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Make your own, healthier taco seasoning

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I absolutely love tacos and guacamole! Taco seasoning from a packet is cheap and quick, but it is loaded with sodium. I am going to share a recipe with you to make your own taco seasoning that is much healthier. It is a simple combination of ingredients you likely already have in your spice cabinet.

This recipe makes enough to fill a half-pint canning jar, and can be used on tacos, guacamole, taco soups, taco casseroles, enchiladas, burritos, and pretty much anything you are trying to give that particular flavor profile! Before I give you the recipe, I want to discuss why limiting sodium is so important.

Yes, you do need some sodium in your diet. Sodium and potassium are both electrolytes which help regulate your body’s water balance. Too much sodium, however, builds up in your blood and can lead to hypertension- also known as “high blood pressure.” According the American Heart Association, Americans should consume no more than 2,400 mg of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon. Unfortunately, most Americans consume far more than that as a result of eating at home less often, eating more fast food, and eating more convenience foods. Cooking at home allows you to control how much salt, sugar, and fat is in your food, and it also gives you a little better control of portion sizes. In order to reduce the sodium content in your foods at home, choose your ingredients wisely by reading the labels. If buying canned beans or vegetables, look for “no salt added” or “low sodium” options.

To the right of the sodium content, you will see a percentage. This percentage is the “% Daily Value.” This is the percent of your nutrient budget that one portion of that food or drink gives you. A 5 percent daily value means that product is not a good source of that nutrient. Because you are wanting to limit sodium, a 5 percent daily value would be a good thing. If the percent daily value was 20 percent or more, that would not be the best choice because a 20 percent daily value means that product is high in that nutrient. One portion would use up 20 percent of the budget you have for your day’s diet. When seasoning your food, add flavor by using herbs and spices. Fresh herbs are high in antioxidants and add deliciousness to your food without you having to use tons of salt.

Now that you are an expert at reducing the sodium in your diet, I’m sharing my not-so-secret recipe for taco seasoning. This recipe is adapted from the “Med Instead of Meds” website and program.

For delicious, healthier tacos season lean meat of your choice with the homemade seasoning. Add no-salt added black beans (to reduce the sodium) or vegetarian refried beans (to reduce the saturated fat content compared to regular refried beans) for extra fiber and protein. Use low-fat shredded cheese and light sour cream (again, reducing saturated fat), on a whole-wheat or corn tortilla, and top with lettuce and salsa.

I tested this recipe during a youth Farm to Fork educational camp, and the kids absolutely loved the food! They were amazed how delicious and healthy the tacos were with minimal salt. I then amazed them with a delicious fruit salad side dish containing no added sugar. I combined grapes, strawberries, pineapple, and kiwi topped with a hint of lime juice. You can amaze your household at the next family dinner date with these ideas.

Taco Seasoning

1/3 cup of chili powder

3 tablespoons of paprika (I suggested a combination of smoked and hot paprika)

3 tablespoons of ground cumin

1 tablespoon of oregano

1 tablespoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon of cayenne (more if you like it spicy!)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed. This recipe makes enough to fill a half-pint canning jar and can be used on tacos, guacamole, taco soups, taco casseroles, enchiladas, burritos, and more.

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