Mexican food is often characterized by its bold flavors, spices, and ingredients like beans, rice, corn, tomatoes, avocado, cheese, and meat. For people with diabetes, enjoying Mexican food in moderation can certainly be part of a healthy diet, but care needs to be taken with portion sizes and ingredients.
The Basics of Diabetes and Diet
People with diabetes need to carefully manage their blood sugar levels. This is done through medication, exercise, and diet. When it comes to diet, the primary goal is to eat foods that don’t cause sharp spikes in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fiber are all good choices.
It’s important for diabetics to be mindful of portion sizes of carbohydrates and to spread them out evenly over meals and snacks. Keeping tabs on total carbohydrates, limiting added sugars, and being careful with refined grains is also advised. But diabetics don’t necessarily have to avoid all carbs – they just need to be strategic.
Guidelines for Eating Mexican Food with Diabetes
When eating Mexican food, there are some general guidelines diabetics can follow to make good choices:
- Focus on fresh produce like tomatoes, onions, peppers, avocado
- Choose lean proteins like chicken, fish, shrimp
- Limit high-fat meats like chorizo and bacon
- Be careful with portion sizes of rice, beans, tortillas
- Avoid deep fried foods when possible
- Ask for corn tortillas instead of flour
- Limit high fat toppings like cheese, sour cream, guacamole
- Choose grilled, baked, or broiled dishes
- Opt for salsas, pico de gallo over cheese dips
- Drink water instead of sugar sweetened beverages
Following these tips can help diabetics enjoy Mexican food while keeping blood sugar levels in check. Moderation and thoughtful choices are key.
Healthy Mexican Food Choices
Here are some of the best Mexican food options for diabetics:
Tacos can be a great choice. Fill corn tortillas with grilled meat or fish, sautéed veggies, salsa, and add some avocado. Skip the fatty meats, cheese, and fried shell.
Grilled steak or chicken fajitas with assorted peppers and onions are an excellent option. Load up on the veggies and go easy on the tortillas, rice, beans to control carbs.
Build a tostada with crunchy corn tortilla, lean meat, lettuce, tomato, beans, salsa, and avocado or guacamole. The veggies and protein will help balance the carbohydrates.
This fresh seafood salad loaded with fish, shrimp, tomato, onion, cilantro is low carb and low calorie. It’s high in lean protein too.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Opt for this Mexican favorite loaded with vegetables, chicken, tomato broth, spices, and a bit of tortilla strips. The carb count stays lower.
Enchiladas made with corn tortillas, chicken, veggies, beans, and salsa or enchilada sauce can make a filling, well-rounded meal for diabetics.
A quesadilla made with a corn tortilla filled with veggies, black beans, salsa, and a sprinkle of cheese is a tasty option. Keep portions in check.
This light and refreshing salad-style dish features fish or shrimp marinated in citrus juice with veggie mix-ins. It’s low carb and low cal while providing lean protein.
Chicken in a rich mole sauce along with moderate portions of rice and beans is a flavorful diabetic-friendly choice. Focus on the chicken and vegetables.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
While many Mexican dishes can be adapted to be diabetes-friendly, there are some items that need to be limited or avoided for optimal blood sugar control:
- Chips, nachos, crispy tacos with fried shells
- Queso, chile con queso dips
- Large portions of rice, beans, tortillas
- Churros, flan, tres leches cake
- Dishes with lots of cheese, sour cream
- Bacon, chorizo, fatty meat dishes
- Dishes cooked in lard / with high saturated fats
- Sweetened drinks like horchata, agua fresca
- Margaritas and other sugary cocktails
Being mindful of these items and not overindulging can help diabetics make good choices when eating Mexican food.
Tips for Dining Out
When eating Mexican food at a restaurant, keep these tips in mind:
- Check nutrition info online and decide beforehand
- Ask how dishes are prepared and request modifications
- Choose grilled over fried if available
- Ask for extra veggies instead of rice or beans
- Request corn tortillas instead of flour
- Limit chips and opt for salsa over queso dip
- Order one taco instead of two or three
- Share high-carb sides or appetizers with the table
- Ask for dressing and sauces on the side
With some planning and special requests, diabetics can enjoy a healthy Mexican meal out. Being selective and practicing portion control is key.
Sample Meal Plan
Here is a one day sample Mexican food meal plan for a diabetic:
- Chilaquiles made with corn tortillas, salsa, beans, avocado, cilantro and scrambled egg whites
- 1/2 cup fresh fruit
- Coffee with unsweetened almond milk
- Taco salad made with shredded lettuce, ground turkey, corn, black beans, salsa, avocado
- Sparkling water with lime
- Chicken fajitas made with peppers, onions, served with corn tortillas and side salad
- 1/2 cup brown rice
- Horchata made with unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla
This provides a good variety of Mexican dishes while managing carbs, calories, and nutrition.
