By Brandon Lee, D.O.M
A Slimmer (but not less tasty!) Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo has become one of the favorite holidays for delicious celebrations in the US and unofficially rings in the beginning of summer. The date that marks the defeat of the French imperialists in the Battle of Puebla in our friendly neighbor to the south is a feast for the taste buds, as numerous delightful Mexican dishes hit the table at your favorite restaurant. And while you may not be in any direct danger from sword-wielding angry Frenchmen, the calories in some of your favorite dishes can certainly spell defeat for your figure. This fifth of May, when you cross the aromatic threshold and take your seat, use these substitution suggestions to help you make the healthier choices on the menu…
Skip the dip…Order the salsa verde!
The famous gringo favorite queso dip is certainly a gut buster, coming in at a whopping 566 calories per cup compared to salsa verde, at only 88 calories per cup. The queso dip is made with cheese (as you probably guessed from channeling that 3rd grade Spanish class), butter, creams and other fattening ingredients whereas the salsa verde, a traditional and authentic Mexican favorite, is made of yummy fresh veggies. Tomatillo, a spicy cousin of the tomato, onion, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro are the principal ingredients, giving you an antioxidant punch and a slight metabolic boost due to the spicy capsaicin. Do yourself a favor and instead of filling yourself with cheese, opt for the spicy and light salsa verde to accompany those chips!
Don’t drown in a smothered burrito…Savor the Carnitas!
The deadliest combination in nutrition is refined carbs with saturated fats. It is a surefire way to torpedo your good health in the long-term and lead to degenerative inflammatory conditions like heart disease and stroke. So instead of ordering the cheesy smothered burritos, which are typically full of rice and more cheese on the inside, ask for the carnitas. Pork carnitas are a dish that, if you haven’t eaten them before, might cause anger that you have been missing out on them all this time. Succulent chucks of pork are slow cooked and seasoned over hours to give them a crispy outside and soft, buttery inside. They are typically served with fresh pico de gallo and other fresh veggies with a side of corn taco tortillas. A great advantage is that you get to decide your meat to tortilla ratio so you can keep the empty calories down, if you even decide to use them at all. You certainly won’t need to add them for flavor!
You’ve already had quesadillas…Try the tacos al pastor!
Quesadillas are so synonymous with Americans that in most restaurants in Mexico they are called “gringas”. The recipe is simple: two flour tortillas cooked with cheese and some form of meat, usually shredded chicken. That may be appetizing for someone who typically orders from the kids menu but it is time to expand your taste buds. The combo also offers very little nutritionally apart from the lean protein from the chicken. Tacos al pastor permeate Mexican street vendors and restaurants like nothing else. They are as tied to Mexican cuisine as hotdogs to American. And not only are they finger licking good, they are pretty healthy to boot. Lean pork that is cooked over a flame in a combination chili sauce, served with fresh onions, cilantro, pineapple (optional for newcomers) and a touch of salsa verde make the perfect combination of flavors that will dance on your tongue and delight your senses. That is why you can’t get 5 feet away from your house in Mexico without coming across them!
All in all Cinco de Mayo is a holiday for celebrating. Mexican culture is very happy and celebratory and while their historic victory is not ours, it doesn’t mean we can’t join them in the festivities. It is a great holiday that celebrates the defeat of imperialist expansion, and you can celebrate the defeat of the expansion of your waistline by making these substitutions.