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Try one or all of these tasty low-fat, low-calorie toppings on your next taco or burrito
So you think eating healthy means you cant enjoy Mexican food? Think again. These five toppings for Mexican food not only taste great, but theyre also excellent, nutrient-packed additions to any healthy diet.
Whats a taco or burrito without a generous helping of salsa on top? The good news is this delicious mix of onions, tomato, garlic, chilies and lime juice is not only low in calories and fat, but also a nutritional powerhouse, combining four of the most antioxidant-rich foods available in one dish. Salsa has actually surpassed catsup as Americas favorite condiment. In 2007, salsa outsold catsup by $175 million dollars according to research firm ACNielsen.
Fresh salsa or pico de gallo is your best bet since it tends to be lower in sodium than canned or bottled versions, and it adds a fresh twist to your Mexican food. But in a pinch, the jarred versions will work just fine. Salsa is the ultimate convenience condiment, but remember you can also make your own salsa at homewith just a few ingredients. Its almost always superior to the pre-prepared store-bought salsa in taste and nutritional value.
Two tablespoons of ready-to-serve, store-bought salsa contains 9 calories, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 198 milligrams of sodium, 2.1 grams of carbs, 0.5 grams of protein and 98 mg of potassium. Fresh salsa or pico de gallo will generally have less sodium. (Source: Calorie King.com)
Quark, a creamy, central European cheese that is gaining popularity in the United States is the perfect substitute for sour cream on all kinds of Mexican foods. Ounce-for-ounce its lower in fat and calories than even low fat or fat free sour cream, and triple the protein. Its consistency is also very similar to even full fat sour cream, and it tastes much richer than the nutrition label indicates. People who dislike plain low fat yogurt as a sour cream substitute often find quark to be a more satisfying alternative.
Plain Low Fat Yogurt or Greek Yogurt
Plain yogurts have been a long-time substitute for sour cream among people who are trying to eat more healthy. While yogurts arent quite as thick as sour cream and can have a more acidic taste, many people love using yogurt instead of sour cream on tacos, salads, nachos and burritos. Youll also want to seek out Greek-style yogurts, which are thicker than traditional yogurt and have a flavor more similar to sour cream. Some nationally-available brands include Fage and Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt.
In terms of calories and nutrition, Greek yogurts are pretty close to quark. A 4 oz. serving of Fage Total 0% contains 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams of protein.
Even better, most yogurts are better digested than sour cream by people who are lactose-intolerant. And all yogurts provide a healthy dose of probiotics likeLactobacillus strains to keep your digestive system humming.
Feta cheese on Mexican food? Absolutely.
Actually, feta cheese is very close to a dry, white cheese used in frequently in traditional Mexican cooking called queso fresco. Queso fresco can be hard to find in your local grocer (and it doesnt typically come in a low-fat version), so low-fat, or fat-free Feta makes for a great stand-in. President Cheese makes a great fat-free feta that is available in many grocery stores, but there are other brands available as well.
If you cant find fat-free feta, go ahead an splurge a bit on the full-fat or reduced-fat version. Fetas are naturally lower in fat than most other cheeses, and if you are choosing your other ingredients well, you can afford the additional calories and fat in the feta.
One ounce of regular feta has 75 calories, 6 grams of fat, 25 mg of cholesterol, 1.2 grams of carbs, 317 mg of sodium and 4 grams of protein. The fat-free version has 30 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 450 mg of sodium, 2 grams of carbs and 6 grams of protein.
The only downside to feta is its sodium content, which tends to be significantly higher than other cheeses like cheddar. If sodium is concern for you, you may want to avoid feta and instead substitute a low-fat or 2% cheddar, which has 1/3 of the sodium of feta.
Hot sauces are typically made from chilies, vinegar and other ingredients and are a great, healthy way to boost the flavor of Mexican dishes without adding any meaningful calories or fat.
They are also loaded with capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers and a compound that scientists are exploring as a treatment for a number of cancers. There is also research being conducted on capsaicin consumption and reduced risk of certain cancers, since people from regions with high chili consumption have much lower rates of stomach, intestinal and colon cancer compared to the United States.
Afraid of the heat? Dont be. Hot sauces dont have to burn the taste-buds off your tongue, they come in different degrees of heat, from mild to wild to scorching hot. They also come in a wide-range of flavors, including smoky chipotle, green jalapeno, and even exotic flavors like mango, raspberry and carrot (which are often used to add flavor and mellow out the chilies.)
A couple of great options for Mexican food include Cholula, Bufalo, Tapatio, and my personal favorite, Tabasco Green Pepper sauce, which makes a perfect dressing for taco salads.
The Takeaway: Have Your Mexican and Eat Healthy Too
Remember, the #1 Healthy Habit of Highly Fit People is that they eat and they eat well. By choosing ingredients like low-carb tortillas, heart and fitness healthy fillings, and nutritionally-smart toppings you can eat Mexican food every day and still stay in shape. Better yet, youll still be able to enjoy your food and eat healthy.