Healthy and Low-Calorie Food at Mexican Restaurants

Eat better when you eat Tex-Mex food to keep your diet on track

the best healthy Mexican food
Marianna Massey / Getty Images

Believe it or not, it is possible to make healthy choices at Mexican restaurants. Tex-MEX food gets a bad rap thanks to high-calorie chips, entrees full of cheese and high-calorie drinks. But the fact is, Mexican food can be healthy when you're dieting!

By learning a few simple rules, you'll learn how to order the best Mexican food for dieters and make better choices when you dine out.  And remember that you can also make healthy Mexican food at home.

 So get ready to add some spicy flare to your weight loss diet. Mexican food is making a comeback.

How to Order Healthy Mexican Food

  • Crunch Some calories.  Avoid crunchy Mexican food. It's fried and full of caloriesInstead, choose an item that includes soft tortillas. Soft tortillas are baked, not fried. Choosing soft tortillas over crunchy ones can easily save a few hundred calories.

  • Savor the salsa.  A friend of mine swears by ordering soft tortillas to swap for chips. She spreads them with salsa, folds them up, and eats them like a taquito. (Yes, it can get messy.) She says these roll-ups quell her chips 'n' salsa craving in nada time flat!

  • Order the best healthy Mexican beans.  Black beans are an excellent choice for most any dieter. They are low in fat, high in protein and provide plenty of fiber. (Avoid black beans and rice if you're a low-carb dieter and order the beans by themselves.)

    Refried beans may sound like a good choice, but they are often prepared with lard, Mexican cheese blends, and even bacon. The calorie and fat count of refried beans are too high. Order pinto beans instead and you'll get a similar flavor without the extra fat.

  • Dips are a "don't" Con queso dips and nacho cheese are tempting toppers for chips, but they're both extremely rich and high in fat and calories. Sour cream is another topper to avoid. Guacamole is made with avocado which is a healthy fat, but a little bit of it can quickly add up your fat and calorie intake, so keep an eye on portion sizes.

  • Make healthy Mexican swaps.  Switch to bean burritos instead of beef or cheese burritos and you'll be saying adios to lots of extra calories and get in plenty of fiber to boot. Ask for corn tortillas to be used instead of flour and you'll be doing even better!

  • Avoid unhealthy Mexican dishes. Some popular dishes to avoid include nachos, chimichangas, chalupas, taquitos, chile relleno, (all of which are deep-fried) and "double decker" burritos.  Better choices include chicken fajitas, bean burritos, a grilled chicken dish with peppers and onions (hold the cheese!), or a soft taco. 

Healthy Mexican Side Dishes

Some Mexican restaurants will replace the sides that come with meals with a salad if you ask them to. Top your salad with salsa and you'll have a yummy, low-fat side. If you really missing dressing creaminess, ask for some reduced-fat ranch dressing and blend it in with your salsa until it's got a more dressing-like texture.

If you order a taco salad, be sure to request it be served on a plate rather than the deep-fried, bowl-shaped tortilla ...

who wouldn't be tempted to munch on that?

You may also want to order low-fat cheese, brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas or a side of marinated vegetables.

And remember, you can also cook Mexican food at home. Learn how to cook healthy Mexican food in your own kitchen to keep the fat and calorie count in control. 

*Edited by Malia Frey, Weight Loss Expert

Continue Reading