Mexican food is popular in the United States for a variety of reasons. It’s fast and easy to make, cheap, and tastes good. While it may not be considered a health food, many people believe they can make healthy choices while eating Mexican. Some of those choices, however, may not be quite so healthy. Some Mexican dishes contain a surprising number of hidden calories diners may not be expecting.
Anything with “salad” in the name is healthy, right? Not so for most taco salads, however. Taco Bell’s Fiesta Taco Salad contains a whopping 770 calories and over 40g of fat. The recommended daily intake for a typical adult is only about half that amount of fat, and this one salad makes up over one-third of a day’s calories. These hidden calories certainly don’t make a taco salad a light lunch.
Don’t think you can save calories by choosing the Chicken Ranch Taco Salad instead. It actually contains 140 more calories and an additional 13g of fat.
About one-third of the calories of Taco Bell’s taco salad come from the shell. Restaurants with the thicker, fried dough type of shell for the taco salad often contain 200-300 more calories.
Most Mexican restaurants serve chips and salsa to patrons as they wait for their meals. Corn chips and salsa can be a great snack, low calorie and perhaps even low fat, but even these may have hidden calories. Many Mexican restaurants fry their tortilla chips, so they are not the healthiest of choices, but they really aren’t bad-around 11 calories per chip.
Now think about how many you eat while you are waiting for your meal.
If you dip in the salsa, you add a few more calories for each chip. Be aware of how many you consume.
Salsa is a great way to spice up your favorite Mexican dish. Other typical additives to Mexican food may have hidden calories that bulk up a dish quickly, however. Most of us realize sour cream isn’t particularly healthy, for instance, but did you know each dollop adds around 20 calories to your meal? Guacamole adds about twice that along with 4g of fat.
Add it up
While none of these additions will likely make or break a diet, it is important to be aware of the hidden calories in foods. Mexican food can be a healthy choice if hidden calories are accounted and compensated for. Choose hot sauce or peppers for flavor instead of fatty condiments, take a few chips and put the rest aside, and focus on the lettuce in a typical taco salad.
“Nutrient Data Laboratory.” U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Usda.gov.
“Calorie King.” Calorieking.com.