Snack of the Week: Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Healthier Nacho

What better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than with a traditional Mexican snack like nachos?

Before the first bite, let’s chomp into a bit of history. Cinco de Mayo (literally the 5th of May) commemorates the Mexican army’s victory against France in the 1862 Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican war. Although a relatively minor holiday in much of Mexico, it has evolved into a celebration of Mexican heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. In fact, the evolution of nachos themselves probably has at least as much to do with a border town in Texas as Mexico itself.

nightlife-music-cinco-de-mayo-arcos-restaurantProviding an occasional taste of international cuisine, particularly for older students, opens the door to discuss a wide range of topics affecting our planet, from geography and science to race relations and history. Some matters can be hugely important, others more trivial, such as nachos and their Tex-Mex roots or facts you never knew about Cinco de Mayo.

Armed with our new knowledge—and a bag of chips—we return to our south-of-the-border snack.

With ingredients from multiple food groups, loaded nachos have a lot going for them. And they’re so simple to make that even young children can lend a helping hand with a snack they’ll take pride in preparing.

By their nature, however, nachos—especially loaded nachos—can be loaded in calories. Here are some healthier options: DSC_2736

  • Consider using lean ground beef or use ground turkey.
  • If you’re using refried beans, look for the fat-free variety.
  • Instead of melting a large quantity of cheese directly on the nachos, spread a thin layer of refried beans directly on your chips and sprinkle your cheese as a top layer.
  • Reduced-fat Monterey Jack, Colby, or Cheddar are all well-suited as cheese options.


To prepare, simply spread a layer of tortilla chips (consider using baked whole grain chips) on a large, microwavable plate, sprinkle evenly with your favorite shredded cheese and add the toppings you like best. Microwave until the cheese melts and you’re ready to enjoy—possibly with salsa, sour cream, a diced tomato, or a dab of guacamole from the fridge.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailLeftover chicken (make certain it’s well-cooked) or chunks of pre-packaged chicken strips make excellent toppings, as do leftover taco meat or ground beef that has been prepared ahead of time. Consider preparing and freezing taco beef ahead and freezing in small, suitable portions. Always warm and drain the meat toppings before adding them to the tacos.

If you prefer to bake your nachos, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cover your 9 x 13 (or similar) baking dish with foil and a bit of non-stick cooking spray. Cover your single layer of chips with cheese, beans, and your choice of chicken or beef. You’ll want to bake for about 10 minutes, during which time you can prepare any other toppings you’d like to add.

Other ingredients you might wish to add include black beans (drained), sliced black olives, shredded lettuce, diced onions or scallions, and jalapeno peppers.

Don’t forget to involve your child in the selection of ingredients and their preparation. After all, it’s a snack the whole family should enjoy.

In case nachos aren’t your thing, other Mexican snacks employ many of the same ingredients. Think about quesadillas, fajitas, or burritos when you’re in that south-of-the-border mood—and fish tacos are a nice and healthy alternative when beef, chicken, or pork just won’t do.

For previous Snack of the Week suggestions and more articles on healthy eating, visit Learning Liftoff’s food and recipe posts.

Featured Image – Luca Nebuloni / CC by 2.0

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