Fajitas the Healthy Way!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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

MSROZZIE 6/18/2018
Great article. YUMMY ideas! Report
CHERIRIDDELL 6/18/2018
Excellent ideas Report
KATHYJO56 4/30/2018
yummy Report
RDHDINWV 1/4/2018
I have fajitas on a bed of greens or in a low carb flour tortilla. Yum !! Report
KHALIA2 12/29/2017
Sounds great! Thanks! Report
AIYANASMAMA 11/5/2017
Love me some fajitas Report
It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.
- Vince Lombardi Report
Great ideas Report
Thanks Report
AZMOMXTWO
awesome thank you Report
RAPUNZEL53
Great. Report
DMEYER4
great recipes Report
TIF
I make mine with chicken breast pepper and onion mix grilled with onion salt garlic powder chili powder and wrapped in a flatout which has only 50 to 90 calories.then I have a big salad on the side. Report
FRAGILEGUY
I I love the idea for avocado cream! I think this article would be improved with a photo of your healthier fajitas. Report
Ha, ha! HEALTHY? With MEAT in it? Report
I love Fajitas Report
RO2BENT
And meal can be healthified Report
Fantastic! Thanks! Report
LCERTUCHE
I make avocado cream using soaked cashews whirled in the blend with a little water, an avocado, onion, garlic, and lime juice. Much healthier fat that sour cream. Report
LEENANYC
Never thought of using a hollowed bell pepper as the base! Fabulous!! Report
FOXGLOVE999
I confess to preferring the commercially available seasoning packet to home seasoning for my chicken fajitas, but it's more of a sauce, not a marinade, and I've never found anything that adequately duplicates it. In any case, it's still a low calorie option for us. I'm trying a new shrimp fajitas recipe this week, as my favorite restaurant one changed theirs and I don't like it anymore. Beware of some restaurants chains housemade flour tortillas, they are much higher in fat and calories than average, in fact the fat and calorie counts about double. I've never seen the point in skipping the tortilla just to add corn, they are both carbs. I'll keep my tortilla. Report
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! Report

making me hungry! I love veggies! this sounds awesome! Report
DELLMEL
Looks really good and yummy. Report
I make my fajitas with only veggies. My guacamole is avocado, roma tomato, green onions, taco seasoning and a dash of lime juice. Report
IRISH4987
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. Report
I love fajitas...this recipe and all the tips in comments sounds great. Thank you! Report
Delicious sounding. Report
Can't wait to try it! Sounds wonderful! Report
Can't wait to try these new ideas! Thanks for all the info! Report
Pico de gallo is a staple with fajitas. Easy to make and low in calories. Report
Love the Greek-amole idea. I will definitely try that Report
I agree with swapping greek yogurt for sour cream - with the right seasoning, I think that this is a superior alternative to sc. Report
NUROWYN
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. Report
TONILISA2
Sounds great Report
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. Report
NAUSIKAA
lots of great ideas in here! Report
MZNAYLUV
Sounds delicious! Report
This will be a hit with hubby, who loves Mexican food. So glad to get ideas for making fajitas healthier! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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... Report
SANDIBETTS1
Thanks for info about all the "forgotten" calories added to frijatas. Report
sounds really yummy! Report
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. Report
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). Report
 
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