Dining out provides an opportunity to socialize with friends and family and enjoy the food of your choosing. Being health-conscious doesn't mean you have to avoid restaurants altogether. If you plan on dining at El Chico, a Tex-Mex chain found throughout the United States, be careful of your menu choices since some of them pack in a lot of calories. Keep in mind that the El Chico menu varies based on location. Talk to your server if you have questions.
It's crucial to have reasonable expectations when you're dining at El Chico. The menu offers traditional Tex-Mex food including tacos, chimichangas, chalupas and quesadillas. These items are typically fried and served with calorie-dense components such as cheese and sour cream. When dining out, decide in advance on a calorie allowance and make adjustments in the rest of your daily meals, writes dietitian Joanne Lichten in her book "Eat Out Healthy." This will likely account for your highest-calorie meal of the day, so balance is critical.
The sobering news is that most of the items on the El Chico menu are high in calories, according to the "Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating" book by Hope Warshaw. The good news is a few options may work for you. The tortilla soup contains an estimated 320 calories. Try this with a side salad, and you'll come in under 500 calories. Three beef or chicken tacos are another choice. This option contains about 370 calories if you leave off the cheese. The chicken fajita plate sans flour tortillas contains 200 calories, including a serving of cheddar cheese.
Share the Appetizer
The appetizers on the El Chico menu contain anywhere from 500 to 2,200 calories. Your best bet is to share an appetizer with one or two other people. The lowest-calorie items are the fresh guacamole with chips and the pico de gallo -- a type of chunky salsa -- with chips. If you share either of these with another person, you'll use 150 to 200 calories from your calorie bank.
The typical dessert isn't diet-friendly, regardless of which restaurant you dine at, and El Chico is no different. Your options include Mexican fried ice cream, brownie sundae, Mexican apple pie and Mexican pastry dusted with cinnamon, which contain an estimated 800 to 1,200 calories per serving. The key to lowering your calories here is to control your portion size. Lichten recommends dividing your dessert into four equal sections and eating only one section. Save the rest for another day or share with friends.
- Eat Out Healthy; Joanne Lichten, R.D., Ph.D.
- Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating; Hope Warshaw