How to have a healthier Cinco de Mayo

Simple menu tweaks can lower sodium, calories but keep the taste

Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican culture with plenty of food and drink. But before you start the party, there are some ways to spice things up the healthy way.

SAN ANTONIO – Cinco de Mayo celebrations south of the border tend to be pretty low-key, but Americans have turned to May 5 as a day to enjoy Mexican culture, food and drinks. Because some of those indulgences can be loaded with calories and sodium, Consumer Reports has some tips to celebrate and stay healthy.

Besides being delicious, rice and beans can also be good for you.

“Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans – they’re all packed with antioxidants and fiber plus the minerals potassium and magnesium,” said Consumer Reports’ Health Editor Trisha Calvo. “White rice is often fortified with B vitamins. But for maximum nutrition, you could choose brown rice.”

Together, brown rice and beans pack a powerful protein punch of 12 grams per cup and provide essential fiber. She suggests boosting flavor with garlic, onions, and herbs instead of ham hocks or bacon.

Mexican cuisine features other healthy basics, like avocados, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and chilies.

“You can cut back on sodium by making your own fresh dips, like guacamole or salsa, seasoned to your taste,” Calvo said.

And which tortilla to wrap it all up? Corn is a whole grain, while flour versions are typically made with refined wheat flour, which lacks nutrients.

Will frozen margaritas be on your menu? Consumer Reports says not all consumer-grade blenders can create a smooth, frosty drink. A blender earns an excellent rating in Consumer Reports’ tests if it makes a smooth, consistent piña colada. The Instant Ace is a Consumer Reports Best Buy at about $120.

Consumer Reports took a close look at Mexican staples in the grocery store, and its list of healthier options for chips, salsas, beans, guacamole, and tortillas. Click here to see the list.

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About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.