Eating Healthy — Merry Piglets

I love Merry Piglet’s 2-for-1 fajita special because it gets me closer to two of my main goals in life: to be rich and thin.

Sure, I also want to make the world a more loving place, be a good worker and help stop global warming. But I’m not ashamed to say I could use more money and tighter abs. Unfortunately, healthy food is usually more expensive than its cheaper, often fried, rarely fresh alternatives.

With chicken fajitas costing $17.99 and a meat burrito costing $6.99, I know I’ve often let price dictate my choices; however, with a 2-for-1 special happening on fajitas during the off-season, one of your healthiest Mexican food options also just became one of your most affordable.

A healthy post-Thanksgiving meal from Merry Piglets.

Merry Piglets isn’t your typical Mexican restaurant. The quality ingredients they use without any special requests eliminate some of the biggest healthy eating pitfalls of Mexican food. They promise no hydrogenated oils and don’t add lard to their refried beans. They also offer whole black beans, the healthier alternative to refried beans. The menu is packed with lots of fresh veggies — cut daily — and they make their own fresh salsa, which is a great low calorie, vitamin-rich food.

That being said, there is a smart way to keep calories in check while navigating the menu, and you don’t have to sacrifice taste.

Margaritas: It’s possible to get a “skinny girl” margarita at Merry Piglets. Since they use fresh-squeezed lime and lemon juices instead of margarita mix, there are already fewer calories than the infamous 500-calorie margs that have put fear and trepidation into the hearts of margarita-lovers everywhere. If you can take the tart and want to cut a few more calories, ask the bartender to leave out the simple syrup (extra sugar). Since you will still be getting a drink with fresh juices and Triple Sec, the drink will be plenty sweet.

Chips and Salsa: No one can resist, so don’t kill yourself trying. The smartest way to avoid post Mexican food guilt is to trade your fried chips in for a side of soft tortillas ($1.99). No, soft tortillas haven’t become a health food, but you are doing yourself a big favor by skipping the fried food. Wouldn’t you rather have the second margarita? Another great idea is to get a side of their freshly made guacamole. It’s not low in calories, so don’t go crazy, but it is high in healthy fats that will make you feel full faster and has even been shown to reduce cholesterol. This indulgence is packed with antioxidants and has 30 percent more calcium than a banana.

Entrees: When it comes to entrees, you should be avoiding fried, cheese-covered, sauce-smothered dishes.

Some recommended dishes:

Santa Fe Chicken Salad: A flavorful salad of mesquite-grilled chicken, chopped lettuce, red cabbage, carrots, broccoli, green onions and fresh orange slices. It is then typically topped with sliced corn tortillas and tossed with soy-ginger dressing. Ask to have the (fried) corn tortillas and dressing on the side and use sparingly.

Fajitas: Fresh veggies and a lean protein such as chicken. Fajitas are always one of your healthiest Mexican choices. Just be careful when it comes to dressing them up. Limit the sour cream and cheese, and load on the lettuce and pico de gallo. The marinated peppers, onions and meat are flavorful enough to keep taste buds happy. Skip the tortillas if it isn’t too big of a sacrifice.

Veggie Bowl: A great way to save empty calories is to leave off the tortilla of any burrito. Merry Piglets makes this option easy with their rice bowls, which are essentially burritos sans tortilla. If you want to up the health, check out their veggie bowl. With sautéed green peppers, onions, zucchini, squash, broccoli, spinach and tomatoes, this flavorful dish is loaded with nutrients and not calories. You will still fulfill your craving for rice, beans and avocado, but there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Dessert: I’m not a flan person, having always opted instead for the extra margarita, but if you can’t shake the sweet tooth, hop over to Merry Piglets’ sister restaurant, Dolce, conveniently located right next door. They are serving up frozen yogurt topped with fresh fruit. While still a lot of empty sugar calories, there are some benefits. The yogurt is organic, the fresh fruit is full of nutrients, and it’s definitely the most fun way to restock your body’s probiotics, which enhance the immune system and aid in digestion. Plus, the yogurt is delicious.


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Author:Jessica Zelenko

Jessica Zelenko writes the blog Becoming a Badass. When she’s not waiting tables she hunts down adventure and good eats.