Thursday, July 21

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Howdy, from the Lone Star state!

Texas has never been my favorite place. It’s hot (currently 100 degrees), dusty, flat and enormous. Once inside its borders there’s nothing but cattle, cowboys, oil and heat for 270,000 square miles. (That’s six times bigger than Virginia.) And unfortunately, escaping to greener pastures isn’t an option. With neighbors like Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, well, you might as well stay put.

It’s not all bad of course. Dallas is a shopper’s mecca. You can’t drive 100 feet without encountering a mall. And the Texans’ affinity for guns and God has always intrigued me. They practice their faith and their shooting skills with equal amounts of passion.

But my favorite thing about Texas is the fabulous Mexican cuisine. Good Mexican food uses chilies, limes, cumin, coriander, cilantro, and garlic to spice things up, creating a delicious combination of flavors. 

In celebration of my Texas vacation, here are some tips for making your next Mexican dining experience tasty and healthy.

Switch the chips
I know. The chips and salsa are one of the best parts of the meal. But the chips are loaded with empty calories and it’s impossible to eat just a few. Instead order some guacamole and ask for some cucumber or jicama sticks for dipping. You’ll benefit from the nutrient-dense fiber-rich avocados and never miss the chips. Just watch your portion size, guacamole is high in calories.

Skip the margarita
A typical restaurant margarita can pack a whopping 550 calories (as much as a Big Mac). If you’d like to splurge ask the bartender for a real one, made with tequila, lime juice and triple sec, not one from a mix. Or choose a light beer instead. Corona Light has only 105 calories.

Think outside the tortilla
Move away from the familiar tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, flautas and chimichangas. These dishes are all prepared with flour or corn tortillas (a diet buster!). Instead look for grilled options like pollo asada (grilled marinated chicken) with pico de gallo salsa or grilled skirt steak with onions and chilies. Fajitas are a good choice too, just pass on the tortillas and eat the ingredients.

Switch sides
Refried beans are typically cooked with lard adding a lot of fat and calories. Switch out the traditional refried beans and rice for black beans or a side salad.

Salsa is your friend
Packed with tomatoes and chilies salsa is a great condiment. And with only four or five calories in a tablespoon it’s diet-friendly too. Use it instead of sour cream, guacamole and cheese to add some kick to your dish.

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