When hunger strikes, there’s no shame in scarfing down some fast-food tacos. But if you’re working on your fitness, a late-night T-Bell run probably isn’t top of mind as a healthy fast-food option.
Still can’t stay away from the top dog of Mexican-style fast food? Taco Bell does have several healthier options — you just need to get creative with your order.
1. Beef Burrito Supreme Fresco Style
A hearty burrito packed with beans and beef can quickly relieve any hunger pangs thanks to its high fiber and protein content. Ordering it “Fresco Style” removes the higher calorie and fat ingredients, such as sour cream and cheese, and replaces it with freshly prepared diced tomatoes.
FYI: You can practically order any menu item Fresco Style. 🍅
This is the perfect lunch or dinner option for individuals looking for a low calorie, high protein meal.
2. Crunchy Steak Taco
Yup, you can still feast on some tacos for Taco Tuesday (and really any other day of the week). These marinated grilled steak tacos amp up the protein but deliver minimal calories, fat, and carbohydrates, which is ideal for individuals following a low carb or keto eating pattern. The cherry on top is the fact that the sodium content is low (but so is the fiber).
You can also choose Fresco Style to reduce fat and calories even more.
3. Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme
This spin on the classic Crunchwrap Supreme swaps out beef for black beans. This menu option can be a complete meal for vegetarians with veggies like fresh lettuce and tomatoes and protein from the beans.
Just be warned: You’ll be eating almost your entire days worth of sodium in one Crunchwrap. But you can knock it down to 220 mg by eliminating the nacho cheese sauce. And taking out the cheese bumps it down to 460 calories.
4. Chicken Quesadilla
The sodium amount is still sky high if you need to watch your salt intake. But if you ask to go easy on the cheesy and the creamy jalapeno sauce you’ll find yourself under 1000 mg sodium (still high, but better) and at 380 calories.
5. Veggie Power Menu Bowl
This bowl of goodness is vegetarian, but you can take it one step further and make it vegan by cutting out the cheese, sour cream, and avocado ranch sauce.
6. Cheesy Roll Up
Simply a flour tortilla rolled up with some melty cheese. Might not seem like much, but it still boasts plenty of protein while being low in fat, carbs, and calories. This value menu option is perfect if you’re needing something to hold you over until your next meal.
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7. Chicken Chalupa Supreme Fresco Style
Looking for the perfect combination of a soft and hard shell taco? Look no further than the Chalupa, which contains chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes all snug inside a chewy, flaky shell. This option is perfect if you’re aiming to eat fewer calories and fat.
Fresco style removes all the sauce, so if you’re needing a creamy component that adds healthy fats, ask to add in some guac.
8. Bean Burrito
Refried beans rolled up in a tortilla with cheese, red sauce, and onions makes up the wallet-friendly bean burrito. It’s low in fat, but still keeps your belly happy and satisfied with its protein and fiber content.
To make it vegan, omit the cheese, which will also help to reduce some of that sodium.
9. Black Beans and Rice
This mini bowl of black beans and rice is more of a side option than an entire meal, but could pair well with a taco or cheesy roll up. Along with it’s decent amount of protein and fiber, it’s low in calories, fat, and sodium, which makes it a good fit for many different dietary preferences.
Try out these tips to make your Taco Bell experience even healthier:
- Double up on the meat or beans. Although asking for more meat or beans will increase the calorie total, it will also provide you more protein to keep you full longer.
- Go Fresco Style. I think you get the point of this one by now — no cheese and fresh tomatoes, baby.
- Guac it up. Remove those creamy sauces and ask for guac instead. It won’t make a huge difference calorie- or fat-wise, but it does contain healthy fats compared to the mayo-based sauces.
- Skip the soda. Choosing healthier Taco Bell foods won’t make a difference if you’re washing it down with sugary soda. Go for water, unsweetened tea, or a diet soda instead.
- Don’t do desserts. Those cinnamon twists or frozen slushies can be tempting, but they are sugar-packed with no fiber to prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
- Utilize the online calculator. Taco Bell has a nutrition calculator to help you plan your meal and see if it fits into your specific diet.
Bottom line: Taco Bell is still fast food and isn’t as healthy as preparing a meal in the comfort of your own home.
A research review showed that eating fast food more than once a week could increase your risk of obesity. And bumping it up to 2 times a week could lead to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease.
The reasons behind fast food health risks is likely due to:
- Saturated fat. Saturated fat is typically found in animal foods such as meat, milk, and cheese. A research review showed that cutting back can help to reduce cardiovascular disease by 17 percent.
- Sugar. Sugar’s usually found in the desserts and drinks on a fast food menu. But sugar can sneak into entrees (especially if it’s added to sauces 🥫). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a diet high in added sugars can lead to health conditions like as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
- Sodium. A study found fast food entrees had a 4.6-percent increase in total sodium content in the last 30 years. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Low quality ingredients. Besides the fresh vegetables, Taco Bell ingredients tend to contain food additives and are highly processed to provide a tasty meal at a low cost.
Although too much fast food can negatively impact your health, cruising through the drive-thru every so often is totally fine in moderation. Live your live and eat the tacos 🌮.