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Nutrition Guide for Mexican Food

by
author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Nutrition Guide for Mexican Food
Eat fajitas when dining on Mexican food. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Mexican food is a popular cuisine for dining out. However, many items on the menu of a Mexican restaurant contain high amounts of sodium and saturated fat, according to the American Heart Association. You can still eat out at your favorite Mexican restaurant if you know which food items make healthier choices.

Appetizers

Many sit-down Mexican restaurants serve tortilla chips and salsa as a free appetizer before your meal. If concerned about fat and calories, ask your server to hold the chips and salsa. A basket of chips and salsa at On the Border contains 430 calories, 22 g of fat, 4 g of saturated fat, 52 g of carbohydrates, 5 g of protein, 5 g of fiber and 460 mg of sodium. A better appetizer choice would be a bowl of soup. A bowl of chicken corn chowder at Chevy's Tex Mex restaurant contains 280 calories, 16 g of total fat, 9 g of saturated fat, 1,050 mg of sodium, 28 g of carbohydrates, 3 g of fiber and 8 g of protein. A side salad also makes a healthy appetizer choice, but instead of using a typical high-calorie, high-fat salad dressing, ask for a side of salsa.

Entree Salads

Salads may seem like a healthy way to go when eating out, but many salads at Mexican restaurants are high in calories and fat. Many taco salads are served in a fried tortilla shell that contains more than 1,000 calories. For example, the beef taco salad at Don Pablo's, when eaten with the shell, contains 1,380 calories, 73 g of total fat, 102 g of carbohydrates, 18 g of dietary fiber and 2,593 mg of sodium, and that's without the salad dressing. The Red River Salad makes a better salad choice at Don Pablo's, with 758 calories, 41 g of fat, 47 g of carbohydrates, 8 g of dietary fiber, 53 g of protein and 1,263 g of sodium without salad dressing. You can make your own healthy salad at Chipotle restaurants as long as you omit the vinaigrette, which has 290 calories and 25 g of fat. Fill it with steak, black beans, tomato salsa and cheese for only 455 calories, 17 g of fat, 7 g of saturated fat, 1,390 mg of sodium, 33 g of carbohydrates, 8 g of dietary fiber and 47 g of protein.

Tacos

Tacos can make a healthy Mexican food choice if you fill them with healthy options. An a la carte soft chicken taco at On the Border has 270 calories, 11 g of total fat, 5 g of saturated fat, 24 g of carbohydrates, 20 g of protein, 2 g of dietary fiber and 880 mg of sodium. Chevy's carnitas crispy taco contains 270 calories, 12 g of total fat, 4 g of saturated fat, 230 mg of sodium, 27 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber and 16 g of protein.

Fajitas

Fajitas are loaded with grilled meats and vegetables and also make a healthy Mexican food choice, just omit the sour cream. The chicken and steak fajitas at Chevy's makes a good choice for the calorie-conscious, with 410 calories, 18 g of total fat, 7 g of saturated fat, 530 mg of sodium, 13 g of carbohydrates, 3 g of fiber and 47 g of protein. Don Pablo's shrimp fajita and enchilada combo also makes a low-calorie choice, with 585 calories, 52 g of total fat, 16 g of saturated fat, 23 g of carbohydrates, 3 g of fiber, 11 g of protein and 2,629 mg of sodium.

Considerations

Even healthy options at Mexican restaurants contain high amounts of sodium and saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends you limit your daily sodium intake to less than 2,400 mg a day and saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total calories. For overall health, limit your visit to Mexican restaurants to a few times a month to help control both your fat and sodium intake.

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