5 healthy Mexican foods for Cinco de Mayo

While Cinco de Mayo is considered a fairly minor holiday in Mexico (it's not Mexican Independence Day, as many Americans believe, but the observance of one of the first Mexican victories in the Franco-Mexican War), it's widely celebrated in the United States as a time to recognize Mexican heritage and culture.

Whipping up traditional Mexican food is a key part to this holiday, but celebrating Cinco de Mayo and sticking to a healthy diet can seem like mutually exclusive tasks. With a little creativity, however, you can enjoy all the flavors of the holiday without adding Cinco de Mayo inches to your waist.

Fresh guacamole

Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats, known for helping control your appetite and lower cholesterol, as shown in a study by the Journal of the American Heart Association. Thus, a bowl of chunky guacamole is the perfect, healthy appetizer to start off any Cinco de Mayo soiree. It's also a flexible recipe, allowing you the freedom to mix in whatever you have on hand, or add more of an ingredient you love. In addition to diced avocados, this recipe calls for tomatoes, onion, cilantro, salt and lime juice.

See the recipe at foodandwine.com.

Black bean quesadillas

These quesadillas cut out the meat (pleasing your vegetarian friends and lowering your cholesterol intake) but don't skimp on the flavor. They also offer plenty of opportunities for customization. If you have another favorite bean, feel free to substitute it in. You can also up the spiciness by choosing a flavorful cheese like pepper jack. Serve it as a main dish or as an appetizer with a side of that fresh guacamole and some pico de gallo (another healthy dish that can be packed with colorful fruits, vegetables and nutrients).

See the recipe at eatingwell.com.

Slow-cooker chicken tortilla soup

Planning a dinner party for Cinco de Mayo? Make dinner prep easier on yourself by throwing together this slow-cooker chicken tortilla soup a few hours before the party begins. You'll then have plenty of leisure time to focus on decor, appetizers and tidying up before guests arrive.

What makes this recipe healthier than others are its fresh ingredients and reduced sodium broth. Anytime you cut out canned vegetables, you'll increase the flavor, freshness and nutrition of your dish. Because you'll likely be snacking on salty tortilla chips at some point during the day, your body will thank you for cutting down on salt in the other dishes you serve.

See the recipe at allrecipes.com.

Baked turkey taquitos

Whenever possible, bake and don't fry your Cinco de Mayo dishes. It might take a little longer (this recipe calls for the taquitos to be baked at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, while frying might take only 5 to 10 minutes), but you'll save yourself dividends of calories and fat content in the long run. Choosing turkey as your protein instead of red meat or even chicken is also a healthier option. Turkey has less cholesterol, fewer saturated fats and more protein per ounce when compared to other meat fillings you might use, according to livestrong.com.

See the recipe at laurenslatest.com.

Watermelon agua fresca

Every Cinco de Mayo party needs a delicious, authentic Mexican drink. This one is alcohol-free, kid-friendly and delicious to boot. Who doesn't love the summery flavor of watermelon or the fun garnishes you can add, such as orange slices or mint sprigs? The recipe calls for some added sugar, but instead of adding it all at once, try a teaspoon at a time, stopping when you feel it's sweet enough.

See the recipe at food.com.

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