I'm always a fan of a theme party, and Mexico is my favorite placehence, my favorite party theme. Mexico means fun, bright colors and letting loose. However, most people don't think of Mexican as healthy. And that's not necessarily true: There are ways to make a Mexican evening at home, or at a restaurant, as healthy as any other cultural dining experience.
Entertaining at home
For cocktails, serve SkinnyGirl Margaritas or Coronitas. The latter are miniature, 7-ounce Corona beers; one or two of these 86-calorie treats won't bust your waistline. They also look great over ice in galvanized tubs.
Make a healthy Mexican salad with chopped romaine, and top it with shredded store-bought carrots; drained and rinsed canned black beans (for protein and fiber); fresh, raw corn cut off the cob; cilantro; halved pear tomatoes; and baked tortilla chips instead of croutons. Mix a low-fat vinaigrette with low-fat ranch, drizzle lightly, and season with salt and pepper. If you're eating this as a main course, shred white-meat chicken and place it on top of the salad for a little extra staying power. Sprinkle some extra cilantro on topyou've got a colorful, filling meal full of protein, vegetables, and good carbohydrates.
Whole-wheat tortilla soft tacos are another good option: Buy roast chicken breast, shred it, and combine with a sprinkle of low-fat cheese, store-bought salsa, sliced avocado (or a tablespoon of guacamole), and a teaspoon of low-fat sour cream. This combined with a small green salad is a healthy yet decadent dinner.
Dining out, Mexican-style
When in a restaurant, making wise choices is a bit trickier, but can also be more fun. I love frozen drinks, but hate all the extra calories that come with them. So when I order, I get clear tequila on the rocks and ask for a splash of the frozen mixwhether it's strawberry-, raspberry-, or margarita-flavoredright on top. They look at me like I'm crazy, but they do it. I squeeze in a lime, and I'm part of the party!
The biggest danger when dining out at a Mexican restaurant is the chip basket. I grab a small handful of the fried chips, put them on my plate, and exhibit self-control. I know that when my small helping is gone, there's no going back for more. I love guacamolebut as healthy as it is, it's also high in fat and calories, and very easy to overindulge in. Instead of eating it straight, I mix guac with salsa.
Now for your order. Rule number one: Avoid the taco salad. Between the shell, cheese, and globs of sour cream, you are probably talking about more than 1,000 calories. I like to order black-bean soup and an appetizer, like something small and fried, or mini soft tacos.
Other times, I'll go for the fajitas, and leave out the tortillas. The shrimp, steak, or chicken mixed with vegetables are a great choice. Season with salsa and avoid the guac, cheese, and sour cream. It's really all about give-and-take: If you had no chips, have the tortilla. If you were craving something decadent and fried, have it with something healthy like soup or a small salad, and forego the entree. Think of your diet as a bank accountyou can splurge on some things as long as you save on others.