Cinco de Mayo with a Healthy “Build Your Own” Taco Dinner

May 3, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

I am a firm believer you can and should continue to enjoy long standing food favorites that are part of our holiday traditions and that those very food favorites are an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. Living Life to the fullest is all about finding reasons to celebrate and also taking the time to make it an enjoyable occasion to remember. The fun part is in updating the food tradition so that it reflects the vibrancy and healthy fun we all want when we celebrate.

Making favorite foods or menus healthier does not necessarily mean it requires a complete recipe makeover. There are some easy ways to make a meal healthier. Here are some ideas you can apply to any family tradition or holiday meal:

  1. Focus on making a meal easy and with not too many choices. The more you serve the more people will end up eating.
  1. Choose fresh ingredients over processed.
  1. Think about serving in smaller bowls, filling them with just-right amounts with only enough for those who are sharing the meal.
  1. Lessen the oil or butter you use. When baking you can switch out the oils for unsweetened applesauce or even plain yogurt. When browning or roasting, I have found you can halve the oil while also using cooking spray without even noticing.

 As an example of how easy it can be to make a holiday meal healthy and fun we prepared our Cinco de Mayo meal. We love to build our own soft tacos. Everyone can pick and choose what they want in their taco.

First I made a list of all the ingredients we usually use. Then I thought about how I could switch out some of the ingredients for fresher or less processed foods.

The List:

  • Refried beans got switched to black beans, drained and rinsed.
  • Sour Cream got switched to plain yogurt
  • The shredded cheese got switched to lowfat versions of cheddar and mozzarella
  • The tacos were medium sized and low carb
  • The grilled onion was done with olive oil cooking spray
  • The avocado was fresh and I only mashed one, which is perfect for 4 people to share
  • Along with the shredded lettuce I added shredded carrot and thinly sliced radish
  • The meat was ground turkey and the flavoring was a low salt taco seasoning
  • The one think I wish I had done in hindsight was to offer pico de gallo in lieu of bottled picante sauce…next time!

All the toppings were put in small bowls that hold ½ cup quantities. They looked fun and plentiful but were just the right size for the right amount of toppings. The one exception was the bowl for the shredded lettuce. It was big enough for 1 ½ cups. Lettuce is filling, crunchy and is one of the few foods we can eat as much of as we like.

I only heated enough tortillas so each person could have two. This allowed for plenty but not for the temptation of eating more than we needed.

We splurged with a bottle of beer. Mine was a Bud Light with Lime, which was a tasty 116 calories (Corona beer has 148 calories) that went well with the tacos.

Totally fun. My list of healthy toppings is now in my menu notebook so I can repeat the fun in less time next time.

 Here’s to healthy and fun holidays and a great Cinco de Mayo ahead!


Enjoy! And Live Vibrant!