Fajitas are a popular Mexican dish made with marinated grilled meat, sauteed green peppers and onions and topped with salsa, guacamole, sour cream and shredded cheese, all rolled up in a flour tortilla. However, chicken fajitas calories can be high.
Fajitas can also be a healthy and nutritious choice, depending on where you buy them, their ingredients and what toppings you add.
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Restaurant Fajitas Nutrition Facts
Restaurant fajitas can either be healthy or loaded with calories and unhealthy saturated fat. For example, according to Applebees.com, Applebee's chicken fajitas calories clock in at a whopping 1,560, including 78 grams of total fat, of which 31 grams is saturated fat. They also include 4,990 milligrams of sodium, which is nearly 50 percent of the American Heart Association's recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams for a healthy adult.
At Chipotle Mexican Grill, a fajita made with a taco-sized flour tortilla, fajita vegetables, chicken and tomato salsa has 475 calories, 15 grams of total fat and 3.5 grams of saturated fat. However, if you add guacamole to your fajita, the calories jump to 705 and the total fat content rises to 37 grams.
Consider the Protein
Although fajitas can be loaded with calories and fat, they are also a good source of protein. According to the National Academies of Sciences, the daily recommended intake of protein for males is 56 grams and 46 grams for females. A chicken fajita from Chipotle provides 42 grams of protein — almost a full day's worth.
To make your fajita healthier, skip the saturated fat-filled sour cream and shredded cheese. Guacamole is high in calories, but avocado is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fat that can reduce your risk of heart disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Use plenty of flavorful, low-calorie salsa, which is typically made with raw chopped tomatoes, onions and chili peppers. A half-cup of salsa counts as one serving of vegetables.
Avoid Excess Calories and Fat
When dining out at a Mexican restaurant, choose wisely to keep your meal healthy. Ask your server not to bring tortilla chips to your table. Skip fattening sour cream and cheese, in favor of salsa and pico de gallo. Avoid refried beans, which are often made with lard, and eat whole pinto or black beans instead.
Guacamole, made from a fresh avocado, contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids — which are particularly important for heart health, according to Mayo Clinic. However, remember that it is still high in total fat and calories.
Read more: How to Eat Healthy at Mexican Restaurants
Make Your Own Fajitas
Make your own chicken fajitas to control what goes in them. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup of lime juice, 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin. Stir in 3 pounds of chicken breasts cut into 1/4-inch strips, and let them marinate for 15 minutes prior to cooking in a pan on the stove or grill for about 3 minutes, or until no longer pink.
Stir in 1 large sliced onion and one slivered green bell pepper and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Divide mixture evenly among a dozen 8-inch whole wheat tortillas. Top each fajita with 2 teaspoons each of salsa, low-fat sour cream and low-fat cheese. Roll up the fajitas and serve.