Monday, March 24, 2014

How to Find Healthy Options at Tex-Mex Restaurants: Appetizers

Patio season is here and in Dallas/Fort Worth that also means the season of Tex-Mex and margaritas has officially arrived.  But if you're not careful, you can blow your calorie wad on frozen margaritas and chips before you even order your food.

The buzz about "The Tequila Diet" got my little pea brain swirling: how did Tex-Mex get so fatteningly wrong?

Mexican food, at its core, is pretty healthy.  A Mexican diet is full of beautiful produce, seafood and quality meats. Sure there is corn and fried chips but you can forgo them.  I was married in Mexico and actually lost weight the week I was there while enjoying wonderful food from authentic Mexican chefs.  Here is a sampling of what we enjoyed:

Steak, halibut and vegetables

Grilled shrimp with mango salsa

Salad with parmesan crisp
Tex-Mex takes some liberties with cheese and fried items but I am fully convinced that you CAN find healthy Tex-Mex options and avoid a 1200 calorie meal at MOST restaurants if you look and ask nicely.

Let's start with starters 
I get it.  The fried tortilla chips come on the table and before you even order a drink, you have eaten a basket. You don't even want to know how many calories and fat that are in a basket of chips.

Corn Tortillas
Order non-fried corn tortillas to go along with your salsa and use that as your "starter".  If you really MUST have chips, take five (it's a nice simple number - that's the only reason I picked it) and break the chips in half.  Dunk each one in the salsa and savor it.  Eat slowly and you will enjoy the experience even more.

I order guacamole just about every time I eat Tex-Mex.  It's a wonderful starter.  I usually have that along with tortilla soup or a salad at most restaurants.  With your guacamole, employ the same corn tortilla strategy but tear your warm corn tortillas into quarters.  Top each quarter with some guacamole and salsa.  It's a delicious starter.

Want something even more calorie friendly?  Ask for a sliced tomato and enjoy that with your guacamole.  It's better than you think.

Try ceviche.   Fernando's and Mi Cocina both offer great these amazing appetizers.  Mi Cocina's ceviche is a fresh, delicious blend of citrus juices, shrimp, avocado, mango and jicama.  YUM!

Another great starter is the shrimp appetizer so many restaurants serve.  Pepe & Mito's has a nice shrimp cocktail while La Calle Doce makes a delicious shrimp campechana.

Don't like seafood?  Soups are an outstanding option.  A cup of tortilla soup WITHOUT the cheese and tortilla strips is a great starter.  Matt's Rancho Martinez has a veggie laden tortilla soup that has big chunks of carrots and cauliflower.

The Takeaway
There is no problem indulging in nachos, quesadillas and queso occasionally.  As often as we eat Tex-Mex in Dallas/Fort Worth, it's not smart to indulge that way meal after meal.  Making the produce, seafood and lean meats the bulk of your Tex-Mex diet will help keep your weight in check while enjoying the patio, margaritas and people watching.

Wednesday we'll focus on Tex-Mex entrees.

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