Fajitas The Healthy Way!

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/21/2013 12:00 PM   :  29 comments   :  169,745 Views

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Fajitas are one of those foods that you hear and smell before you see, especially when you order them at a restaurant. The onions and peppers sizzle amongst strips of meat, their intoxicating smells travel through the restaurant, and finally a skillet overflowing with food is presented to you, along with a platter of beans, rice, a stack of flour tortillas and all the trimmings.
 
Fajitas come from the Spanish word "faja," which means sash, skirt--or girdle. It referred to the type of meat originally used in the dish, skirt steak. When most of us eat fajitas as served, we'll likely need a girdle to get into our pants!
 
The fajita platter at a popular fast-casual chain has 850 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 2,440 milligrams of sodium (more than a day's worth!). Wow.
 
At its most basic, a fajita is grilled meat wrapped in a tortilla. The vegetables are a welcome addition, but most restaurants douse them in oil and salt. 
 
As I set out to make over the fajita, I returned to the basics. I chose chicken instead of steak since red meat is something most of us eat less often these days. I seasoned the meat with a No Salt Fajita Rub. I added plenty of vegetables.

And instead of serving the fajitas inside tortillas, I serve them inside a roasted pepper.  Instead of sour cream and loads of cheese, I topped mine with Avocado Cream, a lime-infused mix of Greek yogurt and avocado.
 
I call these Deconstructed Chicken Fajitas.
 
Keep reading to learn how to build a healthier fajita
 
The Wrapper
  • When you order fajitas out, they come with a stack of tortillas. Each 6-inch corn tortilla has 57 calories; each 6-inch flour tortilla has 104 calories. Those calories can really add up! Choose corn or whole-wheat varieties over the regular flour tortillas, and limit it to two corn tortillas or one whole-wheat one.
  • To grill the tortillas use a nonstick spray instead of vegetable oil or just spritz with water, fold in a paper towel, then microwave for a few seconds.
  • Consider skipping the wrap all together and serve your fajita on a bed of bright mixed greens or brown rice.
  • Better yet, use a vegetable as a wrap!  I love to use red peppers from the garden, or sweet banana peppers, raw or roasted. 
 
The Filling
  • Choose lean cuts of meat.  Traditional fajitas were made with skirt steak, which is lean but not very tender.  Other lean beef options hanger steak, sirloin, flatiron (top blade) or flank steak.  Chicken breasts and pork shoulder yield great fajitas, and with fish, the possibilities are endless: shrimp, lobster, cod, perch, even scallops.
  • Extend the meat by mixing with healthier sources of proteins; black, red, pinto, even white kidney beans add fiber and taste.  I usually go for the 50/50 rule. I like 2 ounces of meat and 2 ounces beans (1/4 cup) per fajita.
  • Bulk them up with veggies. In addition to the ubiquitous onions and peppers, add tomatoes, mushrooms, squash and asparagus when they're in season.
  • If you're using a tortilla, skip the rice. Most restaurants add it to fill you up for less money, but I prefer bulking up on vegetables.  If you do choose rice, go for brown instead of white for more fiber and nutrients.
  • Spice it up.  Use chili, cumin,  oregano, paprika, and red pepper rubs on lean cuts of meats like chicken breast or a low or no oil marinade to tenderize the tougher cuts like the flat iron steak or skirt steak.  Don't forget the vegetables need some flavor, too!  Sprinkle cumin seeds, lime zest, and fresh chopped cilantro over your vegetables right before serving.

The Toppings (the best part!)
  • Cheese gets lost in the mix. Omit it to save calories--you won't miss it.
  • When it comes to creamy toppings, choose sour cream or guacamole--not both.
  • Focus on adding moisture without fat. Choose tomato salsas as a low-fat topping. 
  • Add roasted corn, smoked peppers, or mango to boost flavor and nutrition to your topping.
  • In place of sour cream, consider using Greek yogurt, which has more protein but still has the tang.
  • For my Avocado Cream I combined Greek yogurt and avocado for more complex flavor, but you can also try adding chopped cucumber, papaya, or even roasted peppers to the yogurt.
 
Fajitas are a great party food. Invite friends and family, and let everyone make their own signature fajitas.

Prepare one or two meat options and one vegetarian option then go wild with the vegetable and topping choices.  Offer festive cereal bowls for eating fajitas with no wrappers or roasted peppers for those that like to eat their bowls.
 
How do you like to eat your fajitas? Do you prefer chicken, steak, shrimp, or vegetables? No matter which you choose, use my No Salt Fajita Rub instead of seasoning packets!
 
