Cinco de Mayo Tips

Americans have adopted Cinco de Mayo as a reason to indulge in food and alcohol, often to excess. While it's tempting to partake in nachos and margaritas, there is more significance to the celebration beyond these indulgences. Cinco de Mayo, meaning "fifth of May" in Spanish, is a regional holiday in Puebla, Mexico and other parts of the country, commemorating the unlikely victory of the Mexican army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in May 1862. It's important to note that it is not Mexico's Independence Day, which falls on September 16th and is a national holiday. Although Cinco de Mayo started as a regional event in Mexico, it has become a global celebration and is now embraced in the United States.

You can still enjoy the festivities without the guilt of overindulgence by implementing these tips from Leslie Fink, WW Recipe Editor/Nutritionist, to reduce calories and fat in your Cinco de Mayo fare.

Be smart about bebidas

(That'd be "drinks.") Since alcohol is almost always included in the festivities, plan ahead for ways to minimize the damage.

Beware of light beer

Beer drinkers know this: the lighter the beer, the lower the alcohol content. That means you might find yourself drinking more of it, thus defeating the purpose of going light in the first place. Portion control is key when it comes to beer.

Embrace diet soda as a mixer

Or better yet, plain seltzer water. It’s not the alcohol that packs the Points®-value punch in a mixed drink, it’s usually the mixer, be it soda, juice, or that sweet-and-sour mix you’ll find in a typical restaurant margarita. Consider instead going with a drink that lets you swap a diet version of a soda, like rum and Diet Coke, or use Diet 7-Up in your 7 and 7. Or stick to wine or Champagne for a classy sip.

Pace yourself

When ordering your beverage of choice, ask the bartender for a glass of water, and alternate between that and your drink. This is not only smart from an inebriation- and hangover-prevention standpoint, but it will also just slow you down and prevent you from losing track of how many drinks you’ve had. (It might also help curb the urge to mindlessly pick at that bowl of chips and salsa.)

Get friendly with food

Choose your meat carefully

Using lean ground beef or lean ground turkey instead of regular ground beef is a good idea but be careful. “Plain ground turkey, as opposed to lean ground turkey or ground turkey breast, can have more fat and calories than lean ground beef,” Fink says. When you’re painting the town rojo this Cinco de Mayo, make sure the dish your server brings you is lean ground turkey. Better yet, to play it safe, just stick with beef. At least you’ll know exactly what you’re eating.

Go baked, not fried

Make baked nachos instead of fried ones and beware all that gooey cheese. Slice up whole-wheat tortillas into wedges and bake them until crisp. Coat with cooking spray and sprinkle with your favorite Mexican seasonings.

Swap in smashed black beans

For some of the ground beef in your taco or burrito fillings to bulk it up. Black beans are low in fat, high in fiber, and have fewer Points values than regular ground beef. Simply ask your waiter for extra black beans instead. Or, if you’re not afraid of a little open-burrito surgery, do it yourself. Simply slice open the top of the tortilla (like a baked potato) and spread it apart. Pick and choose what to add and subtract and voila — your own, Points value-friendly burrito.

Use salsa instead of fatty salad dressings

It’s not Cinco de Mayo without salsa, right? Whether tomato-based or made with mango, it’s all veggies, so you can’t really go wrong here.

That cheesy feeling

Use shredded cheese instead of big chunks or slices on your tacos or burritos so you can use less but get the flavor. Another note on cheese: sprinkle the fattening stuff on top of your dishes where its flavor is most noticeable, as opposed to mixed into a dish. Opt for small amounts of highly flavored cheeses “since just a little bit has a big impact on flavor,” Fink says. If you choose to opt out of cheese and/or sour cream, top your dish with healthier Mexican flavors like chopped fresh cilantro, halved grape tomatoes, or diced red onion.

Fear not the guac

Rumors abound that avocados are “bad.” First, remember that an avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable. It contains zero cholesterol but also, yes, some fat. But that fat is mostly monounsaturated and considered a "good" fat because it helps to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, Fink says. Along with being a good source of fiber, avocados also are rich in potassium, some B vitamins, and vitamin E. Just be careful not to overdo it as guacamole can be high in Points values. Also, check out how it’s prepared. (Some restaurants add regular mayo to it which bumps up the Points value further.)

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