Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Making Tacos Healthier

Ever Since I discovered a great Homemade Taco seasoning recipe that my family loves, we have enjoyed having Tacos about every other week.  They are quick and easy to make, as well as being a frugal meal option.  The only problem that I have with tacos is that they are not very good for you.  A traditional taco is loaded with fat, calories, and very little nutrients other than protein.  I believe that for the majority of people, it is easier (and more realistic) to change the recipes that your family eats regularly, than to attempt to totally change the way you eat.  I know this is true for my family.  Here are a few suggestions for making tacos a healthier meal option for your family:

First you will want to start out with what type of meat you decide to use.

  • If you are able to economically, choose a leaner cut of beef.  If you see a package of ground beef that says 73/27, this means that the meat is 27% fat.  A package of ground beef that is 80/20 is a healthier option because it is only 20% fat.  
  • If you are not able to purchase extra lean ground beef, then you will want to make sure that you remove as much fat as possible after cooking it.  I always make a mess trying to get all the fat out of the skillet when I cook ground beef.  My husband showed me a month or so ago that instead of spooning it out into an aluminum can, you can just use a paper towel to soak the fat up.  Then just throw it in the trash.   
  • Only cook up the amount of beef that you really need.  We only need about 3/4 of a pound of beef when we have tacos.  I purchase my meat at our local meat market because they will sell me that small amount instead of having to buy a full pound package at the local grocery store.  This also keeps us from eating more than we need, just because there is still more left in the pan.
  • Try adding some chopped up beans to your next batch of Taco meat.  This will make the meal less expensive, as well as healthier!  Beans will add lots of fiber without losing the protein, while cutting back on the amount of fat at the same time.  I don't think that anyone would be able to tell after the beans and meat are all seasoned.   
After you have cooked up your meat, try using a healthier (and tastier) Taco seasoning like the Home made kind that I use.  This allows you to avoid the preservatives and MSG that you will find in most store-bought taco seasoning.  You also have the option of decreasing or eliminating the sodium in your seasoning.  Last winter, I was able to get a great deal on spices, so it hardly costs me anything to use homemade taco seasoning.  This could become pretty expensive however, if you have to go out and buy all your spices full price.

Add all the nutrient rich foods that you can to your tacos!  Here are some great options:
  • Beans (Black, Pinto, or Kidney Beans)
  • Lettuce
  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Try Salsa instead of a traditional taco sauce- Salsa usually has less sodium than taco sauce. 
  • Diced up Avocado- Avocados are filled with wonderful nutrients including healthy fats (If you are limiting your fat intake you will want to limit your consumption of these!)
  • Chopped up Yellow or Red Onion
Unfortunately, most tacos don't have the capacity to hold much besides meat and cheese.  Last night when we had Tacos, I made a delicious taco salad:  First I crunched up 1 hard taco shell and sprinkled it on my plate.  Then I added a little bit of Taco meat, a whole tomato from my garden chopped up, about 1/4 of an onion chopped up, 1/4 of an avocado chopped up, cheese, and some fresh salsa.  It was delicious!  I just wish that I had some lettuce to go with it!  Here's another idea that sounds good to me:  Make a bed of lettuce on your plate, top it with:  corn, beans, brown rice, taco meat, tomato, onion, cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and salsa.  You could also add some crunched up tortilla chips or a crunchy taco.  I have also heard that a taco salad like this is really good with a Catalina Style salad dressing.   A taco salad like this allows you to eat less meat (meaning less saturated fat) and add lots more nutritient-rich ingredients.

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