Tacos have a bad reputation. In the media, they’re often portrayed as greasy, fried junk food. You may be wondering how something that tastes so good can be so bad for you? Well, we’re here with some good news. Tacos aren’t as unhealthy as they’ve been depicted in recent years! Not all tacos are made the same and the fast-food chain tacos that have been introduced to mainstream American definitely don’t represent authentic Mexican cuisine accurately. At Taqueros a Mexican Restaurant, their tacos are made with real meat, fresh veggies, and homemade tortillas. Tacos can be healthy and here’s why:
There are tons of fillings you can get for your tacos: barbacoa, carnitas, carne asada, pescado, chorizo, lengua, and the list goes on. At most taquerias, the meats are marinated and grilled with care. For example, al pastor is soaked in a blend of spices, chilis, and pineapple for hours before it’s slowly cooked on a rotisserie.
Unfortunately, many fast food places only offer one or two types of fillings, like beef and chicken. After the mystery meat scandal of a certain Mexican food chain, even fast-food restaurants have become more stringent about using real meat and fewer filler ingredients like wheat. While they may not have as much flavor as traditional tacos, they’re still a good source of protein.
If you’re looking for a healthy taco option, we recommend getting lean chicken tacos or seafood tacos. These protein options have less fat than red meats, but they’re packed with protein. Fish and shrimp also have vital nutrients, such as vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids. If you’re not much of a meat-eater, there are many restaurants, especially in Mission Viejo, that serve vegetarian and vegan options. Beans, eggs, potatoes, soyrizo, and mushrooms are all savory alternatives to typical meat products.
At Taqueros Mexican Restaurant and most other Mexican taco establishments, the taco is served with a healthy serving of chopped onions and cilantro. These herbs cut the flavor of the savory meat and add a delicious, aromatic taste.
This is arguably the most important part of the taco, what makes the taco a taco. There’s a wide variety of tortillas or taco shells available. To name just a few, there are corn, flour, Dorito, and Spanish tortillas. Some restaurants double-tortilla, some fry, and some do both! Without a soft, toasty tortilla to wrap the stuffing, onions, cilantro, and salsa together, the taco is nothing.
Most traditional Mexican restaurants serve their tacos on flour tortillas (except for shrimp and fish). And as much as we love them, flour tortillas are refined carbohydrates. While they may be low in calories, they’re quickly absorbed into the body, causing blood sugar and insulin spikes. A healthier option is a corn tortilla or whole wheat tortilla. These are complex carbs that contain more fiber and take more time to digest, keeping you full longer. To make your tortillas soft yet crispy, grill them on the stove for a minute or two with a few drops of olive oil.
Stay away from deep-fried tortillas. Fast food restaurants often use hydrogenated oils, which are high in trans fat, to cook their taco shells. This can lead to health complications, like high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease if eaten in excess.
For a healthier hard shell, baked corn tortillas hold up just as well! Older tortillas tend to crisp up a little faster, so wait until you’re nearing the end of your tortilla supply to make your hard shell tacos. Then, just brush them with a bit of olive oil and bake them in the oven. We like adding a sprinkle of paprika for a little sweetness.
Though salsa is relatively simple to make, it’s what really completes the taco. Most restaurants offer a variety of salsas, limes, and even pickled vegetables to add to the meal. Salsa is generally made of lime juice, tomatoes or tomatillos, onions, cilantro, chiles, and other spices. Some of our favorites are salsa verde, pico de gallo, and chipotle salsa. If any sugar or salt is added, it’s very little because the ingredients in salsa are already so flavorful. Overall, salsa is pretty healthy, so feel free to pile it on to your tacos!
The only health concern associated with salsa is when it’s too hot! Spicy foods can irritate the stomach and cause indigestion. If you have trouble eating spicy salsa on your tacos but you enjoy the flavor, build your tolerance for it slowly and eat in moderation.
Guacamole is a little less popular for tacos than salsa, but many people do enjoy it. Since avocados are full of healthy fats, dietary fiber, and potassium, guacamole is generally quite healthy.
Typical restaurant or fast food tacos can be loaded with fat and calories without being very filling, which can lead you to consume too many calories. However, tacos can be healthy if you change up the recipe. Make your tacos at home with fresh, nutritious ingredients for a suitable addition to any diet plan.
The taco shell you choose influences the amount of calories in the finished product. The healthiest option is a non-fried corn tortilla instead of fried or flour tortillas. Frying the shell adds a lot of fat and calories, and corn tortillas are generally more filling and contain fewer calories than flour tortillas. If you want crispy taco shells without all the calories, steam a few corn tortillas to make them more flexible and then fold and bake them in the oven at a high temperature for a few minutes to get them crispy.
The Protein You Choose
For tacos to satisfy your hunger, they need some type of protein for the filling. Beans are a great low-calorie option since they contain a lot of fiber, but eggs, lean ground turkey, chicken, and fish are also good alternatives. Use salt-free seasonings that you enjoy to give the filling flavor without adding a lot of fat or sodium.
To make your taco more satisfying as well as more nutritious, use only a small amount of meat filling and use a lot of vegetables. You don’t have to stick to iceberg lettuce and tomato. You can use any vegetables that you like, including carrots, peppers or green, leafy vegetables. You could also add salsa to your taco to increase the amount of vegetables and add some extra flavor without adding a lot of fat or calories. Limit the use of cheese and sour cream since they are high in calories and saturated fat. Use guacamole in moderation, because even though it contains healthy unsaturated fats, it is still high in calories.
