5 Healthy Mexican Restaurant Dining Tips for Cinco de Mayo

Think living a healthy lifestyle means avoiding Mexican restaurants and their bottomless bowls of chips and salsa, endless drink pitchers and plates overflowing with $2 tacos? Think again! While many diners feel overstuffed when they eat Mexican food, it doesn't have to be that way.

Mexican cuisine can be healthy if you keep these five tips in mind. Tweet this

"Ruin" Your Appetite with a Snack

Say you head to dinner at 7 p.m. By the time you wait for your table, are seated, read the menu, and order drinks, appetizers and your main dish, it could be several hours since you last ate. This gap can leave you ravenous and lead to mindless consumption. Instead, eat a small snack before you leave for dinner so you're just starting to feel gentle signs of hunger when your food arrives. 

Food Trucks? Take a Seat

Food trucks are an awesome idea to make high-quality cuisine more accessible and affordable. However, when the taco truck pulls up, ask yourself where you are going to eat. Instead of eating while standing, try to find a picnic table or other nearby area to sit and focus on the meal. Eating while standing can distract from the dining experience, which can lead to overeating. 

Eyeball It

When your server brings the chips, salsa and queso, let yourself enjoy the heck out of it! But promise to take a small appetizer plate and eyeball appropriate portions of each item on the plate. For instance, grab a handful of chips, three heaping tablespoons of salsa and two tablespoons of queso. The portions on the small plate will be satisfying and fulfilling to your eyes and brain. But then, once the plate is finished, commit to being done until your entrée arrives. This way, you won't feel deprived from tasting your favorite starters while still having created parameters to prevent overindulging. 

Think in Threes

Aim for at least three food groups per meal — this balance will help you feel satisfied, increase your body's absorption of nutrients and diversify the types of food in your meal. For instance, order a fajita plate of corn tortillas (carbohydrate), chicken (protein) and grilled peppers and onions (vegetables). If the dish on the menu doesn't contain three food groups, don't be afraid to ask for substitutions or extras so your meal is exactly the one you want. For instance, if I am thinking about ordering cheese quesadillas, I might ask to add shrimp and a small salad or grilled vegetables on the side. This is a request most restaurants are more than happy to make.

Feel Your Fullness

Eat slowly, allow the flavors to be soaked in by your tongue and listen to your body as it recognizes the feeling of fullness. One way you know you are full is decreased taste perception. Typically, the first bite of a food will taste almost euphoric. As we continue to eat, the taste starts to lessen. The meal will still be delicious, but not as good as it was at the beginning. This is a sign you are starting to fill up. By eating slowly and mindfully (such as putting your fork down in between bites, taking frequent sips of water and conversing with your dinner date), you allow your brain the opportunity to check in and assess your fullness. Pay attention to this sensation — and then promptly ask for a to-go box to prevent mindless eating after your body has told you it's nourished.

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Ashley Lytwyn
Ashley Lytwyn, MS, RDN, is a Southern California-based dietitian, speaker and writer. Read her blog, Nutrition Unveiled, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.