If you're trying to eat fewer calories, Mexican restaurant nutrition facts may have you running in the opposite direction. However, you can enjoy these eateries without breaking the calorie budget if you know what to look for.
Eating Healthy at Restaurants
When you look past all of the melted cheese, lard-filled beans and numerous carbs in Mexican food, you can find plenty of healthy options at Mexican food restaurants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires restaurants with at least 20 locations in a chain to disclose calories on the menu. This can help people make healthy decisions.
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According to an April 2016 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, about half of all restaurants are single-site or small-chain eateries that do not have to put calorie counts on their menus. The study also reports that 92 percent of all restaurant meals contain more calories than people should eat in a single sitting.
Learning about Mexican food nutrition overall can help you choose foods that fit into your diet regardless of whether it has the calories on the menu. While you may be able only to estimate the number of Mexican food calories you eat at some restaurants, you can still stay on track.
Read more: How to Eat Healthy at Mexican Restaurants
Mexican Restaurant Chip Calories
The bombardment of Mexican food calories often begins before you even order your meal. Many restaurants serve free chips and salsa. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that just 1 ounce of corn chips will set you back 141 calories. However, the number of Mexican restaurant chips' calories you consume may vary depending on how they cook the chips.
Salsa is a low-calorie option to dip those chips into with just 36 calories per 100 grams, according to the USDA. If your table orders guacamole or chili con queso, you may want to steer clear. The USDA reports that 1/4 cup of guacamole contains more than 91 calories and chili con queso has more than 85 calories per 1/4 cup.
There's nothing inherently wrong with having a snack with a few hundred calories. Depending on your goal, a few chips and some guacamole could fit. However, it can be easy to overeat chips and dip, especially as you wait for your meal. If you struggle with this, try telling your waitstaff to take the chips after you finish an appropriate serving.
Read more: Side Effects of Eating Tortilla Chips
Calories in Mexican Restaurant Entrees
After you have your Mexican restaurant chips' calories, the Mexican restaurant nutrition you get depends on what type of entree you order and how much of it you eat. You can also make healthy choices within each kind of meal. For example, tortillas are staples in Mexican restaurants, and soft corn tortillas are generally the healthiest option.
You can also make choices for your health when it comes to sides. For example, you may get to choose between refried beans or black beans. Selecting the right sauces and dressing can also help cut down your calorie count. Pico de gallo is often an excellent option.
Read more: Nutritional Facts of Black Beans
Learning the Mexican restaurant nutrition facts of some popular ingredients can help:
- Corn tortilla: 45 calories per tortilla
- Flour tortilla: 95 calories per tortilla
- Lean chicken breast: 133 calories per 3 ounces
- Panfried hamburger beef: 230 calories per 3 ounces
- Refried beans: 130 calories per half-cup
- Black beans: 110 per half-cup
- Enchilada sauce: 15 calories per half-cup
If you frequent Mexican restaurants, you may want to have a few go-to dishes that you know you can fit into your calorie budget. The Cleveland Clinic recommends defaulting to fajitas and other dishes that feature lean meat and vegetables.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Summary: Food Labeling: Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments (Final Rule)"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Tortilla Chips Yellow Plain Salted"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Salsa"
- USDA: "Guacamole"
- USDA: "Dip, Cheese With Chili Pepper (Chili Con Queso)"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Energy Contents of Frequently Ordered Restaurant Meals and Comparison with Human Energy Requirements and US Department of Agriculture Database Information: A Multisite Randomized Study"
- USDA: "Corn Tortilla"
- USDA: "Flour Tortilla"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Lean Chicken Breast (Cooked)"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Panfried Beef Hamburger"
- USDA: "Refried Beans"
- USDA: "Black Beans"
- USDA: "Enchilada Sauce"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How to Eat Healthy at Your Favorite Restaurants"