If you want to lose weight, you need to limit calories, so make tacos less energy-dense by using lower-calorie vegetables for most of the filling instead of ground beef. Foods like beef with a lot of fat tend to have more calories for a small amount of food, while foods that contain a lot of water and fiber, like non-starchy vegetables, contain relatively few calories for a larger amount of food. The added volume from the vegetables will make you feel full for longer even though you consume fewer calories. Otherwise, have a small serving of tacos and fill the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables.
Can Tacos Be Good For You?
If we had it our way, here at Best Food Facts, we’d live every day like it’s Taco Tuesday. But when it comes to consuming them, can there be too much of a good thing? Are tacos considered junk food or health food? To find out more, we reached out to Michelle Jaelin, a Registered Dietitian based in Toronto.
What should tacos be considered — Junk food or health food?
Jaelin: “Tacos could be considered as either junk food or health food, depending on the ingredients used in the taco dish or how it was prepared. For example, if the taco was prepared in a fast-food restaurant where it was fried in lots of oil and prepared with a high amount of salt, seasonings, cheese, and sauce with no vegetable toppings – it would be considered junk food.”
While the origins of the taco are relatively unknown, it has been theorized that tacos were first developed by miners in Mexico. As tacos gained popularity, different regions throughout Mexico began creating their own versions that were unique to the region. The first documented taco in the United States was in a newspaper article in 1905. Over time, the original taco recipe (thin slices of meat, salsa, onions, guacamole, and lime in a corn tortilla) was altered and has been altered to many different versions to fit individual tastes.
What are the healthy components? Not so healthy parts?
Jaelin: “If prepared with lean protein (beef, chicken, fish) or vegan protein (tofu, beans), those would be healthier components than high-fat beef. Whole grain taco shells are healthier than the ones made with white flour. Vegetables on top, such as lettuce and tomatoes are healthy. In terms of toppings, salsa is your healthiest bet, while sour cream and cheese would be considered not so healthy. Guacamole can be healthy, however, most guacamole prepared in restaurants usually is made with full-fat sour cream to give it that rich flavor.”
What are some ways to make tacos healthier?
Jaelin: “Make your own! Create your own taco party and have guests assemble their own. Be sure to include lots of lean protein options, vegetables, and healthier toppings such as homemade guacamole, and salsa. Have the heavier toppings (sour cream, cheese) as well, but try to encourage eating a variety and trying new and different topping combinations.”
If you’re looking for additional healthy taco ideas, Health has put together a list.
So, we have seen celebrities talk about the taco cleanse – is it actually considered to be healthy?
Jaelin: “Raved about by Jennifer Aniston, the taco cleanse is real, you can check out this journalist’s experience with it here. To me, the taco cleanse is like any other diet: eat “good foods” (ie. tacos, vegan foods, everything consumed has to be in a taco shell). ‘Bad foods’ are animal-based products and anything that cannot be consumed in a taco. The good thing about this diet is it does encourage mindful eating – eating with attention and intention. However, it still limits some types of food which promotes diet culture. My other theory is because everything is to be consumed in a taco, you will eat less, which would result in weight loss.
“Whether healthy or not, by the end of it you would be so sick of tacos, that you wouldn’t stick to it. That isn’t very healthy to me!”
Do you have any favorite taco recipes?
Jaelin: “I personally love fish tacos. If it has fish in it, I will eat it! I don’t have a particular favorite one, but I would love to try this one.”
The simplicity of tacos makes them a staple that almost anyone can make. Not only are they budget-friendly, but they also allow for personalization and can serve a crowd. Choosing ingredients such as lean protein and vegetables can make tacos a healthy part of any eating plan.
What are the best tacos in Mexico?
The gastronomy of Mexico is distinguished by many dishes that are desired even by foreigners, but tacos are an icon that identifies it.
What are the best tacos?
Although the food is too versatile because it depends on the tastes of each person, here we present the five most famous tacos in Mexico, each one choosing their favorite.
Tacos are par excellence the traditional dish of the entire country. No matter what you want to eat, you can surely make a taco out of it.
Undoubtedly one of the most traditional are those of pastor, prepared with pork marinated with different spices such as achiote and red chili peppers, which is what gives it its characteristic color. These tacos have an Arab influence, even the meat is put on a “top” very similar to that of the Arab tacos.
On this top, the meat is sliced and served in small tortillas. They are accompanied by coriander, onion, and pineapple. They are characteristic of Mexico City and there are thousands of places where you can eat them.
This preparation is identified as being common in the north of the country, there is even a dispute over which region has the best meat to prepare them. Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora or Nuevo León are the ones leading the dispute.
This preparation is with beef and its variety is infinite, because it depends on the cut you choose to prepare them, you can serve them in flour tortillas, instead of corn tortillas that is what is traditionally used in the rest of the tacos.
The fruit of the sea could not be left out, since fish and shellfish are also an important part of Mexican gastronomy, there are many variations, but the most common are capeados and the governor taco. Its popularity has spread throughout the country mainly during Lent.
This preparation of pork meat is made in a copper saucepan filled with oil, put inside together with lard, and wait for it to cool. You can order your tacos in many varieties, including solid, cuerito, rib, nana, trunk, tripe, cheek, ear and nenepil. Michoacán is one of the states recognized for its excellent preparation.
This preparation is one of the most flexible that exists because you can prepare them with any stew you have at home, from pressed pork rinds, red mincemeat, slices with cheese, green or red roast, or even stuffed chili.
These tacos are the ones that best reflect the creativity of the Mexican and that everything can fit in a tortilla.