Typical healthy condiments: guacamole, salsa, rajas (pickled carrots, onion, and jalapeño peppers) and limes

Typical healthy condiments: guacamole, salsa, rajas (pickled carrots, onion, and jalapeño peppers) and limes. Photo by Marie Oaks.

The temptation of incredibly tasty tacos, hamburgers, and enchiladas is daunting – Mexican street food is so uniquely satisfying and sabroso (yummy) that it is hard to say “no.”

Taste aside, street food in Mexico can add to the waistline, quickly. For those living in Mexico or traveling for an extended period of time, it is wise to discover healthy eating in Mexico before the unhealthy eating adds unwanted calories and cholesterol to your body.

Before the Spanish conquest, Mexican food didn’t consist of the greasy fried meat and cheese that we see today. Instead, the original Mexican diet included ingredients that – surprise! – originated in Mexico. Squash, corn, and beans were a huge part of the diet. Add a bit of avocado, some nopales, tomato, jicama, sweet potato, and wild game – this is the diet of the pre-Hispanic Mexico. Cooks in Mexico still use these original ingredients, meaning that finding and creating meals that are low-fat, healthy, and 100 percent Mexican is easier than one might think.

Besides embracing original ingredients, there is also a wave of modern cooks who take the unhealthy, but tasty, foods from the street and re-create them to be healthy, balanced meals in the home kitchen. Healthy quesadillas, veggie hamburguesas, and shredded chicken tacos are all easy meals that can be created in any kitchen in less than an hour. Add some agua fresca (flavored water) sweetened with raw honey, and a bit of rice pudding for dessert. These meals can celebrate the ingredients of Mexico without polluting our bodies with trans-fat and unnecessary refined sugar.

While living or traveling in Mexico, be aware of fried foods, cheese filled main dishes,and other fatty meals that are terrible for our health. Instead, embrace the incredible bounty of fresh and healthy ingredients that Mexico has to offer. When eating out, find the restaurants that include healthy meals on their menu. The United States and Mexico both have an enormous obesity problem that consumers can fight against by choosing healthy meals over the meals that are destroying our health.

Mexican style hamburgers, called hamburguesas, are one of the most popular street foods available, especially late at night. Unlike its northern relative, Mexican hamburgers are thin patties of beef, fried and served with fried ham, cheese, and a pile of toppings.

Some veggie “hamburgers” are made with black beans rather than beef. They are also griddle-cooked, not fried. Serving veggie burgers with the heaping mountain of toppings will make this meal seem just a bit more authentic.

Tacos are arguably the most popular street food snack in Mexico. An order of three tacos makes a nice late dinner or even a mid-morning brunch. Topped with a gorgeous array of condiments, anyone who has had a true Mexican taco knows this is an amazing food!

Unfortunately, most tacos in Mexico are fried.The meat is fried, and the corn tortilla shell is quickly fried as well. Delicious they are, but good for your waist they are not.

Tacos are easy to make in a healthy way, the secret to authentic Mexican tacos is not the oil – it is the condiments. Serving up tacos with an array of salsa, chopped vegetables, and pickled peppers will make you not miss the fat but rather enjoy the complexity of different flavors!