Healthy Mexican

“The Healthy Gourmet”

April 29, 2010


Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is heartily celebrated in the US.  Early May is usually the start of consistently nice weather, so what better way to enjoy a great day than with some Mexican food and beer?  Interestingly, Cinco de Mayo is not that big a Mexican holiday, being celebrated mainly in the state of Pueblo because the Mexican army had a win over French forces in Pueblo on May 5, 1862.  So much for the history lesson; now let’s look at some yummy Mexican food that is good for you too!

Most Mexican restaurants in our area serve more of a “Tex-Mex” style food, which uses lots of cheese, tortilla chips served with salty salsa, and many “bad” fats.  It tastes pretty good, but we all know that kind of Mexican food is a caloric splurge that we can’t/shouldn’t afford too often.

But Mexican food has another side to it, one that you can easily enjoy at home – and often!  This type of Mexican food capitalizes on the nutritional benefits of Mexican staples like corn, beans, tomatoes, and peppers, combined with the great tastes of lime, cilantro, and garlic.  You can substitute fried taco shells for a more authentic Mexican taco using fresh (soft) corn tortillas which are low in fat and made with whole grains.  Throw in some other great ingredients like seafood, mango, pineapple, avocado, and jicama and now we’re talking yummy healthy Mexican food!

Here are some recipes that offer great taste for “affordable” caloric and fat intake, plus they are easy and fast to make.  So start the fiesta — and don’t forget the cerveza!!

Mexican Pineapple Salad                              Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 (3-pound) pineapple, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pound jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 (7-to 8-ounce) avocado, cut into cubes
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  1. Toss together all ingredients with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Calories                                305

Fat                                          12g

Saturated Fat                     1.7g

Sodium                                8 mg

Shrimp Ceviche (recipe from Emeril Lagasse)         Serves 8 (about ½ cup each)

Poaching Liquid:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt


  • 1 pound raw shrimp (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber (1/4-inch dice)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup diced seeded tomato
  • 1 avocado, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro leaves, plus more leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Combine water and 1/4 cup salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp and immediately turn off the heat. Let the shrimp sit until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
  2. Chop the shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a medium nonreactive bowl (see Tip). Add lemon, lime and orange juice. Stir in cucumber, onion and chiles. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Stir tomato, avocado, chopped cilantro, oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the shrimp mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.


Calories                                 189

Fat                                          12g

Saturated Fat                     2g

Sodium                                 229mg


Spicy Soft Chicken Tacos                              Serves 4 (2 tacos in each serving)

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup prepared hot salsa, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Sliced scallions, 1 -2 chopped fresh tomatoes, and 4 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream, all for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Wrap tortillas in foil and bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, season chicken with salt. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat until very hot. Add chicken and cook, stirring until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to skillet. Add onion and cook, stirring, until they start to brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Add bell pepper, garlic, jalapeño and cumin. Cook, stirring, until peppers are bright green but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  4. Stir in salsa and reserved chicken. Cook, stirring, until chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Spoon into warmed tortillas and garnish with scallions, tomatoes and sour cream.

Calories                                 303

Fat                                          6g

Saturated Fat                     1g

Sodium                                 421mg