Let’s go out for…Mexican (what to know)

Part 1 of our guide to eating out at a Mexican restaurant. Know the dos and don'ts of eating out.

See Next:  Build your own taco Tuesday 

Whether you're dining at an upscale Mexican restaurant or grabbing lunch at the taco truck, you can make smart choices to get a healthier and more satisfying meal. These tips will help.


Course: appetizers


When the chips are down
Fried tortilla chips are the greatest temptation at the Mexican table. Count on clocking in at 5 SmartPoints value for a dozen chips. One strategy: Take the amount of chips you’re comfortable with, put them on your plate and make that the limit. You could also ask for some sliced vegetables so you can dip them in salsa and guacamole instead of the chips.

Double, or triple, dip
Now that you’ve got your portion of chips, make 'em last. Take two scoops of salsa with the chip, but only eat the chip on the third scoop. You’ll cut your chip intake by two-thirds. (Make sure to put the salsa on your plate first. George Costanza may be watching.)

Keep the salsa
Salsa and pico de gallo (similar to salsa, but with less liquid) are two fantastic condiments, and both are usually free of SmartPoints values. If you are skipping cheese or sour cream, salsa can be a great addition to spoon on your main course.

Go fish
Ceviche is a great appetizer, packed with protein and flavor. A half-cup is just 2 SmartPoints value, while the protein-rich fish gets your meal started right, satisfying your hunger.


Course: mains and sides


Know your tortillas
Choose a corn tortilla over flour, and go for soft over hard. Corn is a whole grain, while a flour tortilla is all refined grain with no nutritional value, like eating a pretzel. Both corn and flour soft tortillas have about 2 to 3 SmartPoints value, but the corn will be a more nutritious choice.

Lime: It’s not just for Corona
Trimming an ounce of cheese from your entrée can eliminate up to 4 SmartPoints value. Ditto for sour cream (5 SmartPoints value per tablespoon). But what can help make up for the loss of flavor? That little green wedge on your plate. A squeeze of lime does a beautiful thing for Mexican dishes. Ask for a side of lime wedges and you won’t miss the fatty toppings.

Take a side adventure
Refried beans and rice aren’t the only side-dishes at Mexican restaurants. They are, however, the most boring. So get adventurous. Try sliced jicama root. It's crunchy and refreshing, and it has 0 SmartPoints value on its own. Nopalitos are another great choice. These cactus paddles are high in fiber and vitamins, and have only the fat they're cooked with, so a serving might contain just 1 SmartPoints value. If you must have bean, go for whole pinto beans or black beans in place of refried. This will cut the SmartPoints values for a serving by half.


Course: drinks


Need a Margarita?
The flagship cocktail of Mexico, real margaritas are a refreshing blend of lime juice, sweet triple sec and tequila. But this cocktail will cost you at least 17 SmartPoints value, and that’s assuming your glass isn't large enough to house several goldfish. As an alternative, order a Paloma. This authentic cocktail is tequila topped with Squirt, a grapefruit soda, and is only 9 SmartPoints value.

Cerveza, por favor
With typical beers (like Corona) clocking in at 3 to 5 SmartPoints value, beer can add a lot of baggage when you’re trying to beat the heat of Mexican cuisine. Tip: Grab one and add a water on the side. You'll likely be satisfied after drinking one or two, and less tempted to keep ordering round after round with your meal.


See Next:  Build your own taco Tuesday