Lunchtime rolls around and you want to grab something something that’s quick but that still tastes delicious.
On the street corner you see the taco truck, which offers authentic food at an inexpensive price.
But with so many options stuffed with fatty meats, rice, cheese, sour scream and guacamole, we often are left feeling bloated and guilty for having that second – or fifth – taco.
We asked three nutritionists what they would avoid and what they would pick so you can fit that Mexican food craving into a healthy diet.
We asked three nutritionists what they would avoid and what they would pick so you can fit that Mexican food craving into a healthy diet
PICK YOUR BASE
Our nutritionists recommend always picking a corn tortilla over a flour tortilla.
Made from corn – of curse – corn tortillas are whole grains, providing you with fiber, vitamins and minerals not found it refined grains.
‘They have less fat, less sodium, and there’s more wiggle room to add whatever filling you want,’ Adena Neglia of Brown Medina Nutrition in New York, New York, told Daily Mail Online.
Corn tortilla are also low in calories – about 70 calories in a six-inch tortilla – making it easier to justify buying two or three tacos.
It was a consensus among the nutritionists to steer clear of the flour tortillas at all costs.
Flour tortilla are low in fat but are a refined carbohydrate ,meaning there is little protein or fiber to fill you up.
‘One flour tortilla could be the equivalent of having three to five slices of bread, which is a large quantity could bloat you,’ Andrea Chernus of Chernus Nutrition in New York City told Daily Mail Online.
Also, in comparison with corn tortillas, a six-inch flour tortilla contains about 110 calories meaning that getting having ‘just one more’ taco could raise your calorie-count very quickly.
Tortas are a broad class of Mexican sandwich offered with many different choices of fillings
The bread is similar to a sandwich roll or a baguette, which is high in refined carbohydrates, but our nutritionists say it’s the fillings in the sandwich that boost the calorie- and fat- count more than the bread.
‘I would say split the bread in half, like and open-face sandwich, so that you can have some today and tomorrow and not feel guilty about indulging,’ Beth Warren of Beth Warren Nutrition in Brooklyn, New York told Daily Mail Online.
THE GOOD FILLINGS: PICK LEAN PROTEINS
If you want a healthy, satisfying meal, you need look no further than shrimp tacos, the nutritionists say.
Shrimp are low in calories – one medium shrimp contains about seven calories -and high in an impressive array of vitamins including protein, selenium and choline.
Selenium increases immunity and fights free radical damage while choline is a macronutrient important for liver function and normal brain development.
Our nutritionists also agree that to make the meal as healthy as possible, load up on the vegetables.
‘Lettuce, tomato, onion, peppers, add as many veggies as you can – even overflow it if you want,’ Warren said.
Shrimp are low in calories and high in an impressive array of nutrients including selenium and choline that increase immunity and support brain function
CHICKEN BURRITO BOWL
Our nutritionists are in agreement that, if you want to choose a meat, you should choose chicken.
‘The chicken would be better than the beef,’ said Chernus.
‘It’s lower in fat. A diet high in red meat has been linked to negative health outcomes such as greater incident of certain form of cancer and heart disease.’
Chicken, high in protein, is also high in several nutrients including magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Skipping on the flour tortilla will also save you unnecessary calories
‘It’s all about that good fuel mix: protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats,’ said Neglia’You have chicken in there for protein, load up on veggies for carbs, and you can add some avocado or some cheese in there for a healthy fat.’
A chicken burrito bowl is what our nutritionists call a ‘good fuel mix’ of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats
THE BAD FILLINGS : STAY AWAY FROM REFINED CARBOHYDRATES
While it may seem obvious, our nutritionists warn that getting nachos as a main dish is a poor choice.
‘If they’re fried nacho chips, you’re already starting off in a place where the normal serving size becomes so small that you’re going to overeat the portion they give you,’ said Warren.
The base usually contains fried chips, which are high in fat, calories and sodium. In fact, one serving of nachos contain 816mg, which is about half of the daily recommended 1,500mg by the American Heart Association.
Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure which increases your risk for stroke and heart failure.
Additionally, because sodium holds excess fluid in your body, it reduces the ability of your kidneys to filter out waste products, providing extra strain on the blood vessels leading to the organs and increasing your risk of kidney disease.
‘On top of chips, with the beans and sour cream and cheese and guacamole and salsa, the calorie content and fat content is high,’ Warren added.
Foods like nachos contain high levels of dietary fats that raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.
Nachos are high in fat and sodium, which can cause high blood pressure, therefore increasing your risk for stroke or heart failure
Many seem to think that burritos are healthy food options due to the fact that they contain meat, beans, veggies and cheese.
However, all those add up to a lunch option that could run you anywhere between 750 to 1200 calories.
According to Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, women should eat about 565 calories per meal while men should eat about 735 calories per meal.
‘It takes a lot of energy in your body to digest a high-fat meal so you’re going to feel more fatigued during the day,’ said Neglia.
While some taco trucks will give you the option of brown rice and whole wheat tortillas, most serve white rice and flour tortillas, which are refined carbohydrates and not a whole grain.
Diets that are high in refined carbs have been linked to weight gain and obesity.
‘White rice and bread doesn’t have as many nutrients as brown rice and bread because the outer shell containing the fiber is stripped off,’ said Neglia.
‘The rice can spike blood sugar to leave you feeling hungry later. You want to pick and choose carbs with a low glycemic index that will keep blood sugar levels normal.’
Burritos are high in refined carbs due to the white flour tortilla and white rice. Diets high in refined carbs have been linked to weight gain and obesity
THE IN-BETWEEN: HOW TO MAKE SANDWICHES A LITTLE BIT HEALTHIER
At most taco trucks, the vegetarian options are far and few between, but our nutritionists say the quesadilla is an option you can go with.
Although it’s made with a white flour tortilla, the cheese provides you with some nutrition.
‘A quesadilla has protein and calcium from the cheese,’ said Chernus.
‘Although, it’s like a grilled cheese sandwich and not the best option, the protein and calcium is a redeeming factor.’
While we know calcium is vital for healthy bones and teeth, it also helps regulate blood pressure, maintain healthy blood vessels and even prevents insulin resistance
The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 1,000mg a day – equivalent to about one thick slice of cheddar cheese – which about half of Americans don’t meet, according to a 2011 study published in the journal of the American Dietetic Association.
A standard restaurant quesadilla provides you with about 20g of protein and anywhere between 50 to 60 percent of the daily recommendation of calcium.
A standard restaurant quesadilla provides you with about 20g of protein and anywhere between 50 to 60 percent of the daily recommendation of calcium
Probably the least familiar item on this list, tortas are Mexican sandwiches that are piled with meats and cheeses of your choosing and toppings including avocado, jalapenos and refried beans.
Our nutritionists say that the sandwich’s only real downfall comes from the white sandwich roll.
‘It’s a white, refined carbohydrate so there’s not a lot of protein, not a lot of fiber and it becomes more of a carb-based meal at that point,’ said Neglia.
Neglia suggested making the torta an open-faced sandwich, or removing the top slice of bread, to cut down on unwanted calories.
Another way the nutritionists say this sandwich can be made into a healthy lunch option is by foregoing the higher-calorie toppings and adding options like jalapenos.
‘Jalapenos are really great for metabolism, they have vitamin A, and they have a lot of flavor without being too high in calories,’ said Warren.
One of the ways the nutritionists say a torta can be made into a healthy lunch option is by foregoing the higher-calorie toppings and adding ones like jalapenos