Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Good Health!

Whether you’re managing diabetes or just looking to cut carbs and cals, try these festive and healthy recipes from Familia Kitchen.

This year, many of us will safely gather on May 5 with family and friends for the first time in a long while, maybe to honor our heritage, or simply to salute our neighbors to the south. And what better way to celebrate Mexican national pride—dating back to this same date in 1862 when Mexican rebels forced French troops to retreat from a battle near Peubla—than with authentically prepared, traditional dishes and drinks?

Still, some of those favorite meals are loaded with carbohydrates, fats, unhealthy oils, and sugars. And the Latinx community is at higher risk of developing diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means if you’re a Latinx adult, you have a 50% chance of developing this condition, a disease that affects how your body uses blood sugar. Serving up high-carb, high-fat fare may not be doing your loved ones any favors. And, if you’re among the 34.2 million Americans already diagnosed with this condition, you may worry you’ll have to skip the fiesta altogether.

Good news: We've teamed up with Familia Kitchen to put the healthy food fun back into Cinco. You don’t have to say no to esquites, quesadillas, or even churros if you’re celebrating with friends this year. Try these six recipes that are inspired by Latinx abuelas, but prepared with good health in mind.

Get ready to say si to Cinco de Mayo!

Appetizers

Almost Esquites
This story was produced in partnership with Familia Kitchen. Image courtesy of Familia Kitchen.

Almost Esquites

Servings: 6
From start to finish: 25 minutes

Mexican markets selling corn on the cob often peddle esquites, a popular snack of toasted corn kernels, usually served in a cup. The traditional preparation of this popular treat calls for vegetable oil, cheese, and cream, in addition to chile and lime juice—not to mention corn itself, which folks with diabetes are told to eat sparingly, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines. That means authentic esquites for Cinco may be a hard no—but you can enjoy the version here in good health. Why? Because these esquites swap cauliflower florets for most of the corn, and vegetable oil is 86-ed altogether for olive oil, which can help reduce inflammation (inflammation and insulin resistance go hand-in-hand, per the ADA). This recipe also calls for a single tablespoon of butter—but remember, it does feed six hungry mouths, so that’s just one-sixth of a tablespoon for you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower florets (about half of a cauliflower head)

  • 1 cup corn kernels (about 2 ears of corn)

  • 2 jalapeño peppers

  • ½ cup scallion whites

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1 Tbsp. butter

  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp. vegan, soy-fee mayonnaise

  • ½ lime (juiced)

  • ½ tsp. Himalayan salt

  • ¼ cup cotija cheese (extra for garnish)

  • ⅓ cup scallion greens (extra for garnish)

  • chile powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets and scrape the kernels off the corncob.

  2. Chop the jalapeños into small squares (for less spice, remove the seeds and vine from the jalapeños) and the scallion into small circles, dividing the greens from the whites.

  3. Place a sauté pan on medium-high heat as you add the butter and extra-virgin olive oil; heat for one minute.

  4. Add the cauliflower and corn, and stir until evenly coated with the butter-and-oil oil mixture.

  5. After about five minutes, add the jalapeños, garlic, and scallion whites to the pan. Stir until everything is well-mixed.

  6. After about 10 minutes, remove from heat and place the mixture into a mixing bowl. Let it cool for about five minutes.

  7. Add in the mayonnaise, lime juice, Himalayan salt, cotija cheese, and scallion greens, then mix well.

  8. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with extra scallion greens, cotija cheese, and an optional dash of chile powder (if you want an extra kick!).

Tips:

  • Be sure to use a brand of butter that does not contain any added oils, such as Kerrygold butter.

