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Craving Mexican Food? 6 Smart Picks That Satisfy

Katherine Brooking, RD - Blogs
By Katherine Brooking, MS, RDRegistered dietitianMay 4, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Unlimited chips, cheesy nachos, guacamole, margaritas, oh my! A typical outing at a Mexican restaurant can add up to more than a day’s worth of calories and saturated fat. But there are ways to make sure your next Mexican food fiesta doesn’t derail your diet.

When ordering, keep these f ive tips in mind:

  • Skip the margaritas; these oversized drinks can pack in more than 600 calories. Instead, opt for a light or ultra-light beer or wine.
  • Go with a “bowl,” version. That means you nix the carb-rich tortilla or taco and the meal is served in a bowl instead.
  • Order grilled, not fried, foods. (This includes hard taco shells, which are deep-fried.)
  • Avoid queso and opt for guacamole instead. Mix guacamole with salsa to reduce calories.
  • Know before you go: Check the nutrition facts on the websites of restaurants so you know what’s in your meal.

And for some specific ideas, here are some of the “best bets” at popular Mexican fast casual restaurants:

Chipotle allows you to create your own meals, so you can satisfy your taste buds while minding your waistline. There are many healthy combos, but here are two to try:

  • Salad with Chicken and Fajita Veggie. For just 350 calories and 3g saturated fat, you can have a salad topped with chicken, fajita veggies, black beans and fresh tomato salsa.  With a whopping 42g protein and 15.5g fiber, you won’t leave hungry!
  • Soft Flour Steak Tacos. For traditional tacos, try soft corn tortillas filled with steak, pinto beans, veggies and topped with tomatillo green chili salsa.  Three tacos have 550 calories, 2g saturated fat, 40g protein and 17g fiber.

Qdoba has a similar “make your own” setup – as well as some items you won’t find at other chains:

  • Mexican Gumbo.  Choose lighter ingredients and you’ll have a healthy and tasty gumbo. This tortilla soup with chicken, brown rice, pico de gallo and fajita veggies is less than 500 calories and has 3.5g saturated fat.
  • Burrito Bowl.  A burrito bowl (without tortilla) with black beans, grilled steak, roasted chile corn and lettuce will cost you just 400 calories and 4g saturated fat.  Plus you’ll get 37g protein and 15g of fiber to help you power though the rest of your day.

Taco Bell also offers some choices that allow you to “live mas” without gaining mas:

  • Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco. The Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco weighs in at just 150 calories and just 1.5g saturated fat. Unlike many other fast food options, sodium is a relatively low 440 mg/serving. Each taco serves up 12g protein and 2 grams of fiber to help keep you full.  Add a side of black beans and you’ll get another 5 grams of fiber with no saturated fat.
  • Black Bean Burrito. With 14g protein and 8g fiber, Taco Bell’s Black Bean Burrito will fill you up without derailing your diet. It has 380 calories and 4g saturated fat. Sodium is a bit high at just over 1,000 mg, but this is not a bad ‘sometimes’ option.

Small changes can lead to big results. What healthy step can you take today?

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About the Author
Katherine Brooking, MS, RD

Katherine Brooking is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition education from Columbia University. She is dedicated to helping people have better health and live richer lives through sound nutrition and good lifestyle choices.

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