you may need to increase the oven temperature to broil for the last two to three minutes.

While the pie is baking, take the remaining 1 ½ cups marinara sauce and warm in a sauce pan. When the pie is ready, pick up both sides of the parchment and transfer the pie to a cutting board. Slice into 8 wedges. Serve each portion with 2 to 3 tablespoons of warm marinara on top.

Garnish with cilantro.

1 Comment

  • Beth Arseneau says:

    Excellent article! Denice Taylor is an Amazing Dietician and has helped countless numbers of patients and their families. We are very blessed to work with her at THAM!!

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