  • If you’re pressed for time, you can buy pre-cut, pre-washed cauliflower florets and frozen corn kernels.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Calories: 108
Total fat: 7.7g
Saturated fat: 1.8g
Cholesterol: 5mg
Sodium: 110mg
Total carbohydrate: 8.9g
Total sugars: 2.2g (which are measured in the total carbohydrate)
Protein: 2g

Guacamole and Sweet Mini-Pepper Scoops
Courtesy of Familia Kitchen

Guacamole and Sweet Mini-Pepper Scoops

Servings: 6
From start to finish: 10 minutes

The natural goodness of the avocado helps make this one of the world’s favorite dips. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, a.k.a., the “good” fat, which helps lower bad cholesterol. Plus, this fruit (yes, the avocado is actually a fruit!) provides protective effects on the heart. Guac is traditionally paired with tortilla chips (as if we have to tell anyone that!), but, here, you’ll choose a tasty, better-for-you alternative: pepper “chips,“ which are not only naturally sweet and tangy, they’re crunchy, too.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Hass avocados

  • ⅓ cup red onion

  • ¼ cup jalapeño peppers

  • ¾ cup tomatoes

  • ⅓ cup cilantro

  • 1 ¼ tsp Himalayan salt

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice

  • 1 lb. bag sweet mini-peppers of all colors

Directions:

Step 1: Make the guacamole.

  1. Wash and cut the avocados in half. Remove the pits.

  2. Cut horizontal and vertical lines into the inside of each avocado half—similar to a checkerboard with small squares—then scoop out the pulp into a mixing bowl with a spoon.

  3. Chop the red onion, jalapeños (for less spice, remove the seeds and vine from them), tomatoes, and cilantro into small chunks, then add to the bowl.

  4. Next add the salt, black pepper, and lime juice.

  5. Mix with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are well-incorporated and the consistency becomes creamy. If you like your guacamole chunky, give it a few less turns.

Step 2: Prepare the sweet mini-pepper scoops.

  1. Wash and pat dry the peppers.

  2. Carefully slice each pepper in half starting at one end of the stem and going all the way around.

  3. Clean out the vines, seeds, and stem, and you have a natural scoop for your guacamole.

Tips:

  • Depending on your taste preference, add more or less lime juice, jalapeños, and/or onions.

  • Let the guacamole rest in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes before serving, so that all the ingredients have time to marinate. Yum!

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Calories: 89
Total fat: 2.6g
Saturated fat: 0.5g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 307mg
Total carbohydrate: 14.3g
Total sugars: 6.2g (which are measured in the total carbohydrate)
Protein: 2.6g

Drink

Spicy Paloma
Courtesy of Familia Kitchen

Spicy Paloma

Serving size: 8 oz. drink
From start to finish: 5 minutes

It’s tough not to admire this pink, fizzy cocktail. Yet, the key ingredient in a traditional Paloma is grapefruit soda. Grapefruit = good, because it’s considered a diabetes superfood by the ADA. Soda? Not so much—this carbonated bev can be loaded with added sugars. Sugars are carbs, and the CDC advises keeping a check on your carb count to help lower your risk of getting diabetes, or to manage your insulin levels if you’ve already been diagnosed with this condition. To help you get back to enjoying a Paloma, try flipping the sugary grapefruit soda for fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, then add some freshly squeezed lime juice, too. For the fizz factor, top off your drink with sparkling water, as suggested by the Mayo Clinic.

Whether you add tequila or keep it virgin, keep in mind that all alcoholic drinks should be enjoyed responsibly. For people with diabetes, the ADA says that drinking one or two drinks on occasion is OK and may even have some health benefits; quaffing now and then may improve blood sugar (glucose management) and insulin sensitivity. (But don’t overpour: A single drink means 5 oz. of wine, a 12-oz. beer, or 1 ½ oz. of 80-proof spirits in a cocktail.) There are some risks, too, including unhealthy dips in blood sugar levels, so speak to your doctor before imbibing during a Cinco party if you have diabetes, or you’re at high risk for developing the disease.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. jalapeño pepper

  • 1 oz. lime juice

  • 4 oz. fresh grapefruit juice

  • 2 oz. tequila

  • 1 oz. sparkling water

  • Ice cubes

Directions:

  1. Cut the jalapeño and add it to the bottom of a shaker with the lime juice. Muddle for 30 seconds. (Muddling is when you press down to release the flavors but leave the pepper intact.)

