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My Love-Hate Relationship With Mexican Food

Back in high school, I was a Chipotle addict. Every Friday, you were sure to find me there, munching on a chicken burrito bowl.  As I continued this habit in college and added a habit called Natural Light, those chicken burrito bowls I was once so fond of weren’t so fond of me. I realized that I needed to end my relationship with Mexican food; it was no longer mutual, and I was in need of an intervention. Badly. 

This anecdote isn’t to say that Chipotle is terrible for you. In fact, compared to other fast food chains, it’s relatively healthy. It’s one of the few restaurants that attempts to reduce its carbon impact and seeks naturally raised animal products. (Whether or not “naturally raised animals” are a good thing will be the topic of another blog post). In other words, Chipotle is part of a new trend of semi-health conscious, semi-eco conscious restaurants that sell not-so-crappy crap. While I won’t recommend you eat food like this every day, this is a far more exemplary choice than your beloved Mickey D’s.

So what was I talking about? Ah yes, my intervention with Mexican food. About a year and  a half and 13 pounds later, I realized things needed to change. But the thought of going off Mexican food cold turkey was far too daunting. My solution? Modifying some of my favorite foods so that they had all the same flavor, but much less calories, fat, and artificial ingredients. Where I took out salt, I added nutrients. Where I took out cheese, I added color and crunch. Before I knew it, I had developed about a dozen recipes that were just as satisfying as my old favorites, but far better for me.

Revamped Chicken Burrito Bowl (Serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces chicken (1 small breast, I like to use 2-3 chicken tenderloins)
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow), cut into strips
  • 1/2 avacado
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro minced
  • 6 organic corn tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup fresh organic salsa
  • Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Directions:

For the chicken:

1. Heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil or cooking spray. Place the chicken in the pan and pan fry for a few minutes on each side, seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. When the chicken begins to stick to the pan, add the salsa.

2. Let the chicken cook on a low simmer for about 15-20 minutes. If you notice you’re running out of liquid, add a little more salsa and/or a couple tablespoons of water. Keep the lid on the pan to retain moisture.

3. Turn off the heat when the chicken is cooked thoroughly. Using two forks, shred the chicken into small pieces.  Keep warm on the stove.

For the guacamole:

4. Dice and mash the avocado with half of the tomato, lime juice, and cilantro.

For the salad:

5. Arrange the romaine lettuce on a plate. Place the rest of the tomatoes in the center of the lettuce. Place the peppers in a circle around the tomatoes.

6. Place the chicken in the center of your plate of romaine lettuce.

7. Add the guacamole on top.

8. Crush the tortillas in your hand. Sprinkle them all over the salad.

Taco Salad edited

 I really like this recipe because it’s super simple but also healthy. The lettuce and other veggies provide rich sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants. The chicken is a low-fat alternative to something like beef that’s pretty high in saturated fat. Note that you can make a large batch of it the day before or over the weekend if your pressed on time–then you can enjoy this salad all week! Finally, a healthy dose of avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fat. This is the kind of fat the clears your skin and actually helps you loose weight!

I couldn’t resist adding a dollop of light sour cream to this as well. Like I said, I have a love-hate relationship with Mexican food.

 

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