Logically, I knew that anything with loads of cheese, deep fried or smothered in full fat sour cream would be fattening. Still, it was really eye opening to see the actual calorie counts and fat grams in these seven unhealthiest Mexican foods.
First I researched other similar articles on the web. Next I analyzed the nutritional information from three popular Mexican food restaurants (Taco Bell, Chevy’s and Baja Fresh). Foods that made the list were included because of either extremely high calorie (over 1,000 calories per serving) or fat counts (over 35 grams per serving) but many of these foods also contain high levels of sodium and/or cholesterol and some even have trans fat. Trans fats are generally considered the most dangerous fats and should absolutely be avoided by everyone.
Please note that when I cite nutritional information from a particular restaurant that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the restaurant. In fact, I’m thankful to them for listing the nutritional information on the web where it is easily accessible. There are healthy choices almost everywhere. For example, even though some of the cited unhealthiest Mexican foods may be found at Baja Fresh, I regularly eat there. I’m just careful with my choices, usually ordering a bean and rice plate (and I only eat half the rice and add lots of fresh fat-free salsa).
Unhealthy Mexican Food 1: Loaded Nachos
Really almost any nachos, but they’re most especially unhealthy when loaded with fattening toppings such as high fat cheese, guacamole, and sour cream (or all three plus more). For example, Chevy’s Nachos Grande have a whopping 1,890 calories (this is more than I eat in a whole day!), 105 grams (gm) of fat (of which 41 gm are artery clogging saturated fat), 185 milligrams (mg) cholesterol, and 2,280 mg sodium. Chevy’s doesn’t appear to list trans fat content so I can’t speak to that. Lighter, but definitely still not healthy, Taco Bell’s Volcano Nachos have 1,000 calories, 62 gm of fat, 1 gm of extremely unhealthy trans fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 1,930 gm sodium. On the plus side, they have 16 gm of healthy fiber, but I don’t think that makes up for having more than 55% of the calories coming from fat. Even Chipotle Mexican Grill’s plain nachos have 570 calories and 27 gm fat (3.5 from saturated fat) and 420 mg of sodium. Plain nachos wouldn’t make the top 7 unhealthiest Mexican foods list but I’d still recommend avoiding them.
Unhealthy Mexican Food 2: Quesadillas
So much cheese usually means a lot of fat and quesadillas are no exception. Grilled or fried, they pack a lot of calories into their pretty triangles. Chevy’s Crab and Shrimp Quesadilla delivers a whopping 1,790 calories, 126 gm of fat (63 from saturated fat), 335 mg cholesterol, 3,440 mg sodium and only 3 grams of fiber. Baja Fresh’s Charbroiled Steak Quesadilla has 1,430 calories, 87 gm fat (41 from saturated fat), 240 mg cholesterol, 2,600 mg sodium and 8 gm of fiber.
Unhealthy Mexican Food 3: Overstuffed Burritos
If it says supersized, grande, has lots of cheese, sour cream or creamy sauces, it probably qualifies. Even seemingly healthy burritos can be surprisingly loaded with fat and calories. According to Devon Lantry, examiner.com’s Chain Restaurant Examiner, Chipotle “wins the award for most unhealthy Mexican Fast Food because [their] overstuffed burritos seem to be averagely healthy on first glance, but nothing could be further from the truth. 1.” Taco Bell’s Volcano Burrito, even with reduced fat sour cream, has 800 calories, 42 gm fat and 2,010 mg sodium.
Unhealthy Mexican Food 4: Tostada Salad
It’s the tostada, guacamole, cheese and sour cream that get you here. If you ate the entire contents of Baja Fresh’s Breaded Fish Tostada Salad you’ll be consuming 1,200 calories and 61 gm fat (15 from saturated fat and 1.5 from naturally occurring trans fats). However, if you ordered it without meat, didn’t eat the tostada and skipped the fatty toppings then the remaining black beans, romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes and salsa would be pretty healthy.
Unhealthy Mexican Food 5: Deep Fried Ice Cream
No surprise here, right? Deep fried or ice cream might be enough to make the list, but both together are nutritionally scary. One serving of Chevy’s deep fried ice cream has 1,110 calories and 60 gm fat.
Unhealthy Mexican Food 6: Taquitos
Between the frying, cheese and addition of sour cream and/or guacamole, it adds up to a lot of fat. Baja Fresh’s taquitos (either with beans or rice) serve up 40 grams of fat (11/12 from saturated fat and 1 from naturally occurring trans fat). The other nutritional facts vary a bit between the two varieties but it’s the 40 gm of fat that concern me the most with this food.
Unhealthy Mexican Food 7: Certain Fajitas
Surprised? As with many of the other unhealthiest Mexican foods, the cheese, sour cream and guacamole pack on a lot of added calories and fat (these foods are made primarily of fat and fat has more than twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates). Adding fatty, fried or breaded meat ups the calorie and fat counts even more. Chevy’s mix grill fajitas have 1,533 calories, 87 gm fat (35 from saturated fat), 329 mg cholesterol and 3,327 mg sodium. Baja Fresh’s Breaded Fish Fajitas with flour tortillas have 1,340 calories, 46 gm fat (12 from saturated fat), 85 mg cholesterol and 3,020 mg sodium. There are fajitas that didn’t quite make the list (meaning they had less than 1,000 calories and less than 35 gm fat per serving) and they include: Baja Fresh’s Chicken Fajitas with corn tortillas, Baja Fresh’s Shrimp Fajitas with corn tortillas, Baja Fresh’s Mahi Mahi Fajitas with corn tortillas and Chevy’s Original Famous Chicken Fajitas. If you use corn tortillas, pile on the vegetables and pass on the cheese, sour cream and guacamole then fajitas are actually fairly healthy.
Basically, you want to avoid things that are deep fried, fried or smothered in fat (whether in the form of cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or some other fatty substance). There’s a lot of great healthy Mexican food out there. I hope you choose to eat Mexican food the healthy way and wish you the best of health!