  2. Add the grapefruit juice, tequila, and a few ice cubes. Shake for a few seconds.

  3. Add a few ice cubes to a serving glass, then pour the drink two-thirds full.

  4. Top off with sparkling water.

  5. Add a piece of fresh grapefruit or jalapeño for a garnish (optional).

Tip:

You should have about half a grapefruit left over after preparing the drink. Cut it into slices and enjoy with your drink for some added flavor and fiber.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Calories: 172
Total fat: 0.1g
Saturated fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 1mg
Total carbohydrate: 11.7g
Total sugars: 8.5g (which are measured in the total carbohydrate)
Protein: 0.9g

Main Meals

Quesadillas
Courtesy of Familia Kitchen

Quesadillas

Servings: 10 to 12
From start to finish: 40 minutes

It seems that most everybody, young and old, loves quesadillas. Delicious, filling, easy to eat, and simple to add substitutions to, they are the perfect large-crowd party food. But they’re typically made with enriched-flour tortillas, tons of cheese, and just a bit of protein—so not exactly a top choice for diabetes-conscious fiesta-goers. These quesadillas, however, are made with almond flour tortillas, which contain a higher amount of fiber. (According to the ADA, fiber helps control sugar spikes.) They’re also loaded with shrimp or tofu, which are both high in protein and low in fat, along with non-starchy veggies (which by now you already know are smart staples for folks with diabetes). Using low-fat and/or vegan cheese—both lower in cholesterol and saturated fat—are also smart choices for people with diabetes. Turmeric, which research shows can help delay diabetes development and decrease insulin resistance, is in the seasoning, too, adding some spicy (and health-conscious) flare.

Ingredients:

For the mushroom-jalapeño mix:

  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms

  • 2 medium jalapeño peppers

  • ¼ tsp. pink Himalayan salt

  • ¼ tsp. black pepper

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the shrimp:

  • ½ lb. of large shrimp (about 12)

  • ½ tsp. pink Himalayan salt

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • ½ tsp. garlic powder

  • ½ tsp. oregano

  • ¼ tsp. cayenne powder

  • ¼ tsp. cumin powder

  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder

  • ¼ tsp. onion powder

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

For the tofu:

  • 14 oz. packet of extra-firm tofu

  • 1 tsp. pink Himalayan salt

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • ½ tsp. garlic powder

  • ½ tsp. oregano

  • ¼ tsp. cayenne powder

  • ¼ tsp. cumin powder

  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder

  • ¼ tsp. onion powder

  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

Plus:

  • 1 cup shredded spinach

  • ⅔ cup chopped tomatoes

  • 1 cup shredded, low-fat Mexican cheese (cheddar or Monterey jack)

  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheese

  • 10 almond flour tortillas

Directions:

Step 1: Cook the mushroom-jalapeño mix.

  1. Cut jalapeños into slivers. For less spiciness, remove the veins and seeds.

  2. Place a sauté pan over high heat and add in extra-virgin olive oil for 30 seconds.

  3. Add mushrooms and stir so they are all coated with the oil and evenly distributed in the pan.

  4. After about four minutes (once the mushrooms have released their natural juices), add the jalapeño. Stir all together and evenly distribute in the pan.

  5. After about one minute, sprinkle in salt and pepper.

  6. Continue to cook and stir for about five minutes, or until the mix has lightly caramelized/browned.

  7. Remove from the pan and set to the side.

Step 2: Cook the shrimp.

  1. Clean the shrimp and cut in half or in thirds (depending on size of shrimp) and place in bowl.

  2. Sprinkle all spices and 1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil and mix well until the shrimp is covered with spices.

