Finding Lower-Carb Mexican Food Favorites!
Last updated: April 2023
Mexican food is the best (in my opinion, at least!). I love all of the vibrant flavors and colors used in this cuisine. Each region of Mexico, of course, has its own dishes. But a few popular dishes from this country include tacos, fajitas, soups, tamales, enchiladas, grilled seafood, meats, and vegetables.
How to make dishes diabetes-friendly
Many dishes are healthy since they are typically loaded with various vegetables, herbs, spices, and nutrient-dense proteins. With that being said, there are many carbohydrate and calorie-heavy dishes and ingredients found in this cuisine. If you live with type 2 diabetes, they may not be the best fit for your eating plan.
But by remembering a few tips, you can still enjoy Mexican cuisine and stick to your blood sugar goals.
Step 1: Consume carbohydrates in moderation
When you're eating out at a restaurant, it can be tricky to completely avoid carbohydrates. Many dishes are made with rice, beans, corn, tortillas, chips, or potatoes.
While these ingredients aren't unhealthy in moderation, eating a large meal with a high amount of carbohydrates can cause an unwanted blood sugar spike. These carb-filled dishes are delicious. It can be difficult to turn them down, especially when you aren't the one choosing where to eat.
Portion control ideas
One solution to dealing with carb-laden dishes is practicing moderation. Place just a handful of chips on your plate and push the basket away from your side of the table. Or, if you know that controlling chip consumption feels impossible (I understand!), ask the waiter or cashier not to bring chips to the table.
If you order a large dish like a burrito or a plate of enchiladas, consider sharing this with the table. If ordering alone, ask for a to-go box right away. Leave only an appropriate serving size on your plate, and package the rest for later.
Moderation can be difficult to practice, but it is possible! And it allows you to still participate in enjoying the cuisine and experience.
Step 2: Balance the nutrients in the meal
Finding balance in your meal can go hand-in-hand with moderation! If you're choosing to eat smaller portions of dishes that are high in carbs and calories, you can offset this by adding healthy fats, proteins, and many vegetables.
Try loading up on a fresh salad as an appetizer. If chips are on the table, balance them with a side of guacamole (a healthy fat) and salsa.
Choose dishes that naturally include a lot of vegetables to ensure you're filling your plate with fiber and nutrients. Opt for grilled protein options like chicken and seafood. Or try a side of black beans.
Step 3: Find alternatives to high-carb dishes
If you are eating out at a Mexican food restaurant, it can sometimes be difficult to find low-carb options or replacements for certain menu items. But there are a few dishes that naturally fall into the low-carb category:
- Albóndigas soup
- Grilled seafood dishes
- Vegetable, chicken, or steak fajitas
- Sopa de molcajete
- Chile verde
There are a few easy substitutes that you can make for the higher-carb menu items found at restaurants, like tortillas and rice. If you are cooking Mexican food at home, you certainly have more control over the number of carbs and calories in your meal. Here are a few ideas for low-carb swaps:
- Order or make fajitas without the corn tortillas that are normally served on the side.
- If making tacos at home, try making jicama "tortillas." All you need to do is thinly slice jicama into rounds and use it as a taco shell.
- Most grocery stores also offer low-carb taco or tortilla options that are made from ingredients like cauliflower or almond flour.
- Cauliflower rice is not a common option at Mexican food restaurants. But you can use it as a substitute for regular rice while cooking at home.
- Ask to see if burritos or tacos can be served on a bed of greens instead of tortillas.
- Opt for black or pinto beans over refried beans. Refried beans are higher in saturated fat, calories, and sodium.
- Avoid fried menu items.
With these 3 steps, you can continue to enjoy your favorite dishes without compromising flavor or your type 2 diabetes management goals.
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