Here Are the Best Keto Options at Mexican Restaurants

Hold the tortilla chips!



Photo by: Jeol Efthimiou / EyeEm

Jeol Efthimiou / EyeEm

So, you’ve decided to go keto and are preparing for the diet's low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat daily regimen. (That looks something like 5% carbs, 25% protein and 70% fat.) It can be daunting, and there is certainly a lot of home cooking involved. But you don’t have to be a shut-in — there are plenty of great keto-friendly options at your favorite Mexican restaurant.

In fact, you might be shocked by how keto-friendly Mexican restaurants can be. Almost all carry the carb-heavy standards like tacos, quesadillas, burritos and enchiladas, but check out the specialties — there might be steaks, pork chops, fish and chicken dishes that can easily be keto-fied.

Here are some tips for eating keto out. If you can, look the restaurant's menu up online beforehand and come up with a plan.

Skip these

Since the keto diet has a strict limit on carbs (only about 30 grams per day), that means no tortillas or chips (corn or flour), starchy vegetables (corn and potatoes), rice, beans or anything that might have hidden flour or sugar in it, like queso and salsa that's cooked.

Load up on these

Guacamole is your best friend at a Mexican restaurant — just hold the chips. It’s high in healthy fats and very low in carbs (unless something like corn is added). Order a side of it and plan on eating it by the spoon or forkful, or ask if you can get some veggies for dipping, like jicama, tomatoes, romaine lettuce spears and radishes.

Pico de gallo (fresh salsa) is chopped fresh tomato, onion, cilantro and sometimes jalapeno. It's a great way to add extra flavor to your meal without adding carbs.

Fajitas are another friend. Since you won’t have tortillas, ask for lettuce leaves to fill with that sizzling mixture of meat, peppers and onions. Or top it with guacamole, sour cream and fresh salsa and go to town with a fork.

Salads are on your side, and many restaurants have a few to choose from. They're usually loaded with fillings packed into a crunchy tortilla shell. Skip the edible bowl and pass on any starchy veggies (like corn), asking for extra meat and cheese instead. If you're unsure if the dressing is laden with sugar, then ask for lime wedges and oil. Make a quick vinaigrette by squeezing the lime over the salad, drizzling with a generous amount of oil and sprinkling with salt (and pepper if you like). Toss and enjoy.

Ceviche is a seafood salad in which an acidic ingredient (like lime juice) cooks the seafood — most commonly shrimp, scallops, fish and/or squid. It’s high in protein and with side of guacamole can make a full meal.

Chicken enchiladas verde is chicken stewed in a delicious green sauce usually made from tomatillos, onions, chiles and herbs. Ask for just the filling to be smothered in cheese. Add dollops of sour cream and guacamole, and hold the rice and beans.

Carne asada is a marinated and grilled steak that is usually served with tortillas. Skip the tortillas and load it up with sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo and red onion for a protein- and fat-packed meal.

Chorizo is a spicy fresh Mexican sausage. Ask if you can get a side order of it.

Second helpings

Load up on the guacamole, cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo and lime wedges for extra flavor and satiation.

Tequila time

Since margaritas are made with sugary mixes or triple sec and simple syrup, try enjoying tequila (which has no carbs) like a scotch and sip it on its own. Ask about the resaturant's selection of reposado (aged in oak under 12 months) and anejo (aged for one to two years) tequilas. A little goes a long way.

Or ask for a special carb-free (but not calorie-free) cocktail: tequila with club soda and lime on the rocks.

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