Mexican Food Nutrition Facts: Menu Choices & Calories

Best and Worst Health Choices at Mexican Restaurants

healthy mexican food
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Do you think of healthy food when you think about eating Mexican? Most people don't. But there are so many ways to eat healthy Mexican food in a restaurant. You just have to know which Mexican entrees to order and which Tex-Mex foods to avoid.

Analyzing the Mexican Restaurant Menu

Traditional Mexican fare is made from fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, meat, and seafood.

So most of the ingredients in authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex food are good for your diet. And the spicy flavor makes it a great choice for dieters. It can be harder to overheat food when it has some heat.

But many times, when we visit a Mexican restaurant we order the cheesy, fried dishes that can derail a diet. So what should you order instead? It's easy to indulge in diet-friendly Mexican food if you stick to a few guidelines.

When you visit any restaurant, you'll be more likely to eat a low-calorie, healthy meal if you follow smart guidelines.

  • Make your menu selection in advance. Visit the restaurant website and choose your meal when you're not hungry or distracted.
  • Have a festive drink before, not during, dinner. If you love to have a Tex-Mex inspired cocktail, either make a skinny margarita at home or enjoy one when you get to the restaurant. Then have your meal with water. 
  • Skip dessert. Your meal will fill you up. After your plate is clean, enjoy the pleasure of your company and skip the high-fat treats.

    Most Popular Mexican Food

    Taco Salad Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size 1 1/2 cup (198 g)
    Per Serving% Daily Value*
    Calories 279 
    Calories from Fat 133 
    Total Fat 14.8g23%
    Saturated Fat 6.8g34%
    Polyunsaturated Fat 1.7g 
    Monounsaturated Fat 5.2g 
    Cholesterol 44mg15%
    Sodium 762mg32%
    Potassium 415.8mg12%
    Carbohydrates 23.6g8%
    Dietary Fiber 0g0%
    Sugars 0g 
    Protein 13.2g 
    Vitamin A 12% · Vitamin C 6%
    Calcium 19% · Iron 13%
    *Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

    One of the most popular items on the Tex-Mex menu is the taco salad. It sounds healthy because it has "salad" in the name, but the calories counts for this large entree can vary significantly.

    For example, if you order a salad that comes in a fried taco shell, you should add about 300 calories and 16 grams of fat to your meal total. And any toppings that you add, like sour cream or guacamole, will increase your totals as well. The calories in guacamole come mostly from the healthy fats. A single serving of two tablespoons of guacamole contains 50 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 240 mg of sodium, and 3 grams of carbohydrate, and 1 gram of protein. It's a relatively low-carbohydrate food, but it's easy to pile up on this creamy dip, so be mindful of portion sizes.

    Combination platters are also very popular in Mexican restaurants. Unfortunately, however, these meals almost always provide way more food than you need. As a result, you'll consume 500, 700 or even more calories when you clean your combo plate.

    Healthiest Options on the Mexican Menu

    These healthier Mexican menu items will help you keep your healthy eating plan on track:

    • Gazpacho ( a tomato based soup traditionally served cold)
    • Chicken or vegetable fajitas (with just one or two tortillas or skip them altogether)
    • Grilled chicken dishes (e.g., arroz con pollo)
    • Grilled seafood-based dishes (e.g. camarones de hacha)
    • Salsa and picante sauces with spice
    • Soft (unfried) tacos with chicken or beef 
    • Tamales
    • Chicken flautas
    • Fish tacos
    • Chile con carne (hold the cheese and chips)
    • Pico de gallo

    Least Healthy Choices on the Mexican Menu

    If you're trying to slim down, avoid foods that are fried or covered in cheese or creamy sauces. You should also go light on the guacamole. The dip provides plenty of healthy fat, but the calories in an avocado add up quickly, so enjoy it in moderation.

    You may also want to avoid chips and salsa that might be included with your meal. In fact, many smart dieters ask their server not to put it on the table at all. It's too easy to overeat

    If you do choose one of these higher calorie dishes at a Mexican restaurant, split the meal with a friend or have half of the entree wrapped up to eat at another time.

    These less healthy Mexican foods are higher in calories: 

    • chips
    • nachos
    • chimichangas
    • quesadillas
    • crunchy tacos
    • taco salad in a fried shell
    • chorizo sausage
    • sour cream
    • sopapillas

    Make Healthy Mexican Food at Home

    The best way to enjoy Tex-Mex food while you're on a diet is to make it at home in your own kitchen. That way you can control the portion sizes and choose lower calorie ingredients. Grill fish, shrimp or chicken for tacos, enjoy a lean steak fajita or make your own taco salad with crunchy vegetables and a small amount of cheese.