  3. Place sauté pan over high heat and add 1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil for about one minute.

  4. Add shrimp and spread evenly on pan.

  5. Stir shrimp after two minutes and let it rest. Repeat two more times for a total of (approximately) six minutes.

  6. Stir evenly for about one minute, ensuring the shrimp has cooked all the way through.

  7. Remove from the pan and set to the side.

Step 3: Cook the tofu.

  1. Squeeze the excess water from the tofu and cut into small squares.

  2. Sprinkle in all seasonings and 2 Tbsp. of the extra-virgin olive oil.

  3. Gently fold the tofu and ensure all pieces are well-covered with spices.

  4. Place sauté pan over high heat and add 2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil for about one minute.

  5. Add the tofu and spread evenly in the pan. Do not stir to prevent the tofu from falling apart.

  6. After three minutes, gently stir the tofu so all sides brown. Do this two more times for a total of about nine to 10 minutes.

  7. After all sides have browned and cooked evenly, gently toss for another minute and remove from the pan. Set aside.

Step 4: Build and cook quesadillas.

  1. In a wide pan place two tortillas to warm up over medium heat for about 30 seconds.

  2. For the shrimp quesadilla: On one-half of the tortilla, add about 1 Tbsp. of Mexican cheese, add a layer of the tomatoes and spinach, add a layer of shrimp, sprinkle more cheese on top, and fold over the flap of the tortilla.

  3. For the vegan tofu quesadilla: On one-half of the tortilla, add about 1 Tbsp. of vegan cheese, then a layer of the mushrooms-jalapeño mix, a layer of tofu, and another layer of vegan cheese, and fold over the flap of the tortilla.

  4. Let each quesadilla cook in the hot pan on one side for three to five minutes, checking to see that the tortilla does not burn, and the cheese is melting on the inside.

  5. Flip to the other side with a wide spatula, preferably not lifting the quesadilla high off the pan, and not flipping it on the side that it is open (the risk is you can lose your filling). Let the other side cook for three to five minutes.

  6. Gently press the quesadilla to help ingredients come together with cheese and get all melty-mixed.

  7. Remove the quesadilla from the pan and place on a cutting board. Let it rest for a minute and then cut in half.

Tips:

  • Serve the quesadillas with a side of salsa verde or roja, or your favorite salsa or hot sauce.

  • Even though you’ll go light on the cheese for this recipe, try to get a block of low-fat cheese, and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheeses often contain extra ingredients to prevent caking and preservatives.

Nutritional Information Per Serving for Vegan Tofu Quesadilla:

Calories: 211
Total fat: 15.6g
Saturated fat: 2.3g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 593mg
Total carbohydrate: 10.5g
Total sugars: 1.8g (which are measured in the total carbohydrate)
Protein: 6.3g

Nutritional Information Per Serving for Shrimp Quesadilla:

Calories: 234
Total fat: 18g
Saturated fat: 5.2g
Cholesterol: 74mg
Sodium: 361mg
Total carbohydrate: 5.5g
Total sugars: 1.3g (which are measured in the total carbohydrate)
Protein: 15.2g

Enchiladas Verdes
Courtesy of Familia Kitchen

Enchiladas Verdes

Servings: 8
From start to finish: 90 minutes

Ah, the enchilada: You can have it good and healthy, or you can have it bad and decadent, smothered in creamy sauces, and topped with cheese and crema. For the first option, try this Familia Kitchen recipe “flip,” which is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. It follows ADA recommendations by using skinless chicken breasts (shredded for the stuffing), plus non-starchy vegetables, both fresh and cooked with the chicken. To boost nutrient levels while keeping everything super tasty, this recipe calls for raw apple cider vinegar to add some zing to the chicken, as well as fresh salsa verde in the preparations. Not only is raw apple cider vinegar a powerful antioxidant to help prevent oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation and diabetes, per the Journal of Diabetes Research, it can also reduce fasting glucose (both immediately and in a sustained manner, when consumed daily), according to the Journal of Functional Foods.