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Comments

  • 29
    I make my chicken fajitas in my Pampered Chef deep covered baker-no oil or butter needs to be used. Simply layer sliced red, green, yellow and orange peppers and onions on the bottom, press fresh garlic over it, layer chicken breasts (I pound the thick end flatter) over them, sprinkle seasonings over (Pampered Chef has a great southwest seasoning!) the chicken, squeeze a fresh lime over all. Cover and cook in microwave 17 minutes. When done cooking, you can either use kitchen shears to cut the meat, or remove it from the cooker and cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Serve with tortillas of choice or on rice. They're awesome and moist because the water from the vegetables steam the chicken. My family eats them with all the fixings, and I choose very little cheese and lots of salsa. I will now try the roasted peppers for shells. Great idea! - 4/25/2014   9:55:07 AM
  • 28

    making me hungry! I love veggies! this sounds awesome! - 2/1/2014   1:17:32 PM
  • DELLMEL
    27
    Looks really good and yummy. - 1/7/2014   10:48:41 AM
  • 26
    I make my fajitas with only veggies. My guacamole is avocado, roma tomato, green onions, taco seasoning and a dash of lime juice. - 10/30/2013   12:22:42 PM
  • IRISH4987
    25
    I look forward to trying this receipe. Fahitas orbmexican food is a real favorite of mine. I'm a newbie and love spark people tricks and tips, receipes, and the people. - 9/24/2013   12:19:55 PM
  • 24
    I love fajitas...this recipe and all the tips in comments sounds great. Thank you! - 6/9/2013   7:08:32 AM
  • 23
    Delicious sounding. - 5/23/2013   2:37:24 PM
  • 22
    Can't wait to try it! Sounds wonderful! - 5/22/2013   11:44:48 AM
  • 21
    Can't wait to try these new ideas! Thanks for all the info! - 5/22/2013   11:32:09 AM
  • 20
    Pico de gallo is a staple with fajitas. Easy to make and low in calories. - 5/22/2013   10:13:58 AM
  • 19
    Love the Greek-amole idea. I will definitely try that - 5/22/2013   5:52:59 AM
  • 18
    I agree with swapping greek yogurt for sour cream - with the right seasoning, I think that this is a superior alternative to sc. - 5/22/2013   12:34:42 AM
  • NUROWYN
    17
    For those who don't want to make their own rub, Frontier makes a fabulous no-salt Mexican seasoning mix, and instead of sour cream I always use plain low fat yogurt. So good hubby wishes I'd make them twice a week. - 5/21/2013   1:53:07 PM
  • TONILISA2
    16
    Sounds great - 5/21/2013   1:21:08 PM
  • 15
    i just made my own fajitas at home with morning star veggie chicken strips two different bell peppers and onions. made my own flour tortillas that were a lot lower in calories then store bought ones. they were so good i had to fight to get my fair share from my fiance haha. - 3/27/2013   2:13:16 PM
  • 14
    lots of great ideas in here! - 3/23/2013   11:08:37 AM
  • MZNAYLUV
    13
    Sounds delicious! - 3/9/2013   3:43:20 PM
  • LADYJAJA
    12
    This will be a hit with hubby, who loves Mexican food. So glad to get ideas for making fajitas healthier! - 6/13/2012   5:12:27 PM
  • 11
    I was going suggest using lettuce as a wrap. I do that for a number of things. Like a sub sandwich without the bread but all the veggies and spices you on finds on a sub. - 6/13/2012   5:17:08 AM
  • 10
    I didn't realize that flour tortilla's had almost twice as many calories. Normally I order corn, so that's a good thing, I just wish most places offered whole wheat tortilla's... Oh well, maybe sometime in the distant future some of the restaurants will offer them. - 6/12/2012   11:21:52 PM
  • 9
    I live in Sonora, Mexico and the sour cream and cheese you mention are a "gringo" addition. Real mexican food is much leaner and healthier than any "mexican" food north of the border and that's before you take in consideration the huge portions served - enough to feed a family of 4 here... - 6/12/2012   12:24:34 PM
  • SANDIBETTS1
    8
    Thanks for info about all the "forgotten" calories added to frijatas. - 6/12/2012   7:59:55 AM
  • 7
    sounds really yummy! - 6/12/2012   7:12:58 AM
  • 6
    Love this meal. I make mine with chicken, orange and yellow peppers and onions. I also use cayanne pepper, garlic powder and chilli powder. Yummm. - 6/12/2012   1:06:07 AM
  • 5
    I confess I was disappointed to see that there were more calories in the flour tortilla than in the corn tortilla (which I personally dislike). - 6/11/2012   10:17:15 PM
  • 4
    Can't wait to try the avocado cream! Sounds like a great addition! - 6/11/2012   9:40:19 PM
  • 3
    I love fajitas! Yum. I want some now. - 6/11/2012   9:37:20 PM
  • 2
    Well great, now I want Mexican food even though we've got a chicken and some kohlrabi roasting in the oven for dinner.

    I LOVE fajitas, but I always skip the wrap and enjoy heart-healthy guacamole and salsa when I'm out. If I'm at home, I serve them up in bib lettuce leaves -- they're flexible and small enough that you can enjoy 3 or 4 fajitas guilt-free! And for a side, simmered black beans are a great alternative to rice or chips. - 6/11/2012   6:22:35 PM
  • 1
    This is just the ticket and Cheesecake factory has already got lettuce wrapped tacos on their menu. They are wonderful. Can you imagine this at the Cheesecake Factory?? - 6/11/2012   3:32:41 PM

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