Mexican Food - Wk 1 - Healthy Eating Alternatives to Fast Food/Takeaways


Last year I started teaching a lot of healthy eating courses across London which have proved very popular as we can't avoid the internal or external pressure of eating and providing healthy meals for ourselves and our families and friends. This particular course is six-weeks long and focuses on working with families to provide them with healthy alternatives to fast food and takeaway options. This course takes place at the Sebright Children's Centre in Hackney, London that offers all sorts of amazing courses, creche, advice and support for families and young children.

In the UK we spend over £30 billion on convenience food each year with the average person consuming over 84 fast food meals and 64 ready meals throughout the year. We have all probably eaten a take away or fast food meal due to reasons of convenience, cost, time constraints, peer pressure, environment or cravings. As with everything, takeaways and fast food meals eaten in moderation or as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle are not detrimental to our health but over-reliance on these types of food can be due to their high fat, sugar and salt content. This course intends to educate and promote healthy eating by providing healthy food and healthy recipes that are tasty, nutritionally rewarding, easy to prepare and financially comparable or cheaper than their fast food alternative.

Week one covered Mexican food and as far as fast food and takeaways go Mexican food can be one of the healthier options if care is taken to avoid over-sized portions and care is taken with additional toppings such as sour cream guacamole. I lived in America for a long time and Mexican food has long been popular there and as with anything you can find options within a wide range of price points and levels of quality ingredients.

As we were having so much fun, this is the only evidence that I have from this first week of a six-week long course I am teaching on Healthy Eating Alternatives to Fast Food/Takeaways.  We made beef tacos and vegetarian black bean tacos with hard corn shells and soft flour shells with a homemade salsa and homemade guacamole. We omitted the sour cream and served with a bit of shredded cheese and lettuce.

For today's session we used Jamie Oliver's recipe for beef tacos as a basis and just substituted black beans for the ground beef for our vegetarian tacos. We made ground beef tacos, black bean tacos, our own guacamole, our own salsa and served these with some shredded lettuce, tomato and cheese.

This week was an excellent first session and we had some parent and children preparing and trying avocado for the first time and everyone agreed that Mexican is a great option to prepare at home. We also noted that it is so easy to create your own guacamole and salsa and so much better than the ready-made options that are on offer in the shops. I also shared with the group that you don't need to buy specialist salsas or "Mexican" ingredients available in the shops. For example there was a tin of "Mexican black beans" that was basically black beans in water with a jazzy logo for £1.45 and I was able to get a box of organic black beans in water for £0.75. Personally my own type of fast food would be a burrito or tacos as they are filling and you can customise them according to your own tastes but they are indeed that much better prepared at home and with a bit of practice and experimentation which is the whole point of the course.

• 1 onion, diced
• 1 red pepper, diced
• 1 green pepper, diced
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, sliced
• A pinch of paprika
• 1½ tsp cumin
• 500g minced beef or a 400g tin of black beans*
• 250ml beef stock
• 12 corn or flour taco shells
Grated cheese, lettuce and tomato to serve

*For the vegetarian black bean taco option, use all the ingredients above except beef and substitute beans for ground beef and vegetarian stock for the beef stock.

• 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
• Juice of ½ lime
• 1 spring onion, finely sliced
• 1 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped

• 2 avocados
• Juice of ½ lime
• 2 tbsp chopped tomatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.
  2. Soften the onion and peppers in the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the garlic, paprika and cumin and cook for 1–2 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and stir until it has browned. Pour in the stock, cover, and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile for the salsa, get the kids to mix the tomatoes with the lime juice, spring onion and coriander, then season carefully to taste.
  5. For the guacamole, have the kids mash the avocados with a fork. They can then squeeze in the lime juice, add the tomatoes, season, and gently mix it all up.
  6. Spread the taco shells out on a baking tray and place in the oven for 3–4 minutes until crisp. Get the kids to fill the shells with the meat, salsa and guacamole or lay everything out and let everyone help themselves.