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Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Healthier Menu Options

A day of heritage and pride

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo is more than just a good excuse to visit your favorite Mexican restaurant. Although not technically a U.S. holiday, the fifth of May is celebrated by the Mexican community across the U.S. as a day of heritage and pride. Communities nationwide host fun Cinco de Mayo celebrations that include everything from parades to mariachi bands to vibrant family gatherings. And, of course, there is always food. Mexicans are proud of their rich culinary heritage and authentic Cinco de Mayo celebrations often provide a great opportunity to try something beyond the American definition of “Mexican food” consisting of nachos, tacos, and burritos.

After getting to know the diabetes community a little better over the past few months, one thing I have noticed is that few things get in the way of a good celebration. I have seen quite a few discussions where you have shared menu tips, discussed monitoring of sugar levels during and after celebrations, and encouraged each other to enjoy the festivities.

I’m curious to hear how members of the DOC will be celebrating this holiday and how you navigate menus traditionally filled with fried tortillas, sour cream, cheese, and seasoned meat (often loaded with fatty oils). In anticipation of my own celebration, I thought I might check out some healthier alternatives for Mexican classics; so, I did some digging and found some awesome-sounding recipes to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. These look like they would be great for any celebration, regardless of whether you are living with diabetes or just looking to eat healthier (like me). Keep in mind that portion control is always important.

The first recipe that sounded tasty was a spicy black bean salsa with melba toasts, jicama and red pepper strips. Another, in the line of a more traditional salsa, calls for fresh tomato salsa with blue corn chips or low-fat baked tortilla chips. Don’t forget to read the nutritional labeling and portion size.

My favorite salsa recipe, courtesy of the American Diabetes Association was:

  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsps chopped cilantro

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Coat skillet with cooking spray, add the onions, and coat with cooking spray. Cook onions 4 minutes or until beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, lime juice, and cumin. Cook 1 minute or until heated through, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Season lightly with salt and pepper, if desired. Drizzle the oil evenly over all, and sprinkle evenly with the cilantro. Do not stir. Cover and let stand 5 minutes to absorb flavors. Serve with blue corn chips.

Another great suggestion I saw was to substitute in veggies instead of chips or crackers. If you really want to go the traditional route, try making your own refried beans to cut out some of the fat and sodium. Believe it or not, lard (although traditionally a staple ingredient) is not necessary to make your own bean recipe and there are quite a few really good sounding recipes out there.

Do you have a favorite salsa recipe or a favorite healthy alternative for classic Mexican fare?  I’d love for you to share it with us in the comments section below so we can give it a try. After all, who doesn’t love Mexican food? It can’t just be the born and raised Southern California girl in me…

Buena Suerte! Laura K.

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