Dietitian’s Dish – Tips for a Happy, Healthy Cinco de Mayo

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lisa shettle by Lisa Shettle, MS, RDN, CD-N

Cinco de Mayo is a time to savor all the festive flavors that come with the holiday. Enjoy this fun and festive holiday by including these tips into your celebration for a nutrient boost.

Here are some tips for enjoying your favorite Cinco de Mayo dishes to make them lower in calories and sodium.

Spice it up

Enhance the flavor of your dishes with traditional spices, chilis, herbs and citrus juice rather than salt.

Some common herbs and spices: 

  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Fresh or dried cilantro
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garlic

Less common spices to consider include ancho chile powder, Mexican oregano, tomatillos and serrano peppers. Flavorful vegetables, such as onion, jalapeños, chipotle peppers and poblano peppers, enhance flavor and add to your fiber goal. Instead of adding salt try adding a splash of lime juice.

Volume in veggies

Increasing vegetables in meals increases flavor and reduces calories. Make sure your dish includes at least a serving of vegetables, or a half-cup of cooked or one cup of raw vegetables. 

Salsa can count as a vegetable, but many store brands are high in sodium. Experiment with making your own lower-sodium salsa as fresh produce becomes more abundant.

Add lean proteins

Choose lean proteins, such as fish; chicken; ground turkey; or lean steak, such as top sirloin. Another option is using pinto, black beans in place of meat. If using ground beef, try substituting half of the beef for ground turkey, vegetarian soy crumbles, lentils or black beans.

Select whole grains

Add in fiber by choosing whole grains such as whole-wheat tortillas instead of white flour tortillas and brown rice for white rice.

Curb added saturated fat

Limit added saturated fat by choosing low-fat sour cream and reduced-fat cheese. You can use low-fat plain Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream for a protein boost. Replace saturated fat with monounsaturated fat like olive oil and avocados that promote heart health. 

Try a new recipe from our collection of Latin-inspired party-friendly recipes that includes an even mix of plant-based and omnivore options.


A registered dietitian provides medical nutrition therapy and is your best source of reliable and evidence-based nutrition information. An RDN can also help you determine measurable and achievable goals within your individualized plan for your best health outcomes.  

BONUS: Services are covered by most health insurance plans!

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