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Nutrition Smack Down: Salsa, Guacamole and Queso

May 05, 2023

Whether it’s the margaritas, tacos or tortilla chips, Cinco de Mayo can be an impossible day for even the most health-conscious. To help you enjoy a guilt-free holiday, we asked Jamie Allers, MS, a registered dietitian with Hartford HealthCare’s Digestive Health Institute, to give us the lowdown on the health benefits and drawbacks of three Cinco de Mayo favorites – salsa, guacamole and queso. [insert-cta-small id=49365]

It's all about the fat

Ultimately, this match-up comes down to fat – and because avocados contain the healthiest fats, guacamole is king. “Avocados are an excellent plant source of dietary fat,” Allers says. “They have a higher percentage of unsaturated fat, specifically monounsaturated fat, which can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.” Salsa - which contains no fat - is another promising option. “If you’re following a diet that might be limiting in flavors for you, salsa is a great way to add that flavor back in. It has close to zero calories,” she notes. On the other end of the spectrum, queso is loaded with saturated fat, which can spell trouble for your heart. Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

Skip the bottomless chips

With all three of these Mexican-inspired appetizers, the biggest question is what you’re eating them with. If the answer is bowl after bowl of chips, any health benefits will quickly be lost. “Use veggies like cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli or cauliflower,” Allers recommends. And don’t think of them just as starters to a meal. “Use them for flavor with your dinner. Top your salmon with salsa, or add guacamole to your chicken breasts. They can go on a side dish or as a topping.” > Related: 6 Dietitian-Approved Snacks That Taste Great Too

Allergy-free favorites

For allergy sufferers, the best news is that all three tend to be allergen-friendly. “Queso is obviously made of cheese, but all three are vegetarian, gluten free, nut free, egg free and shellfish free,” says Allers. “So if you have concerns, their ingredients are safe. If you follow a certain way of eating or diet, they fit a lot of lifestyles.” And as an added bonus, guacamole and salsa are also vegan.