Top 10 tips for healthy Mexican cooking
Thomasina Miers, co-founder and executive chef of award-winning Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca, shares her top tips for keeping your Mexican dishes authentic and healthy...
1. Char your salsas
The secret to a good salsa is to dry-roast the tomatoes, chillies and onion to get maximum flavour. Other than that no fat is needed in the salsa at all so you can ladle on heat, flavour and a touch of sparkle (and vitamins) to simple, healthy food.
2. Slow-cook fattier, cheaper cuts
When you slow-cook the cheap cuts, an amazing flavour comes from the marbled fat running through the joints. But by slow-cooking meat like this, the fat slowly dissolves in the sauce. If you slow-cook a cheap cut one day and allow to cool, you can spoon off excessive fat the next day, whilst also allowing all the flavours to improve overnight making healthier, better tasting food.
3. A little goes a long way
Mexican food is all about balancing the different food groups. Whilst you might have a deliciously fatty cut of meat that you have cooked for dinner, you don't have to have too much of it if you have a delicious, healthy bowl of baked beans, some corn tortillas, rice and lots of fresh salsas. Limiting how much of the fattier, more calorific meats you serve will drastically reduce the amount of bad fats and cholesterol you are eating.
4. Sweeten with agave syrup
Agave syrup is a low GI, slow burn sugar from the agave plant, grown in Mexico. If you do have a sweet tooth, try sweetening your coffees, puddings and fruit salads with agave rather than conventional sugar.
5. Add a touch of fire
Chillies are known for their ability to get the digestive system going, facilitating weight loss. If you really are determined to fit into a bikini that's too small, up the ante with the chillies and you will have your system flying at full speed in no time. Try light, healthy starters like ceviches and tostadas that are big on flavour and protein but low in fat.
6. And a touch of spice
Seasoning food with Mexican spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice and oregano will result in deeply-flavoured, delicious tasting food. Eating food that is full of flavour (rather than bland low-fat foods specially geared for dieters) will leave you feeling more satisfied with what you've eaten and less like craving other bad foods afterwards.
7. Eat proper chocolate
Mexico is home to the cacao plant. Eating chocolate that has more cacao and less sugar is far better for you and will lessen your sugar cravings. Try working your way up the cacao scale from milk chocolate (which can be as low as 24% cacao) to darker milk chocolates and finally to deeply dark chocolates. The rich flavour of the dark chocolate will mean you won't be able to binge on it quite as much too.
8. Eat up your greens
Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, home to a whole host of wild greens, pumpkins, courgettes, cacti, tomatoes and wild herbs. Eating more fruit and vegetables will give you a healthier, lower fat diet full of the right vitamins and minerals.
9. Be full of beans
Beans are an amazing source of protein. Black beans, black eyed beans, borlottis, flor de mayo, pinto, chickpeas and lentils are all different types of beans and pulses favoured by the Mexicans. Bake em, fry them, boil them, puree them, just add them to your meals as an alternative or an addition to meat and you will be packing your body with the right things.
10. Just add seeds
Amaranth and pumpkins seeds are both packed full of good oils and essential minerals as well as protein. Sprinkle them on salads, use them in puddings, fuel that body!
The world according to Tommi...
Most important of all never abstain from food. Eating is the greatest pleasure in the world and diets are all short-term in their essence. Change the way you eat, eat the good things (and a few of the bad) and most of all relish everything you put in your tummy and you will find that you are a happier, healthier person.
Try out Thomasina's top tips on our favourite Mexican recipes.
Thomasina Miers is the author of four books and lives in London with her husband and baby daughter. Her latest book WAHACA - MEXICAN FOOD AT HOME, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, 18th June 2012.
Photograph: ©Karolina Webb