Not Your Momma's Tacos

One of my favorite memes says “How do I stop eating chips and salsa?  Do they run out or do I die or what?” Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost track of how many baskets of chips you’ve inhaled before you even dig into your meal?  Right here! Before I became more aware of my food, calories, macro nutrients, and such, I used to overindulge on so many foods.  Chips and salsa being one of the worst culprits. I had to relearn what healthy eating even was.  How could I find the right balance of eating healthy and not feeling deprived all the time?

After wrapping up my year on Extreme Weight Loss, I realized I had deep-seated issues surrounding food and I sought out a counselor.  She helped me tremendously.  One of the points she made was that we tend to lump food into two categories: Physiologically good and psychologically good.  Physiologically good food is healthy.  It provides nutrient dense calories and fuels our bodies.  Psychologically good food makes us feel good.  We enjoy eating it.  We look forward to it and have an emotional response to eating it.


I believe we can have some of both.  We don’t have to live a life that never allows us to eat those feel good foods.  But, the best of both worlds is to find the foods that fit into both categories.  For me, there are a few.  Salad is one of them.  I love a cold, crisp, colorful salad full of tons of seasonal veggies. Add some grilled lean protein like salmon or chicken and I’m set.  I love it.  It tastes amazing, and it makes me feel strong and healthy.


Mexican food is another one. Making Mexican food healthy is an easy jump from a plate full of chips drenched in queso, smothered in ground beef and sour cream to a delicious and healthy fajita salad. 


And if you are carb cycling, which I did to lose weight, you can easily make it a low carb or a high carb meal.  Here are my tips to make the healthy swap from endless tortilla chips to a satisfying Mexican meal that won’t leave you bloated and full of regret. 


First of all, ditch the ground beef.  These aren't your Momma’s tacos.  Grill some chicken, or salmon.  Simmer some ground turkey and add your favorite seasonings (cumin, garlic, red pepper, paprika).  Or one of my favorite things to do is throw some chicken breasts in the crock pot, add a can or Ro-tel.  Easy peasy and ready to go after work. Much leaner choices than that fat laden ground beef we had at school and the fast food joints we frequented as teenagers.


Instead of starting with a bed of tortilla chips, start with lettuce.  Layer on your protein, add some onions and peppers.  Then this is where you can make some decisions about whether you want a low carb meal or a high carb meal. Or if you are counting macros or calories, a combination of carbs and fats.  If going low carb, you can add a little shredded cheese or guacamole. If you want high carb, skip the guac and go with corn tortillas, brown rice, or count out ONE portion of tortilla chips.  The chips I use are from Whole Foods.  Fifteen chips has 130 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.  Not bad at all.  And yes, it’s possible to actually count chips and not eat an endless mountain of them.  Who knew? This portion was plenty for my meal.


Another big way to add flavor and make any meal more satisfying is with salsa.  One issue a lot of people have with eating healthy is that think it’s boring and flavorless.  Plain grilled chicken, broccoli.  There is so much more to enjoy than that!

Salsa is awesome because you can put it on anything.  Anything.  I use it on this fajita salad.  But also a regular salad.  Eggs. Potatoes. Top my chicken with it.  Most salsa has 25 calories for two tablespoons.  25 calories! That’s it!


We had the pleasure of trying out some new salsas this week.  My friend, Melissa, at Whole Foods told me they had a new line of salsas and wanted us to give them a whirl and see what we thought.  The line is from Tacodeli out of Austin, Texas.  Can I just say yum?


I am a HUGE wimp when it comes to heat in salsa.  I want to like spicy food.  It’s doesn’t bother my stomach, but man! It burns my tongue. I cannot do it. My family and I had three levels of heat to try. And in no surprise, I liked the Mild Salsa Verde the best.  It’s made from tomatillas and has a mild, tangy taste.  Right up my alley.


We also tried the Medium Salsa Roja which was a medium heat, fire roasted salsa. It’s got a charred (in a good way) flavor and was borderline too hot for me. And the Salsa Dona, which is different than a typical salsa, in that it is not tomato based, but made from jalapenos and garlic. Scott loved it, of course. He is all about the heat.


Another easy swap is to use greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I used to think greek yogurt was gross, too thick, too strong of a taste. But, when I was at boot camp, I quickly realized greek yogurt was an easy way to get protein into my diet and it was a good swap for sour cream. And after a few tries, I really began to love it and now I eat it almost every morning before I workout. Ditch the high fat sour cream for low fat greek yogurt. 


Moral of the story, try adding flavor to your meals to keep the healthy stuff from getting boring. We piled out plates high with lettuce, chicken, onions, peppers, salsa, greek yogurt and ate it up with our portion of chips.  Completely satisfying and delicious.  My meal totaled around 340 calories- 9 grams fat, 32 grams carbs, 34 grams protein. Compared to two southwest chicken tacos at “On the Border” having 1220 calories, served with rice and beans. Huge difference!


Don’t suffer through a lifetime of bland for the sake of healthy. Ask yourself what foods fit into what category for you, Physiologically good, psychologically good, or both?. What foods do you crave?  What foods make you feel good? And how can you make those fit into a healthy diet? It is always possible to make some tweaks that allow you to enjoy foods that are good for you and taste good! 

Let me know what your favorite healthy swaps are!