Holy Guacamole! My Tex-Mex Has What?
If you’ve been in Texas for long, you’ve likely worshiped at the shrine of queso on many occasions, you know that the frozen margarita machine was invented in Dallas and you can find the perfect avocados for guacamole in a grocery store without skipping a beat.
But if you’ve recently embarked on a mission to eat more healthfully, you may be thinking you are going to have to skip all of your favorite haunts. But is that so? Is it possible to eat well and eat Tex-Mex?
To start, we turned to a local Tex-Mex chain, Mattitos. The restaurant decided to take a look last year and posted some of its findings on its blog.
First off, that margarita. It can vary wildly from 163 calories to a whopping 500 calories. Why the difference?
“A typical margarita cocktail will provide you with about 163 calories,” the restaurant wrote. “Be aware however that some ‘sweet’ margaritas can pack up to 500 calories in one serving.”
Some of the lighter items you will find on a typical Tex-Mex restaurant menu include:
- One hard taco with ground beef, cheese and lettuce — 156 calories
- One soft chicken taco with cheese and lettuce — 185 calories
- Chicken fajitas without tortillas — about 360 calories per one-skillet serving
- Two bean burritos without cheese — 447 calories
Some of the heavy hitters:
- One cup (a typical side serving) of refried beans — 397 calories
- Two beef burritos with cheese — 632 calories
- Two beef and cheese enchiladas — 646 calories
As any Texan will tell you, your trip to your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant always starts with chips — chips that are deep fried and endless.
“Here is my tip on chips — I always tell people to get a handful and put them on that tiny plate they always give you. When you finish that handful, get another handful,” said Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian with Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine Fort Worth. “Finishing that tiny plate will help your brain register that, and then signal that you’re full, as opposed to just eating chip after chip from the basket.”
Goodson, who also serves as the sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers, FC Soccer Dallas, the Jim McClean Golf School, Texas Christian University Athletics and University of Texas at Arlington Athletics, says that if you stick with guacamole or salsa and limit your servings of chips, you’ve made a better choice.
“Dip the chips in salsa or guacamole, and try to avoid queso,” she said. And although guacamole can add about 17 calories to each chip, “guacamole is a healthy fat — queso is full of saturated fats.”
When it comes to entrees, “avoid anything fried, or anything that has a creamy or cheesy sauce,” Goodson said. “Creamy sauces usually get people into trouble.”
You can also make substitutions to bring the calorie and fat count down, Goodson added, by choosing corn tortillas instead of flour, substituting cheesy or creamy sauces with tomatillo sauces or salsas, and swapping the refried beans and rice for charro beans or black beans.
Out of everything on the menu, one item is the healthiest choice, Goodson said. “Fajitas are your best option — with corn tortillas or no tortillas,” she said. “It’s grilled meat, veggies and a little bit of cheese, which is actually very healthy.”
Grilled fish, chicken and lean cuts of beef are good choices for proteins in that fajita.
“The biggest issues with eating Tex-Mex at a restaurant are the portion sizes and the fats,” Goodson said. She suggested sharing plates with friends to implement some portion control or taking part of the meal home for later.
“And you can also pick or choose,” she said. “I tell people a lot that they can have those two or three handfuls of chips and eat their fajitas without tortillas, stir-fry style, or they can skip the chips and have the fajitas with corn tortillas.”