Healthy Cinco de Mayo Guidelines

Music, dancing, colorful decorations, and festive food are all part of Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican holiday celebrated today, which commemorates the country’s victory over the French army during the Battle of Puebla back in 1862. It’s a spirited occasion that is fun to celebrate with a fabulous Mexican meal and a big group of friends. If you love Mexican food — you’re in luck! This cuisine can easily be part of the South Beach Diet when each dish is prepared with the freshest, healthiest ingredients, such as avocados, tomatoes, and fresh lime juice. Whether you’re hosting a fiesta or dining out at a Mexican restaurant, here are some healthy guidelines to help you stay on track:

  1. Opt for lean grilled meat, skinless chicken breast, or seafood. Grilled meat and seafood dishes, such as carne asada (grilled meat), mole pollo (boned chicken breast served in a hot and spicy sauce), mojo pollo (chicken in a tangy citrus sauce), and camarones de hacha (shrimp sautéed in red and green tomato sauce) are healthy choices.


  2. Enjoy a side of black or pinto (red) beans. Frijoles, or beans, are a signature ingredient in many Mexican recipes. Beans are rich in fiber, protein, and B vitamins. Avoid refried beans because they tend to be made with lard, which is high in saturated fat.


  3. Choose healthy toppings and condiments. Go for reduced-fat sour cream, guacamole, and fresh salsa. Guacamole is traditionally made with avocado, which is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and vitamin E; enjoy it in moderation as part of your fats/oils allowance for the day. Salsa is a nutrient-dense condiment that is mainly made with tomatoes, a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Make your own salsa at home or, if using jarred, avoid products with added sugars.


  4. Drink a homemade margarita. Starting on Phase 2, you can blend a refreshing margarita at home, using fresh lime juice, a little agave nectar, and 1 1/2 ounces of tequila. Or, you can opt for a sugar-free, lemon-lime-flavored powdered drink mix. Be sure to drink the margarita with your meal to help with the absorption of alcohol and enjoy alcohol in moderation — that means limiting yourself to one margarita if you’re a woman or two if you’re a man. Or, if you prefer to avoid alcohol, enjoy unlimited seltzer with lemon or lime or sugar-free soda.


  5. Steer clear of fat-laden Mexican foods. For example, stay away from deep-fried tortilla chips; anything topped with full-fat cheese or regular sour cream; chimichangas (deep-fried flour tortillas filled with meat and cheese); the Mexican sausage called chorizo; and deep-fried taco-shell bowls.

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