I’m going to use Cinco de Mayo – a gorgeous opportunity in my mind to enjoy all that Mexican flavors have to offer – to remind us all about the important balance between indulgence and portion control. There is room in your everyday diet to enjoy some of the best Mexican-influenced fare, including tequila, guacamole and tortillas. If you are mostly eating healthfully and making good choices with your nutrition, lifestyle and exercise, there is room to celebrate with food on occasion. I’m going to help you make sure these are conscious indulgences that make you feel good about your food choices, rather than overwhelmed and regretful. Having a plan can be an amazing tool – practice it when you celebrate Mexico’s independence this Cinco de Mayo.
Let’s start with the libations. The first thing that leaps to my mind when talking about Mexican food is a beautiful Margarita with a salty rim and sassy lime. (Bring on the sand, the surf and the hot sun). Whether frozen, on the rocks or straight up, a Margarita is generally made up of tequila, triple sec, lime and sometimes sugar. The calorie content varies, depending if yours is served in a small glass or giant bucket-like-glass and how much sugar is used. Be careful; calories can range from 160 to over 300. Tequila comes from the agave plant and is known for its sweetness and kick. While it has some benefits, including relaxing effects, cholesterol lowering properties and digestive aid properties, one tequila-based drink should do the trick. If you plan to indulge in a cocktail, leave off the salt (who needs the water retention side effects?). Or, if you’re like me and cannot give up the salt, try adding a splash of cayenne pepper to your salt rim to boost the health properties. Also, use fresh lime to boost the tartness and increase the freshness and nutrition of the cocktail. Choose a small glass option and sip slowly and remember to order a glass of water or seltzer with your drink.
Cocktail conquered, let’s move onto the second potential danger zone. Are those tortilla chips on the table your absolute downfall? Understood. They are crunchy, salty and delicious vehicles for the salsa, guacamole and bean dip! The nutritional contribution is going to be small – an ounce (about 15 chips) is approximately 140 calories in the commercially prepared version, with not much to offer besides calories and fat. Homemade and restaurant chips tend to be even higher in both. If you simply must (and I understand), do not feel guilt. Say out loud “I am having 5 chips.” Put 5 chips on your plate and really, slowly, deliberately enjoy them. I know it may sound like a small amount, but sip, bite, and chat slowly and you will be satisfied until the main dish comes. You do not need to eat the chips out of the basket or go back for seconds! If it is in your power to turn down the basket, before it hits the table, you will feel so good being proud of yourself that you won’t even miss the crunch.
Finally we get to the guacamole: a delicious buttery, verdant, delectable avocado-based dip with cilantro, onions, lime and just a perfect pinch of salt. While avocados are high in fat, they are full of those good cholesterol lowering fats and loaded with gorgeous nutrition in the form of potassium, vitamin A, B vitamins and more. There are approximately 25 calories in a tablespoon and a tablespoon can be really satisfyingly stretched.
See?! I have you consciously indulging in a margarita with 5 restaurant-made chips and a tablespoon of guacamole. You can still have an entrée salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, radishes and 3 oz grilled chicken, shrimp or steak, dressed with vinegar as an entree. Ole!
Decadent and indulgent, enjoy your Cinco de Mayo with portion control and a plan. You will feel both satisfied and on track. Salud!