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April 27, 2022

Healthy Eating for Cinco de Mayo

by Ana Martinez, RDN, LDN

Before you reach for those margaritas and enjoy some delicious Mexican cuisine to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year, let’s talk about some ways to make those authentic meals healthier to help you reach your 2022 health goals. Whether you are dining at your favorite restaurant or planning a home cooked meal, there are many easy ways to change up Mexican dishes to meet your nutrition goals while enjoying the delicious flavors Mexico has to offer!

Lower The Fat:

  •  Cheese, sour cream, and other dairy foods are popular ingredients in Mexican meals. Cook with low-fat dairy products to decrease the calories and fat
  • Some recipes call for refried beans, which adds fat. Ask for black beans instead of refried beans when dining out. Most Mexican restaurants serve this as a substitute for refried beans.
  • Try baked tortilla chips. Regular tortilla chips are fried in more oil than baked chips. You should be able to find baked tortilla chips at your local grocery store or try baking your own at home! By baking your own tortilla chips, you have control over the amount of oil and salt you use.

Choose Lean Proteins:

  • Red meats (like beef and pork) are a major part of many Mexican entrees, like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, tostadas and more. Choose lean proteins like chicken or fish; to reduce unhealthy fats (saturated fat). Some examples include chicken or fish tacos and chicken and/or shrimp fajitas.
  • If you are vegetarian or interested in reducing meat intake, you can also choose plant-based proteins. Beans can be a primary protein source in many Mexican meals, such as burritos, quesadillas, tostadas, and enchiladas.

 Choose Whole-Grains:

  • Many dishes, like tacos, are served with tortillas. Choose soft corn tortillas or whole wheat flour tortillas, instead of white flour tortillas to reduce calories and increase your whole-grain intake. When shopping for tortillas at your local grocery store, you may also find “street taco” varieties. These tortillas are smaller and may be a helpful way to make portions smaller.

Add Vegetables:

  • Adding unique vegetables to your Cinco de Mayo dishes is a great option. Nopales stem from a cactus plant and are an authentic staple in many Mexican homes that can be consumed in the form of a salad, added as a side item, or used as a topping for tacos and other dishes. Nopales are a low-calorie vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fresh and/or canned nopales can be found at your local Hispanic grocery store, however, it’s best to choose fresh nopales when possible, as canned nopales may be high in sodium.  See a cactus salad recipe below!

Adjust Alcoholic Beverages:

  • If you’re in the mood for a margarita, choose a classic margarita on the rocks, without the salted rim. Frozen margaritas are usually prepared with extra sugar, and the salted rim has more sodium. Classic lime margaritas tend to be lower in calories compared to the flavored kinds.
  • Have a light beer. Light beer is usually 50 calories less than regular beer.
  • If you love tequila, try having your favorite Mexican tequila with seltzer water and lime.

Now that you know some simple ways to make your Cinco de Mayo celebration healthier, don’t forget to make an appointment with an Avance Care Registered Dietitian for additional tips!


Recipe: Authentic Mexican Cactus Salad (Ensalada de Nopales)

Yields: 6 Servings

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ready in: 30 minutes


3-4 medium cactus leaves cleaned of spines

2-3 fresh medium tomatoes diced

2-3 green onions chopped

1 bunch of cilantro chopped

Juice from 1 lime

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup crumbled Queso Anejo, or queso cotija or Feta



  1. Clean the cactus leaves of spines. First rinse the cactus under cold water (be careful with the small thorns on the surface) then, peel away the bumps and thorns on the surface using a small sharp knife or a vegetable peeler while trying to leave as much of the outer green layer. Lastly trim away the edges and base. This step may be skipped if purchasing fresh nopales that have already had thorns removed.
  2. Wash the nopales very well.
  3. Slice the nopales thin and put them in a pot with water to cover them. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  4. Cook the leaves on medium high heat until tender, simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the green onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Set them aside.
  6. When nopales are cooked, remove them from the stove, drain the water and place the vegetables in cold icy water. When cool, use them for the salad.
  7. In a salad bowl, place the cactus leaves, onion, tomatoes, cilantro and dried Mexican oregano.
  8. Squeeze the juice of the lime over the salad. Add oil. Taste for salt and pepper and mix everything together.
  9. Sprinkle crumbled cheese over and serve.


This recipe goes well with grilled meat, cooked beans, in eggs, tacos etc.


Nutrition Information:

Serving Size: 1
Calories: 110, Protein: 4g, Fat: 8g, Carbohydrates: 8g, Fiber: 3g, Sodium: 263mg

Adapted from:



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