The Healthiest Food At Mexican Restaurants

From Dr. Daryl Gioffre

Burritos, tacos, tortillas…oh my! As deliciously indulgent as it may be, the hearty, traditional fare of Mexico is an acidic nightmare. Before you start planning out your Mexican fiesta, think forth to the inevitable burn in your chest and the bloat in your belly the morning after your feast.

While New York boasts several wholesome options for your Hispanic holiday — Rosa Mexicano (offers mucho gluten-free and vegetarian options), Tacombi (organic and locally produced ingredients in abundance) and Rosie’s (fresh, colorful and authentic), to name a few — dining out can become a diet disaster. No need to cast off your favorite ethnic eats, though. With these simple tips, you can still enjoy your favorite south-of- the-border snacks with all of the flavor and none of the guilt.

1. Hold the meat

Fill your tacos with fajita vegetables, fresh radishes, cilantro (an amazing blood detoxifier!), pico de gallo and lime, all alkaline-approved. While chicken is moderately acidic, beef and pork land high on the acid spectrum, so skip the carnitas and carne asada this time around.

2. Opt for raw avocado

Guac is extra…and that goes for price and acidity (only when loaded with salt and prepared with pre-packaged and possibly processed ingredients at a restaurant). Get your fix with raw avocado for a lighter, “cleaner” option. And save your guacamole craving for mixing up a healthy batch at home.

3. Explore Adzuki

Adzuki beans, a legume with Chinese origins, are not only a complete protein containing more protein than black beans or pinto beans, but are also detoxifying and loaded with fiber that helps balance cholesterol levels. If you’re dining out where adzuki isn’t an option, order whole black beans and steer clear of the F word…“fried” (or refried!).

4. Go green

Even corn in its raw, fresh form is a mildly acidic food, but processing it into the tortilla variety knocks it up a few notches on the what-not-to-eat chart. Even worse are flour tortillas. Often times, restaurants prepare tortillas in excess butter or oil. Opt for lettuce as a fresh and nutritious replacement. Check out this incredible and easy-to-make bean and avocado lettuce cup recipe.

5. Say no to salt on the rim

Go ahead and have your margarita—that’s what the 80/20 balance is all about! Just order it sans salt on the rim. Even reducing your salt intake by the amount that borders your glass will help keep your body balanced and alkalized. ¡Buen provecho!

6. Choose your grains wisely

Remember when building your next burrito bowl that brown rice is better than white, but quinoa is your healthiest bet. Naturally gluten-free and packed with iron, B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin E and fiber, quinoa is a complete alkaline protein that can turn your bowl into a guilt-free superfood (see my burrito bowl recipe here).

7. Never trust an ensalada

Don’t be fooled by the salad options you find at your Mexican haunt. A typical taco salad contains half your recommended daily calories and, often served in crispy tortilla shells and topped with cheese, sour cream and hearty meat, some boast fifty grams of fat or more!

8. Order it on the rocks

They might look like they came straight off the sandy beaches of Mexico, but those tropical frozen margaritas can exceed 500 calories per drink (that’s right: a fourth of your recommended daily calorie intake). Order it on the rocks instead.

9. Add some purple to your plate

While lettuce and cabbage are both low in calories, purple cabbage is filled with additional antioxidants and Vitamin C, higher in fiber than green leaf lettuce (containing 3.9 grams per two cups) and it adds an extra crunch and color to your taco, too.

10. Pass on the marg mix

Use fresh lime juice instead of sugar-loaded margarita mixes. While pre-packaged mixes are often packed with 100+ calories and 20+ grams of sugar (per 4 ounces!), a simple lime marg of the same size is only 30 calories and 2 grams of sugar.

For the best places to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in NYC, see here. Or check out these 5 great margarita recipes.