Cinco de Mayo vibes
So I’ve been on a total Mexican food kick lately, thanks in part to Cinco de Mayo as well as the shift in weather. Cinco de Mayo kind of signifies a shift in my dietary habits and cravings, and even though the warm weather is still holding out on us up here in the Northeast, I’m feeling the spring into summer vibes which for me translates to salsa and guacamole. Don’t get me wrong I’ll devour them any time of year, but the warm weather makes me totally crave them.
Healthy, diet-friendly Mexican food
With loaded nachos, queso, and margaritas on the menu, Mexican food is not often associated with healthy eating. But it’s actually really easy to make healthier swaps in the kitchen. Plus, generally speaking, Mexican food can be a friendly cuisine to work with for people with certain dietary restrictions. Dairy-free? Skip it. Gluten-free? Corn is always an option. Gluten-free tortillas also exist Vegetarian? Indulge in rice and beans. And lots of guac. Always lots of guac.
Now, not all of these swaps are perfect. I don’t do corn products (that said organic fresh corn in the summer is undeniably delicious). I do miss my cheese. I’m actually not a huge fan of rice, or beans. Sometimes, I’ll do a little bit of all of it and enjoy every bite. More often than not I try to stay on track but have to compromise a little on at least one front when I’m dining out.
In my own kitchen however, I can do whatever I want, and what I do works. I make my vegan queso (coming soon!), whip up some fresh guac with fresh cilantro, use veggie sticks instead of chips, and use sweet potatoes as my taco ‘shells.’ Sweet potatoes inside tacos is definitely a thing you should make happen whether or not you’re gluten-free, because it’s delicious.
But if you’re gluten-free, grain-free, and/or corn-free, using a baked sweet potato as your taco shell might be a total game-changer. Sure, you can find those gluten-free taco shells these days, but this is an excellent way to get more sweet potatoes in your life. To be clear, the eating experience itself is not the same – it would be quite tricky to bite into a whole sweet potato stuffed with taco goodies. But it’s tasty and boosts the nutrition factor by a lot. And then I just top it with fresh greens, avocado, a little salsa, and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast to get that a little of that cheesy flavor that works so well in Mexican dishes.
The Nutritional Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
The healthier cousin of white potatoes, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and are especially high in beta-carotene, a pre-cursor to vitamin A, which is a skin superfood. They also contain a good amount of fiber and potassium, and even a little bit of protein. The body uses larger amounts of potassium during times of stress as well as to alleviate muscle cramps, so adding sweet potatoes to your diet can help protect against the negative effects of stress and tension.
Vibrantly colored sweet potatoes also contain a substantial amount of antioxidants, which can reduce oxidative damage and may reduce the risk of cancer. Purple varieties contain the most antioxidants, plus they look extra pretty on your plate. By comparison, sweet potatoes have more nutrients, more fiber, and a lower glycemic index than white potatoes. The skins contain a substantial amount of nutrients and fiber, so it is better to leave them on when possible to maximize the nutritional quality of the dish.
Sweet Potato Shell Tacos: Paleo, Gluten-Free, Gain-Free, Dairy-Free Recipe
Composing a taco isn’t difficult: fill your shell, and load on your desired toppings. So this recipe combines a simple baked sweet potato and the steps to make the filling with a homemade, additive-free taco seasoning blend. This can work with veggies as well as beans to make it vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
What you need:
- Filler: ground meat (beef or turkey work, organic, grass-fed, etc), beans, or chopped vegtables
- 1/2 – 1 chopped onion
- 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil (to brown the meat)
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried cilantro
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup water
What to do:
- Bake your sweet potatoes at 400 for 45 minutes – 1 hour (pierce each with a knife a few times).
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- Add the beef (or filling of choice) and stir it around. Add the onions about halfway through the browning process.
- Reduce heat and add up to 1/4 cup water. You may need less or more, so do it in stages.
- Add the spices and continue cooking on medium-low until all the spices are thoroughly incorporated and the water is totally cooked down.
- Slice the sweet potatoes down the middle and stuff them with your filling, and top with lettuce or greens, fresh cilantro or parsley, avocado, salsa, nutritional yeast… whatever your healthy little heart desires!