Taco Bell Will Actually Shock You With How Healthy Its Menu Is
Making a quick stop at the drive-thru doesn’t always have to be unhealthy—yes, that even includes Taco Bell. Now hear us out: While Taco Bell has its fair share of cheesy, meaty, and sour cream-loaded monstrosities, they’re also one of the top chains with tons of options on the lower end of the caloric spectrum for meat and veggie lovers alike.
“At Taco Bell, there’s a huge percentage of items that are right on the money, calorie-wise,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutritionist in New York and author of . “There’s a huge variety of items to choose from that are below 500 calories.”
Of course, calories aren’t the only thing that determine whether or not a meal is healthy, but when we asked nutritionists for their take on Taco Bell, there was a lot about the fast food menu that they liked. Here’s what’s good, what to avoid, and how to order a healthy meal at Taco Bell.
🌮 Taco Bell nutrition: Pros 🌮
“Overall, Taco Bell seems to be a healthier option for a fast food chain,” says Yasi Ansari, RDN, CSSD, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics in California. It comes down to one major thing: customizing your meal. Much like Chipotle, Taco Bell lets you pick and choose for your order, which means you can do things like swap out starchy rice for protein-packed black beans and ditch fatty sauces for veggie-based salsas. Here’s how to turn your fast food into health food:
Load up on veggies
Most items on the menu give you the option of adding extra lettuce and tomato—keep-you-full fiber boosters that don’t add any extra calories. When you can, add ‘em, says Ansari.
Power up your sauce
“Another way to make a menu item healthier is by adding more green lettuce or salsa and decreasing the cheese, sour cream, and other sauces,” Ansari explains. For example, instead of adding a kick with the creamy jalapeño sauce, add fresh jalapeños instead.
Protein, protein, protein
“Increasing protein helps keep you fuller for a longer period,” Ansari explains, so to keep your order healthy, look for ways to boost your lean protein. There are several on Taco Bell’s menu: steak, black beans, grilled chicken, and eggs, are all good choices. The seasoned beef is higher in the calorie and fat department.
🌮 Taco Bell nutrition: Cons 🌮
While there are nutritious options at Taco Bell, there are a few things you need to watch out for on the menu:
The number one thing standing between you and a healthy meal at Taco Bell is the salt. In general, Taco Bell’s menu is super sodium heavy—the XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito, for example, has 2,140 grams of sodium. That’s more sodium than you should be ingesting in anentire day, says Ansari. “The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, but a more ideal goal is 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults,” she says.
The issue? Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure, which can up your risk of heart attack and stroke. “If you’re going to have a high sodium Taco Bell lunch, then make sure you’re watching your sodium the rest of the day,” says Gans.
Calories and fat
If you aren’t paying attention, the calories and saturated fat content in your order can also easily get out of control. This is where the sauces can really make or break your meal. “You can decrease the saturated fat content [of any order] by eliminating the sauces,” Ansari says. Watch out for fatty add-ons like nacho cheese, sour cream, and creamy jalapeño sauce—a dollop of the latter adds 70 calories.
A general rule of thumb to keep in mind when ordering: you want your meal to be colorful, says Ansari. Monochromatic meals—aka the kind where everything on your plate is either brown or beige, like nachos—tend to be loaded with calorie-rich carbs and fat without leaving much room for real nutrition. “I like to see more color on menu orders,” Ansari says. Try to add color to anything you order by adding or swapping in menu items like lettuce and pico de gallo.
So, is Taco Bell healthy or what?
Taco Belly is actually one of the healthiest fast food joints out there—as long as you stay away from the few orders that are packed with calories. “What you want to look out for is ideally less than 1,000 milligrams of sodium, less than 5 grams of saturated fat, and no more than 500 calories,” Gans says, which is surprisingly easy to find on the menu. In fact, it’s ratherdifficultto find single items that are more than 500 calories. You’ll want to skip extra cheese, fatty sauces, and piles of rice.
Healthy options at Taco Bell
Opt for one of these healthy orders next time you’re craving Taco Bell. You’ll still get your fix without overdoing it.
Steak Soft Taco
Tacos are a great option, because you have total control of your fillings. Simply add more lettuce and black beans to a steak taco to up the fiber and protein, suggests Ansari. One steak soft taco with cheese, extra lettuce, black beans, and pico de gallo for a punch of flavor is just 250 calories. Order two and you have a 500-calorie meal with 30 grams of protein total.
Power Menu Bowl
“I am loving the Power Menu Bowls,” Ansari says. “This meal is rich in protein and quality carbohydrates and overall, it’s less in calories and sodium than the other menu items. Plus, you can customize it.” Keep the cheese, pico, and gauc! Ask for extra black beans instead of rice, and add extra lettuce and tomatoes to boost the fiber. Pass on the avocado ranch dressing and sour cream, and your meal only comes to 260 calories for the veggie option. Adding chicken will take you up to 360 calories.
Power Menu Burrito
Yes, you can make a burrito healthy—just nix the the reduced fat sour cream and avocado ranch sauce for extra veggies, Ansari says. With grilled chicken, shredded cheese, pico, guac, and extra lettuce and tomatoes, you have a flavorful meal at only 400 calories. You’ll also get a whopping 26 grams of protein, as well as 5 grams of gut-filling fiber.
Breakfast Soft Taco
If you’re hitting up the drive thru on your way to work, fuel up for the day with an egg and cheese soft taco. “This item is lower in sodium content compared with other menu items,” Ansari says. “I’d recommend asking for double the egg portion and pairing it up with a side of fruit (that can be brought from home) and a cup of coffee,” she says.
Mini Skillet Bowl
With fried potatoes and pico de gallo, the skillet bowl is definitely a hearty breakfast. To make it a healthy breakfast, skip the nacho cheese and increase the lean protein by ordering extra eggs. Extra pico de gallo and a piece of fruit from home also wouldn’t hurt and will still keep you below 500 calories, Ansari adds.
*All nutrition information has been pulled from Taco Bell’s official website.
Video: Chick-fil-A cashier, deaf customer share special moment
The 6 Best Butt Exercises for Athletes
Obama approval rating soars post-Trump election
David Spade Remembers Sister-in-Law Kate Spade in an Emotional Interview: She Will Be Missed
How to Cook Breakfast Steak
How Greatist Changed My Life: 4 Stories from Our Awesome Readers
Polenta Bread with Antipasti Recipe
How to Make Clothes for Your Doll
Definitive History Of Tattoos – The Ancient Art Of Tattooing
Watch Blogger Bryanboy Work at Dolce Gabbana
How to Be a Lawyer in The Next 7 Years
I Don’t Regret Cheating On My Partner—Here’s Why’
How to Crochet a Bow
Feeling the heat at Chanel