Have a Healthy Taco Night—It’s Possible!

10/04/2013 at 10:41 AM ET

La Cenita veggie taco
Courtesy La Cenita

These may be our two favorite words in the English language: Taco Night. But the fiesta is over when we add up just how many calories are stuffed into a single tortilla—cheese and sour cream and rice (oh my!).

But those ingredients are the staples of good tacos, right? Not necessarily. It turns out it’s pretty easy to lighten up taco night and still be totally satisfied.

At new NYC hotspot La Cenita, chef Akhtar Nawab serves tacos made with healthy, citrus-based marinades, olive-oil dressings and heaps of colorful veggies—and he’s sharing some of those low-fat, high-flavor techniques with us.

Opt for olive oil. Instead of heavy sour cream or mole, lightly toss chopped tomatillos, onions, garlic and tomatoes in extra-virgin olive oil to make a fresh salsa, Nawab says.

Pick a fruit. Yes, some fruits work really well in a taco! You’ve probably tasted pineapple in a traditional pastor (pork) taco, but try diced apples and pears, too—they’re a sweet contrast to the smoky flavors of pork and beef. (To keep it healthy, use lean cuts of meat.)

Don’t give flour the power. Corn tortillas are made with whole grains so choose them over flour ones, which only offer empty calories. To prepare, lightly warm the corn tortillas on a skillet with a drop of olive oil, Nawab advises.

Juice it up. To make a quick marinade, puree ½ cup orange juice, 4 tbsp. olive oil, 4 sprigs of cilantro and 6 roasted chiles in a blender, pour it over lean beef and let it rest in the fridge for 4-5 hours before grilling, Nawab says. The acids in the OJ will perfectly tenderize the steak while infusing tons of flavor.

Cheese, please. If you simply can’t eat a taco without cheese, look for queso fresco at your farmers’ market or grocery store, Nawab says. It has 1/3 less fat than most other cheeses.

The best part about lightening up your family’s taco night? You can eat twice as much and feel half as guilty!

La Cenita King Crab Taco
Courtesy La Cenita


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