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • ⅓ cup red pepper

  • ⅓ cup green pepper

  • ⅓ cup white onion

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • ½ tsp. oregano

  • 1 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar

For the salsa verde:

  • 10 to 12 tomatillos (native to Mexico, tomatillos are a small, green fruit commonly used in Mexican sauces and salsas)

  • approximately 8 cups of water

  • ½ large white onion

  • 3 to 4 jalapeños (depending on size)

  • 1 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar

  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (approx. 1 ½ small limes)

  • ½ tsp. turmeric

  • 1 ½ tsp. Himalayan salt

  • 1 cup cilantro

  • 3 garlic cloves

Plus:

  • 1 cup shredded, low-fat cheddar cheese

  • 8 almond flour tortillas

  • Chopped tomatoes, cilantro (for garnish)

Directions:

Step 1: Cook the chicken.

  1. Wash chicken breasts and leave whole.

  2. Chop all vegetables (red and green peppers and onion) into small squares, and mash garlic clove.

  3. Place sauté pan—one with a lid—over medium to high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and heat for one minute.

  4. Add all vegetables and spices: red and green peppers, onions, salt, black pepper, oregano). Stir and cook for about four minutes or until vegetables start to release water.

  5. Add the apple cider vinegar in the same pan as the sautéeing vegetables, then lower the heat to a low-simmer setting.

  6. Place the chicken breasts in the pan and cover them with some of the veggie mixture.

  7. Put the lid on the pan and let the meat-vegetable mix cook for 30 minutes on low-simmer heat.

  8. Open the pan and flip the chicken breasts over. Cover with vegetable mixture again.

  9. Cover with the lid for another 30 minutes; keep the heat very low.

  10. Lift the lid and let the steam clear out. With two forks, shred the chicken breast in the pan. The chicken should be so tender that shredding will be quick and easy to do.

  11. Mix the shredded chicken with all of the vegetables and sauce until well incorporated, then set to the side.

Step 2: Make the salsa verde.

  1. Wash the tomatillos, husk the jalapeños, and rough-chop the onion. Place them in a pot and cover with approximately 8 cups of water (or enough to fully cover all ingredients in the pot).

  2. Place the pot over high heat and boil for about 15 minutes or until vegetables have softened.

  3. Let the vegetables cool for about five minutes. With a slotted spoon, place the vegetables in the blender. Don’t blend yet—let them cool for another five minutes.

  4. To the blender, add the raw apple cider vinegar, lime juice, turmeric, salt, cilantro, and garlic cloves.

  5. Blend all ingredients well until fully combined. You may need to pause blender to push ingredients down with a spoon or spatula and ensure they all are well incorporated.

  6. Pour into a bowl or glass jar and set to the side.

Step 3: Make the enchiladas.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Place an almond flour tortilla in a pan to warm up for about 10 seconds each side. Warming the tortilla will make it more pliable and easier to roll without tearing.

  3. Remove the tortilla from the pan and add chicken to one side—about 2 Tbsp., or enough to still allow for the tortilla to roll shut.

  4. Roll the tortilla with chicken on the inside so that it is fully encircled, then place it with its opening edge face-down in a glass or ceramic baking dish.

  5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 for each tortilla until they are all rolled tightly and face-down in the baking dish.

  6. Pour salsa verde over all of the chicken-stuffed tortillas, ensuring they are all well covered. This will take about 1 ¾ cup of salsa. Feel free to use more, to your taste.

  7. Sprinkle shredded cheese to lightly cover as much of the enchiladas as possible.

  8. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted.

  9. Remove from the oven and let cool for three to five minutes.

  10. Garnish with tomatoes and cilantro, if desired, and serve!

Tips:

  • Store any extra salsa verde in the refrigerator. It should keep for three to five days.

  • Since the cheese is layered lightly only on the top, it is easy to control the amount you eat (and spoon the rest to the side of your dish, if you wish).

