The day they release a diet book called “The Mexican Food Diet,” it will fly off bookstore shelves faster than books about boy wizards and girls who heart vampires. That’s because Mexican food is on the list of almost everyone’s favorite ethnic cuisines, especially if you live in California -despite the fact that most Mexican dishes are not very diet friendly or healthy. You may love Mexican food, but, like a bad boyfriend, it doesn’t love you back. In fact, many of the ingredients in Mexican food, particularly cheese and lard, are loaded with heart-unhealthy saturated fat.
The Taco Bell diet aside (and did you notice how its legs were shorter than the chihuahua’s?), most Mexican restaurants are not the place to go for a healthy lunch or dinner. Yet among the burritos, enchiladas and refried beans (do you really need to fry something twice?), we knew some Mexican foods had to be worse than others.
Quesadillas from Chevy’s
When searching for the unhealthiest restaurant foods, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a.k.a. the food police, nicknamed Chevy’s Crab & Shrimp Quesadillas “Cheezila ” after the famous ginormous lizard monster. That’s because this Chevy’s entrée contains a whopping 1,790 calories and 63 grams of saturated fat, plus enough sodium to fill a modest salt shaker. It’s not the lean protein seafood that’s the problem- it’s the white flour tortilla, cheese, cream sauce, guacamole and sour cream.
Chipotle Steak Taco Salad from Taco Bell
Want to eat healthy, order a salad. Right? Not when that salad uses a fried tortilla as its base. Taco Bell’s chipotle steak taco salad is less healthy than the much maligned McDonald’s Big Mac. It’s loaded with beans, cheddar cheese, a creamy dressing, rice and fried tortilla strips. Don’t let the lettuce and tomato and seemingly healthy reduced fat sour cream fool you; this taco “salad” weighs in at a hefty 900 calories and 57 grams of fat. Compare that to Mickey Dee’s signature Big Mac sandwich at only 540 calories and 29 grams of fat.
Chipotle is one of the nation’s healthiest fresh Mex restaurant chains in the United States, using natural meats from farm raised animals that are treated humanely and are not injected with antibiotics and hormones. Sounds great, but even Chipotle has an Achilles’ heel -its burritos. If you stick to Chipotle’s salads and Bols (burritos in a bowl, sans the 340-calorie tortilla) you’re fine. Order a burrito and you’ll consume far more calories, with even the healthy sounding chicken burrito clucking in at just under 1000 calories (that’s if you can resist adding guacamole). Chipotle Fan, an unofficial website for devotes of Chipotle, allows you to build your own burrito to make a healthier version by adding or subtracting cheese, sour cream, etc. until you hit a fat and calorie count you can live with (literally). Better yet, just eat half a burrito, wrap the other half, and eat it for lunch the next day.
What’s even less healthy than a flour tortilla? A flour tortilla fried in oil. That’s what you get with a chimichanga, the Mexican version of lily gilding. With all the fat from cheese, sour cream and the tortilla itself, the last thing you need is to douse your dish in oil. A standard recipe for chimichangas from the All Recipes website contains 1600 calories and 83.8 grams of fat. Be sure to have a priest waiting, just in case.
So, maybe margaritas are not technically a food, but people often go to their favorite Mexican restaurant as an excuse to drink one of these frosty, fruity drinks. Or is that just me ? I’ve tried to justify adding margaritas to my meal by counting them as a fruit serving, but that’s a stretch- especially given their high sugar and calorie counts. According to a website called Wasted Calories, a three-ounce margarita has only 170 calories, but when was the last time you saw a three-ounce margarita at a Mexican restaurant? These official Girl’s Night Out drinks have turned into the cocktail equivalents of 7-11 Big Gulps. Figure more like 510 calories for even a relatively teetotaling nine-ouncer – and more sugar than a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.