It’s a new year. And you’re full of new resolutions. Is one of your new year’s resolutions to eat healthier? If so, I have a collection of 12 healthy Mexican recipes to get you started!
While the term “healthy” can be a bit subjective, this collection of recipes uses fresh vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean meats so that you have a wide selection of menu options to choose from.
Whatever diet you are following, I am sure that you will find something on this list to make!
Whole Grains and Legumes
Beans are a staple in Mexican foods and I have a delicious, central Mexican-style black bean recipe for you to try. Besides being healthy and easy to make, black beans are high in plant-based protein and fiber, which can help to lower risk for heart disease.
This recipe uses a traditional clay pot to cook the beans, but these will cook up just fine in a metal stock pot, dutch oven, or slow cooker. The addition of the herb epazote (goosefoot, skunk weed, Mexican tea, or wormseed in English) is what makes these beans have a characteristic central Mexican flavor. While the beans themselves are healthy, epazote is known to help prevent flatulence and bloating…a good counter effect to bean’s magical properties.
Lentils, similar to black beans, are high in fiber and plant-based proteins. They can help control cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease. One of the things I like best about this recipe is that lentils are much faster to cook than black beans.
I include bacon in this recipe to help boost the flavor, but you can easily substitute the bacon with another fat or oil for lightly sauteeing the onions, garlic, and tomato.
Here in Mexico, amaranth has been used since the time of the Aztecs. This pseudo-grain has gained popularity in recent years outside of Latin America due to its impressive nutritional profile.
Not only is amaranth versatile, but it is also naturally gluten-free. Amaranth has also been shown to lower cholesterol, and is high in antioxidants and protein.
These savory fritters pack extra flavor with sauteed onion and epazote, a common central Mexican herb. I like to use a heart-healthy oil for frying these fritters to a crisp, golden brown.
Does it get any healthier than roasted vegetables? I think not. This salsa is all about fresh. Fresh produce is charred in a dry skillet on the stove to create a mouth-watering salsa that you can use to top just about anything.
Tomatillos are high in vitamin C and have antioxidants like other foods on this list which help boost heart health.
Here again, fresh vegetables take center stage. Pico de Gallo is simply a raw salad of chopped tomatoes, onions, and chile peppers, with lime juice and salt for a bit of flavor. With no fat, no cholesterol, and only 23 calories per 1/2 cup serving*, this is a salsa you can use to top anything and feel good about it.
This dish is hearty, vegetarian, and can be vegan if you omit the cheese. Mexican grey squash is found year-round in central Mexico and takes center stage in this dish. This squash is naturally low in calories, fat, and sugar. And is high in fiber and cancer-fighting properties.
This squash is prepared “a la Mexicana”, meaning the vegetables added to this dish represent the red, white, and green of the Mexican flag.
Cactus may be foreign as food to you, but here in Mexico, people have been eating it for the last few hundred years. Prickly pear cactus paddles (called nopales in Spanish), the fleshy, young leaves of the cactus plant, are boiled until tender and mixed with onion and tomato for a unique salad.
Nopales are known to help prevent diseases like diabetes, eliminate toxins from the body caused by alcohol or tobacco consumption, and even prevent ulcers.
Who knew this prickly and uninviting plant could be such a delicious and healthy food?
Ahhhh, the avocado. This native Mexican food is the main ingredient of the much-beloved guacamole. This dish is fast, simple to make, and loaded with fresh vegetables, like avocados, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and chile peppers, if you want an extra kick.
Avocados are nutritious for several reasons, like containing healthy fats, high amounts of fiber, and several minerals and vitamins, like potassium. So while avocados are relatively high in calories, they are also a source of key nutrients that our bodies need.
This shredded beef salad, is cool, crisp, and filling. And while I find many salads to be boring, the combination of the tender shredded beef, crunchy vegetables, and tangy dressing in this dish is refreshing.
Beef can sometimes get a bad rap for being fatty, but this particular cut of beef is lean, while being high in protein and iron.
I have heard that mole is considered the national dish of Mexico. And with so many regional varieties, techniques, and ingredients, I believe it.
I like to make this dish by boiling the chicken pieces with vegetables for a homemade broth. This allows me total control over the ingredients, including salt. And with the sauce being a blend of fresh vegetables and seeds, it’s hard to find a healthier way to eat this traditional Mexican dish. This mole verde comes in at just 400 calories per serving (assuming 1 small chicken thigh per person)*.
This is a staple in our house and a family favorite. I use a lean 90/10 ground sirloin for this dish so that the calories and fat are lower while still giving my family a hearty, protein-packed meal. The meat is cooked up with vegetables and a tomato-based broth, for an oil-free preparation.
We typically serve our picadillo on a tostada and top it with cream and shredded cheese. These are optional of course and can be eliminated if desired!
Another family favorite using lean ground beef! Traditional meatball recipes require frying the meatballs before adding them to the sauce. This preparation requires no frying. The meatballs are simply rolled and cooked directly in the tomato and chipotle-based sauce.
There are a couple of things that I love about this dish.
First, these meatballs are totally customizable. You can fill them with rice or hard-boiled egg, and flavor them with mint or oregano. The choice is yours.
Secondly, I don’t use breadcrumbs for this preparation, so these are gluten-free.
Thirdly, if you have spice-adverse folks in your family, simply make part of this sauce without the chipotle for a chile-free version!
I hope these recipes inspire you to add some Mexican flare to your healthy meal options! Happy cooking!
* Calorie information calculated from Verywell Fit .