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Calories: 197
Total fat: 13g
Saturated fat: 4.5g
Cholesterol: 33mg
Sodium: 544mg
Total carbohydrate: 8.8g
Total sugars: 1.6g (which are measured in the total carbohydrate)
Protein: 13g

Dessert

Churro Waffles With Chocolate Sauce
Courtesy of Familia Kitchen

Churro Waffles With Chocolate Sauce

Servings: 15 to 18
From start to finish: 60 minutes

It’s so hard to say no to the sweet scent of cinnamon and the undeniable draw of double- and triple-chocolate churros. Enjoy them without the guilt by swapping all-purpose flour for almond flour. According to a study published in Metabolism Journal, almonds have beneficial effects on controlling weight gain and sugar levels—all good news for people with diabetes (or even those trying to watch their sugar intake). Ground flax seeds help increase fiber, and nutmeg and cinnamon help curtail the sugar. Lastly, rather than frying the batter, these churros are perfectly cooked to a golden crisp—sans buckets of vegetable oil—in an oil-free waffle iron. Churros for the win!

Ingredients:

For the churro waffles:

  • 2 cups almond flour

  • ¼ cup 100% whole wheat flour

  • 3 Tbsp. ground flax seed

  • 4 tsp. baking powder

  • ¾ tsp. Himalayan salt

  • 1 tsp. monk fruit sweetener plus 1 Tbsp. for topping

  • 1 tsp. cinnamon powder plus 1 Tbsp. for topping

  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 cup unsweetened almond milk

  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

  • ½ cup coconut oil

For the chocolate sauce:

  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips (This one is low in sugar, and is allergy- and dairy-free.)

  • ¼ tsp. salt

  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil

Directions:

Step 1: Make the chocolate sauce.

  1. Set up a double boiler (use a glass bowl that fits well over a small saucepan). Add all ingredients into the glass bowl and gently stir until all the chips are melted and look smooth and glossy.

  2. Remove from heat and let cool for five to 10 minutes.

Step 2: Make the waffles.

  1. Heat the waffle iron.

  2. In a bowl mix 1 Tbsp of monk fruit sweetener and cinnamon powder until well incorporated. Set to the side.

  3. Add all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl: almond flour, whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, baking powder, salt, monk fruit sweetener, cinnamon powder, and nutmeg.

  4. In a separate bowl, mix all the wet ingredients: the two eggs (beaten well), unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract, and coconut oil.

  5. Gently add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix together until all ingredients are well-incorporated.

  6. Make sure your waffle iron is hot and ready to be used. With an ice cream scoop or a ladle, pour the waffle mix into the waffle iron mold. Be careful not to let it overfill.

  7. Cook each waffle for approximately three to five minutes or until golden and crispy.

  8. Remove from the waffle iron and place on a plate. Lightly drizzle chocolate sauce on the waffle with a small spoon.

  9. Sprinkle the cinnamon/ monk fruit sweetener mixture from step 1. Delicioso!

Tips:

  • Almond-flour waffles take longer to cook and crisp than regular flour waffles, so be patient and let them get golden and crispy on each side. If you rush them, they can fall apart.

  • Adding extra oil to the waffle iron is not necessary. The coconut oil in the batter will prevent the waffle from sticking, and it will help it get crispy, too.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Calories: 97
Total fat: 8.8g
Saturated fat: 6g
Cholesterol: 18mg
Sodium: 41mg
Total carbohydrate: 3.1g
Total sugars: 0g
Protein: 1.9g

Naihomy Jerez
Meet Our Writer
Naihomy Jerez

Naihomy Jerez, who created the recipes you’ll find here, is a food guidance and health coach at Bagels and Brussels, as well as a home chef and food editor for Familia Kitchen, a foodie site devoted to sharing authentic Latinx recipes (and the stories behind them) from Spanish-speaking climes around the world.