Often served sizzling, fajitas are a favorite Tex-Mex restaurant menu item. Though you may not be able to replicate the flare, you can recreate the flavor with stovetop fajitas made in your own kitchen.
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Fajitas: A Healthy Choice
According to a December 2013 review published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, Mexican food makes up a large portion of the ethnic food market in the United States. Tacos, enchiladas and burritos are among the favorites, but can be high in calories, fat and sodium.
Filled with veggies, lean protein and spices, fajitas provide the flavor without all the calories, fat or sodium, and make a healthy choice, especially when prepared at home. Typically, stovetop fajitas are made with beef or chicken flavored with chili, cumin, garlic and other spices. The fajita meat is cooked in a hot skillet and served with sauteed peppers and onions, tortillas, guacamole, shredded cheese and sour cream.
To improve the nutritional quality of stovetop fajitas, serve your dish with corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are made from the whole corn kernel and are considered a whole grain, while wheat tortillas are typically made from refined white flour.
ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends half your daily grain choices be whole grains because they're a better source of fiber. Based on nutrition information from the USDA, one corn tortilla (26 grams) has 1.5 grams of fiber, while one wheat tortilla (28 grams) has only 1 gram of fiber.
Read more: Fajita Nutrition Guide
Chicken Versus Steak Fajita Recipe
After a quick search on the internet, you may find tons of chicken and steak fajita recipe options. The type of protein you use may depend on your personal taste and health preferences.
If you prefer beef fajitas, the the most common cuts used include flank steak, skirt steak, top round or top sirloin steak, according to Texas A & M University. However, flank steak is a healthier option. According to the USDA, a 3.5 ounce serving of raw skirt steak trimmed of fat has 195 calories, 20 grams of protein, 13 grams of total fat and 5 grams of saturated fat, while the same serving of raw flank steak has 165 calories, 21 grams of protein, 8 grams of total fat and 3 grams of saturated fat.
Of course, chicken makes the healthiest choice of all when it comes to making your own stovetop fajitas. It's the lowest in calories, total fat and saturated fat and the best source of protein. A 3.5 ounce portion of raw white meat chicken has 114 calories, 23 grams of protein, 2 grams of total fat and 0.4 gram of saturated fat.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), saturated fat in food is responsible for raising blood cholesterol levels. For heart health, the AHA recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories or no more than 13 grams of saturated fat on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Read more: 5 Healthy Red Meat Recipes That Satisfy
Stovetop Fajitas Recipe
To get the flavor you expect from your stovetop fajitas, you first need to marinate the meat. Try this marinade inspired by the LIVESTRONG.com recipe for Fajita Frittata With Avocado Salsa, combine olive oil, cumin, chili powder, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and fresh lime juice. Cut the chicken or steak into 1/4-inch strips and place in a sealable bag. Pour in the marinade over your chicken or steak, close the bag, massage the marinade into the meat and refrigerate for up to six hours.
After the meat has absorbed the flavor from your marinade, preheat a skillet over medium-high heat on your stove. Then, saute sliced onions, along with sliced green, red and yellow peppers until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, and remove from the pan.
Drain the marinade and place the meat in your preheated skillet. Cook the meat until it's no longer pink. Return your veggies to the pan to reheat and combine flavors. Serve with warm corn tortillas, your own homemade guacamole and salsa.
Be sure to check the temperature of your meat or chicken before serving. FoodSafety.gov suggests cooking chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and steak 145 F.
- Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "Popular Ethnic Foods in the United States: A Historical and Safety Perspective"
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: "All About the Grains Group"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Wheat Tortilla"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Corn Tortillas"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Beef, Plate Steak, Boneless, Inside Skirt, Separable Lean and Fat, Trimmed to 0" Fat, Choice, Raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Beef, Flank, Steak, Separable Lean and Fat, Trimmed to 0" Fat, Choice, Raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Light Meat, Meat Only, Raw"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- FoodSafety.gov: "Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures"
- Texas A & M University: "Beef Cuts"