Get your sombreros ready, Cinco de Mayo is here. Americans have strongly embraced the holiday that celebrates Hispanic culture, as well as the Mexican military’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Delicious food and lots of margaritas help fuel the celebration, but Mexican eats traditionally have a reputation for being fatty and high carb. However, there are plenty of healthy choices for everyone, including people with diabetes. Here are 8 tips for a healthy Cinco de Mayo.
1. Black Beans Instead of Refried
Refried beans are typically made with lard or bacon fat – not the best choice for high cholesterol-prone people with diabetes. Many Mexican restaurants offer types of beans, like whole, seasoned black beans. Black beans are high in antioxidants, fiber, and many minerals. Not only are they a great companion for entrees like tamales and quesadillas, they may help keep blood sugar steady.
2. Chicken or Fish Instead of Beef
The American Heart Association recommends limiting red meat and substituting chicken or fish. In general, beef dishes contain more cholesterol and heart-clogging saturated fats. Chicken and veggie quesadillas are satisfying and, if you haven’t had grilled fish tacos, you should try them. Many people who don’t like fish enjoy fish tacos. If you’re celebrating at home, try Salmon Tacos with Kale, Collards, and Lemon Vinaigrette or Shrimp Avocado Tostadas. (Both are gluten-free too.)
3. Corn Tortillas Instead of Flour
Opting for corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas will add more fiber to your meal. They are also slightly smaller which will mean fewer carbs and calories. Corn tortillas aren’t as soft and fluffy as flour tortillas, but they taste great and are more nutritionally rich so it’s worth the trade. If you’re preparing a Cinco de Mayo feast at home, try making your own Homemade Corn Tortillas or Homemade Corn Tortillas with Greens.
4. Eat More Salsa or Guacamole Than Chips
It is hard to say no to light, flaky chips…especially when they are free. If you decide to eat them, break them into smaller pieces to consume them slowly and load them up with salsa or guacamole. Salsa is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that can be beneficial to blood sugar. Homestyle or chunky guacamole is brimming with heart healthy fats and other healthy veggies like onions. (If you’re watching your sodium intake, chips and dip may not be a good choice.) Sorry, cheese dip doesn’t count! Cooking at home? Try Mango Guacamole served with celery and carrot sticks.
5. Replace Fatty Toppings with Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo (aka salsa fresca) consists of tomatoes, onions, lime juice and cilantro, making it a tasty topping. Smother tacos and nachos with this veggie-based sauce and cut back (or even eliminate) cheese and sour cream. Cilantro is especially beneficial for diabetics. According to the Global Healing Center, cilantro may prevent cardiovascular damage, detox the body, and lower blood sugar.
6. Enjoy a Real Margarita
Margaritas can be a terrible choice for people with diabetes when they are made with a sugary mix. But if they are prepared correctly, they simply contain tequila, lime juice and lower glycemic agave nectar. If it’s okay with your health care provider that you occasionally consume alcohol, ask your waitress or bartender how they make their margaritas. Don’t get carried away with Cinco de Mayo festivities and overconsume, however. Too much alcohol can cause big problems. Hosting a Cinco de Mayo party? Serve Virgin Bloody Marys with Shrimp for Mexican flavors plus a boost of protein. Line the rims of your glasses with salt and chili powder.
7. Be Leery of the Taco Salad
Salads are very sneaky diet disruptors, often containing high fat dressings and meats, an overabundance of cheese, and very few vegetables. Mexican salads often feature an additional unhealthy touch – a big, fried, flour tortilla bowl. You may want to steer clear of these salads and go for something else that has a lot of veggies, like the chicken soup or fajitas without the tortillas. If you’re cooking at home, try Tortilla Soup with Roasted Vegetables.
8. Skip Dessert
Sopapillas, fried ice cream, and churros are amazing, but they are all loaded with sugar. It might be best to bail on indulging while you’re out and treat yourself when you get home instead. For example, lightly brush a whole wheat tortilla with olive oil and dust with a tiny bit of raw sugar and cinnamon. Bake in the oven until crispy, then add a very light drizzle of honey and top with TruWhip. Or do something fun and have Strawberry Gazpacho in shot glasses for dessert.
Mexican food can actually be pretty healthy. Be mindful and use common food sense when you enjoy the festivities of Cinco De Mayo. You can celebrate a colorful culture and good health too!
¡Tener un feliz y saludable Cinco de Mayo!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic who has been educating herself about health and wellness for 14 years. She has been an Emergency Medical Technician for 5 years and is now studying to become a Health and Wellness Specialist. Her aspiration in life is to bring helpful information to those seeking to be as healthy as they can be.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Always discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes with your doctor first.