When you think of Mexican food, images of tacos al pastor or enchiladas stuffed with beef may come to mind. In other words, a meat lover's dream. But contrary to popular belief, plant-based staples like beans, peppers, onions, avocado, corn and tomatoes are at the heart of Mexican cuisine, says New York City-based dietitian Isabel Smith, RD, CDN.
In fact, adding Mexican dishes to your diet is a great way to load up on veggies and limit meat, which is a smart strategy when you're trying to lose weight and improve your overall health. Indeed, plant-based foods are rich in essential nutrients like fiber, which helps you stay fuller for longer, balances your blood sugar and crushes cravings, Smith says.
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To keep your tummy happy on a plant-based eating plan, aim for meals with at least 10 grams of protein and fiber, recommends Smith, who adds that whole grains, beans and nuts are great sources of both.
Need some inspiration? These plant-based, Mexican-inspired recipes have all the flavor and spice of their meaty counterparts, just with more nutrients and fewer calories (less than 500 per serving).
1. Spicy Breakfast Burrito
- Calories: 491
- Fiber: 11 grams
- Protein: 23 grams
Start your morning with this vegan breakfast burrito that swaps low-fat tofu for eggs and dairy-free nutritional yeast for cheese but still packs a whole lot of flavor and texture.
The best part? You can prepare a bunch of these burritos on Sunday and freeze them, so you'll have healthy, ready-to-go breakfast options on busy weekdays.
Get the Spicy Breakfast Burrito recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Quinoa “Taco” Bowl
- Calories: 478
- Fiber: 11 grams
- Protein: 36 grams
Between slow-simmered black beans, creamy slivers of avocado and spicy jalapeno slices, this twist on tacos has all the ingredients you crave in Mexican-style comfort food.
This mouthwatering bowl trades in tortillas for organic tricolor quinoa — adding a whole lot of belly-filling fiber — plus it boasts a whopping 36 grams of muscle-building protein per serving, thanks in large part to juicy slices of chipotle chicken (ICYMI, you can occasionally eat meat and dairy on a plant-based diet plan). You can always swap out the chicken for tofu or another vegetarian-friendly protein if that's your thing, though.
Get the Quinoa “Taco” Bowl recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Grilled Farmers Market Veggie Tacos with Guacamole
- Calories: 229
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 10 grams
You'll never miss the meat filling in these farm-fresh veggie tacos overflowing with hearty portobello mushroom caps, zucchini and summer squash. With nearly a cup of veggies per serving (one taco), these tacos will put you well on your way to getting your daily quota of greens, while yummy queso fresco and good-for-you guac provide tons of flavor and the healthy fats your belly needs to feel full.
Pro tip: Swap out the corn tortilla for a whole-wheat version, which has more than twice the fiber.
Get the Grilled Farmers Market Veggie Tacos with Guacamole recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Tropical Black Bean, Cheese, and Papaya Burrito
- Calories: 296
- Fiber: 12 grams
- Protein: 14 grams
There's no better way to do dinner than this plant-based burrito — black beans, spicy salsa, juicy papaya and melty Monterey jack cheese all wrapped up in a soft whole-grain tortilla, which is also stuffed to the brim with baby spinach.
At less than 300 calories per portion, you can even serve this sweet-and-savory burrito with a side of fresh guac without breaking the calorie bank.
Get the Tropical Black Bean, Cheese, and Papaya Burrito recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Vegetarian Mexican Personal Pizzas
- Calories: 218
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
What do you call a pizza crust with taco toppings? A win-win!
This low-calorie, Mexican-style personal pizza packs a font of fiber thanks to whole-wheat flour and refried beans. Toss on some sliced cherry tomatoes and corn kernels, drizzle a little avocado oil and garnish with guacamole for the perfect plant-based meal.
At just 218 calories, one personal pie makes for a great snack, or double the serving for a meal.
Get the Vegetarian Mexican Personal Pizzas recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole
- Calories: 379
- Fiber: 9 grams
- Protein: 19 grams
Sweet yellow corn is the star of this high-fiber, microwavable casserole. A trio of free-range eggs, red kidney beans and Monterrey Jack cheese pile on the protein, while tart lime juice and fresh cilantro bring a burst of flavor to this no-fuss dish, which takes less than 20 minutes from prep to plate.
Get the Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Cauliflower Rice and Black Bean Burrito Bowls
- Calories: 168
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
This low-fat burrito bowl replaces starchy rice with cauliflower crumbles, so it's ideal if you're watching your carb intake. With only 168 calories per serving, this healthier, homemade version has fewer than half the calories — and 11 times less sodium — than Taco Bell's Veggie Power Menu Bowl. Even if you double the recipe for a more substantial meal, you're still clocking in way below the drive-thru option.
And though technically this burrito bowl doesn't count as "fast food," you can cook and serve it in 18 minutes flat.
Get the Cauliflower Rice and Black Bean Burrito Bowls recipe and nutrition info here.