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Quiz: Do You Know Your Mexican Food?

Quiz: Do You Know Your Mexican Food?

Through the innovative use of cheese, lard, and deep-fat fryers, some Mexican restaurant chains and fast-food joints have accomplished the unthinkable: They turned a healthy cuisine based on corn, rice, and beans into a nutritional disaster.

According to an analysis by the Center For Science in the Public Interest a single chile relleno platter can pack as much saturated fat as 27 slices of bacon. But whether you're cooking at home or dining out, you can still enjoy the flavors of Mexico without busting your fat budget. Take this short quiz to see how much you know about healthy, low-fat Mexican dining.

1. At Mexican restaurants, a side order of refried beans is usually a healthy choice. True or false?

____True

____False

2. Flour tortillas are basically healthy -- unless they're soaked in oil. What restaurant dish is most likely to have this hidden source of fat?

a. Quesadilla

b. Soft taco

c. Enchilada

d. Fajitas

3. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which of these popular Mexican entrees earns high marks for nutrition?

a. Chicken fajitas

b. Chicken crispy tacos

c. Chicken nachos

d. Chicken chimichanga

4. When cooking Mexican food at home, which of these ingredients should you strictly avoid?

a. Cheese

b. Sour cream

c. Avocados

d. Ground beef

e. None of the above

ANSWERS

1. At Mexican restaurants, a side order of refried beans is usually a healthy choice.

The correct answer is: False

Left alone, fried pinto beans would be a healthy high-fiber dish. However, many restaurants "flavor" their beans with lard, cheese, or bacon. Just 2 1/4 cups of restaurant-style beans can fill your daily limit of saturated fat. You'd be much better off eating canned low-fat or no-fat beans at home. When eating out, limit your "extras" to salsa. At most restaurants, the guacamole, Mexican rice, and tortilla chips are brimming with fat and salt.

2. Flour tortillas are basically healthy -- unless they're soaked in oil. What restaurant dish is most likely to have this hidden source of fat?

The correct answer is: c. Enchilada

If you don't want your tortillas soaked in oil, you should order fajitas, burritos, or soft tacos. To cut fat even further, you can stick to corn tortillas instead of flour. (Some flour tortillas are made with lard.) When cooking enchiladas at home, you can soften the tortillas by soaking them in enchilada sauce instead of oil.

3. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which of these popular Mexican entrees earns high marks for nutrition?

The correct answer is: a. Chicken fajitas

As CSPI puts it, "There's not much you can do to ruin strips of marinated boneless chicken breast sauteed with onions and green peppers." In general, any marinated dish -- whether it's chicken, fish, or steak -- is a safe choice, as long as it's light on cheese and other fatty toppings.

4. When cooking Mexican food at home, which of these ingredients should you strictly avoid?

The correct answer is: e. None of the above

When used in moderation, no ingredient is off limits. For example, the American Heart Association offers a recipe for beef and bean enchiladas that are delicious, meaty, cheesy, and low in fat. (For this and other recipes, visit http://www.deliciousdecisions.org) Healthy home cooking is especially easy and satisfying if you use low-fat versions of cheeses, sour cream, and other toppings.

-- Chris Woolston is a health and medical writer with a master's degree in biology. He has also written for Hippocrates, Time Inc. Health, and WebMD.

References

Mexican Food: Oile. Nutrition Action Health Letter. Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Ann Bock. Expert: Despite Report, Mexican Food Can Be Healthy. College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

Taco Bell Printable Nutrition Guide. www.tacobell.com.

Heart-Healthy Tips for Eating Out. American Heart Association.

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