Nachos consist of corn tortilla chips topped with cheese, then broiled until the cheese melts. This simple Mexican-style snack food tickles your taste buds with both the creaminess of the warm, melted cheese and the crunch of the crispy chips. You can also add jalapeños to kick up the spiciness. This basic nacho snack can be relatively high in calories, fat and sodium, but by choosing ingredients carefully, you can make healthier versions.
Total calories in nachos with cheese depends on both the type of cheese and the type of chip used. Typical corn tortilla chips have about 146 calories for 10 chips, or about 15 calories per chip. Baked, instead of fried chips, contain about 110 calories for 18 chips, or 6 calories per chip. Mexican-style cheddar and Monterey jack cheese contains about 110 calories per ounce. Together, a single serving of nachos could contain about 220 to 256 calories. Typically, however, a single serving of nachos contains more 10 chips and more than 1 oz. of cheese, resulting in a total calorie count ranging from about 346 to 554 calories per serving.
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Chips and cheese contain a significant amount of fat. Corn tortilla chips contain about 7 g of fat for 10 chips, almost 1 g per chip. Cheese contains 9 g of fat per ounce. A single serving of nachos could contain 16 g of fat. Typically, however, people load their chips with more than 1 oz. of cheese, resulting in nachos containing about 19 g to 30 g of fat. Lower fat versions made with baked chips and low-fat cheese could contain a total of 8 g of fat per serving. This version contains half the fat and almost twice the chips as regular nachos.
Nachos contain high levels of sodium, about 816 mg per serving, about half your recommended daily limit for sodium intake. High levels of sodium can raise your blood pressure, increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, and decrease your overall bone density. A virtually sodium-free version of nachos can be made using salt-free chips and low-sodium cheese. In this case, the overall sodium content totals less than 5 mg per serving.
Cheese contributes to the overall calcium content of nachos. Depending on how much cheese you add to your chips, the total calcium content of your nachos could range from 20 to 30 percent of your daily recommended requirement. Calcium not only helps maintain bone density, but helps ensure proper muscle and nerve function and helps your blood to clot. Low blood calcium levels make your body borrow the calcium from your bones, and if not replenished can cause your bones to become weak and brittle. Eating low fat, low-sodium dairy foods, such as nachos made with low-fat, low-sodium cheese can help you maintain adequate blood calcium levels.
Jalapeño peppers added to nachos increases their overall spicy flavor without adding significant fat, calories or sodium. One whole jalapeño pepper contains only 4 calories, less than 1/10 g of fat, and no sodium, and provides 10 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Jalapeños contain only 1 g of carbohydrate and provide 30 mg of potassium. They rank moderately hot on the chili pepper hotness scale, a level five out of 10, indicating they add significant heat to your food, but not to an intolerable level.