Mexican food for the health conscious

Not all Mexican dishes are high in fat and calories. There are many healthy choices.

Some Mexican dishes are high in fat and calories, nevertheless, there are other Mexican recipes and preparation methods that are healthy, no doubt about it. We just need to discover which ones.

Mexican food has the reputation for being high fat and high calorie. Some of that reputation may be deserved. A single beef and cheese chimichanga is about 445 calories and is high in sodium and fat. Even a small taco is around 400 calories and can be high in fat, especially when laden with sour cream.

But there are many Mexican dish choices, and methods of preparation, that will provide lots of taste yet still rank high on the health meter. Mexican food covers a very wide array and there are many choices that are low carb, or low fat, or low in calories, often all three.

Salsa, for example, is a very high nutrition sauce. Primarily carrots and tomatoes, it's rich in vitamins A and C, very low in fat and extremely tasty. Even crispy tortilla chips can be low fat and low calorie when baked instead of fried. They can still be very flavorful when dipped in the right sauce and corn is a great source of thiamin, folate and other valuable nutrients.

Chiles play a prominent role in Mexican cuisine and there is much more to them than just a high heat sensation. They contain phytochemicals that supply valuable anti-oxidants and are rich in vitamin C, B6 and others. And, consumed without the addition of oil, they are low fat and almost zero calories.

But, even main dishes can still provide plenty of nutritional value while being low in fat and calories.

Seafood, for example, is the main ingredient in a huge number of Mexican dishes. Ceviche is a traditional part of Mexican cuisine. It's similar to Japanese sushi in that the ingredients are consumed raw. Those ingredients may be lobster, shrimp or fish that are marinated in citrus fruits. The acid cures the meat to give it a less 'raw fish' taste than sushi and nothing could be healthier. They're rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Even the traditional Northern Mexico burrito can be turned into a healthy meal with only a modest amount of thoughtful substitution. Instead of lathering it with heavy sour cream, use a low fat variety. You'll rarely notice a big difference in taste. Instead of fat-laden ground beef, substitute soy. Use low-sodium and low-fat cheese. The result will still be highly tasty.

Many Mexican drinks can be high in calories, but that is also an easy problem to solve.

Rompope is a delicious rum-based drink often served as an after dinner liqueur. Made with egg yolks, sugar and milk it can really add on the calories. But using a sugar substitute can eliminate half of them with a barely perceptible difference in taste. Using low fat milk won't spoil the drink, either.

There are many creative ways to still enjoy the great taste of fine Mexican food while avoiding unwanted calories. With smart choices you can get all the great health benefits without the penalty.