Make Your Own Healthy Recipes
Cooking Mexican food at home allows you to have total control over ingredients. Here are some healthy recipes to try:
Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps
Substitute lettuce leaves for taco shells in this lower carb version. Fill with lean ground turkey, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, salsa verde. Top with a sprinkle of queso fresco.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Make a big batch of this comforting chicken and veggie packed soup. Use reduced sodium broth and serve with baked tortilla strips.
Whip up a pot of meatless chili with beans, corn, zucchini, peppers, oregano, cumin. Garnish bowls with avocado and cilantro.
Shrimp Fajita Foil Packets
Assemble foil packets with shrimp, sliced bell peppers, onions, zucchini. Add fajita seasoning and salsa then bake. Serve in lettuce wraps.
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Layer corn tortillas, shredded chicken, enchilada sauce, beans, and cheese in a casserole dish and bake until hot and bubbly.
While Mexican food can be diabetes-friendly, there are some potential challenges to keep in mind:
- Large portions of carb-heavy foods like rice, beans, tortillas
- Frying with oil and lard can increase fat, calories
- Cheese, sour cream and guacamole as toppings
- Hidden carbs and sugars in sauces and condiments
- High calorie alcoholic drinks like margaritas
- Chips, re-fried beans, enchiladas can be high fat
- Eating too many high carb foods in one sitting
Being conscious of portion sizes, preparation methods, and ingredients can help overcome these challenges.
Tips for Success
Here are some top tips for diabetics to enjoy Mexican food successfully:
- Focus on fresh produce like veggies, salsa, avocado
- Choose lean proteins like chicken, fish, shrimp
- Limit fatty meats like chorizo, bacon
- Stick to corn tortillas instead of flour
- Control carb portions – rice, beans, tortillas
- Avoid fried foods when possible
- Skip chips, queso, creamy sauces, sweet drinks
- Make lower carb swaps like lettuce wraps
- Make your own meals at home
- Check nutrition info and carb counts
- Ask for modifications when dining out
With some simple strategies, diabetics can still enjoy the delicious flavors of Mexican cuisine.
Sample 7-Day Meal Plan
Here is a 7-day sample Mexican inspired meal plan for a diabetic diet:
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5||Day 6||Day 7|
|Breakfast: Veggie egg white scramble with black beans, corn, bell pepper, avocado||Breakfast: Greek yogurt bowl with mixed berries, pecans, cinnamon||Breakfast: Turkey bacon, egg white and spinach breakfast taco with salsa||Breakfast: Peanut butter overnight oats with chia seeds and almond milk||Breakfast: Veggie egg white scramble with black beans, corn, bell pepper, avocado||Breakfast: Greek yogurt bowl with mixed berries, pecans, cinnamon||Breakfast: Turkey bacon, egg white and spinach breakfast taco with salsa|
|Lunch: Grilled chicken taco salad with lettuce, corn, avocado, salsa dressing||Lunch: Leftover chicken tortilla soup||Lunch: Tuna salad lettuce wraps with tomato, avocado, red onion||Lunch: Grilled chicken taco salad with lettuce, corn, avocado, salsa dressing||Lunch: Leftover chicken tortilla soup||Lunch: Tuna salad lettuce wraps with tomato, avocado, red onion||Lunch: Grilled chicken taco salad with lettuce, corn, avocado, salsa dressing|
|Snack: Sliced bell pepper and jicama with guacamole||Snack: Cottage cheese and pineapple||Snack: Roasted edamame seasoned with cumin||Snack: Sliced bell pepper and jicama with guacamole||Snack: Cottage cheese and pineapple||Snack: Roasted edamame seasoned with cumin||Snack: Sliced bell pepper and jicama with guacamole|
|Dinner: Sheet pan chicken fajitas and cauliflower rice||Dinner: Seared shrimp taco lettuce wraps||Dinner: Chicken and veggie stuffed poblano peppers with cilantro lime rice||Dinner: Sheet pan chicken fajitas and cauliflower rice||Dinner: Seared shrimp taco lettuce wraps||Dinner: Chicken and veggie stuffed poblano peppers with cilantro lime rice||Dinner: Sheet pan chicken fajitas and cauliflower rice|
This meal plan provides a variety of Mexican inspired meals that are diabetes friendly, balanced and full of flavor. Following a plan like this makes it easy to work some favorite South of the border recipes into your diet.
Mexican cuisine can absolutely be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet for diabetics. With careful attention to portion sizes, carb counts, healthy cooking techniques, and ingredients, the flavors of Mexico can spice up mealtimes. Salsa, avocado, beans, tomatoes, and lean proteins are all great choices. Limit added fats, sugars, and heavy carb sides. With some mindfulness and planning, diabetics don’t have to say no to Mexican food.