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Lite Tex-Mex

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Most Houstonians have a deep appreciation for Tex-Mex food. Sizzling fajitas and cheesy enchiladas are top sellers at Molina's Cantina. The family owned and operated restaurants started serving things up in 1941 under the direction of Ricardo Molina's grandfather. Oh, how things have changed.

"Have you revised your menu to accommodate these new dietary revelations?"

"I think he'd get a funny look (on his face) if he (had been) asked for dry, grilled chicken breast and grilled vegetables and no fat beans and things like that," Molina said of his grandfather.

But that's how the grilled pollo and vegetable platter ended up on the menu at Molina's. A weight conscious diner asked a waiter to modify foods that were already in the kitchen. It's a request more, but not all, cooks and chefs are willing to take these days.

Fox 26 contributor Cleverley Stone and Memorial Hermann Dietitian Penny Wilson joined our mission to "food swap" with the goal of shedding pounds.

"So many places you go and the waiter looks at you funny when you make modifications," Wilson told Molina. "You can tell they're not happy."

Recipes and ingredients differ from restaurant to restaurant, but to get a rough idea of how many calories an order of beef fajitas can pack, we headed over to the website: calorielab.com, which tracks nutritional information for major restaurant chains like Chili's, where classic steak fajitas weigh in at 790 calories without flour tortillas. Add those in, add another 370 calories. And the traditional trimmings of avocado, sour cream, cheese and pico combine for another 240. The total: 1400 calories without sides, beverages or dessert.

Back at Molina's, the owner offered this belly busting tip:

"Popular item these days is to ask for your grilled items dry," he said.

It turns out even grilled foods, like fajitas, are often doused in butter or some sort of "gravy" mixture at most restaurants. There are healthier options. You just have to ask.

"The sauce on the side on this one is actually chipotle sauce and it's a lot lighter," Molina said.

There are other more common ways to save calories. Waiters and cooks at Molina's have no problem taking special requests.

"Now this is the healthified version?," Stone asked, while examining an enchilada plate.

Molina set out plates side by side: a cheese less enchilada and a fully loaded version. He also prepared grilled fish tacos with roasted corn pico in a yogurt based sauce, instead of the traditional fried fish taco.

"You've already made a lot of modifications that I would tell people to make," Wilson said. "You've thought about it ahead of time."

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