How to Eat Healthy at a Mexican Restaurant

Fresh tacos on a plate
Marianna Massey / Getty Images

Believe it or not, it is possible to learn how to eat healthy at a Mexican restaurant. Tex-Mex food gets a bad rap thanks to high-calorie chips, entrees full of cheese, and high-calorie drinks. But the best low-calorie Mexican food choices are often the ones filled with the most flavor. You just have to know how to find them.

How to Order Healthy Mexican Food

By learning a few simple guidelines, you'll learn how to find healthy Mexican food on any menu. Get ready to add some spicy flare to your meals, even if you are on a weight loss diet. Mexican food is back on the menu.

  • Skip the crunchy calories. Avoid crunchy Mexican food. It's fried and full of fat. Ask your waiter not to bring pre-meal chips and salsa. Then when you choose your entree, select an item that includes soft tortillas. Soft tortillas are baked, not fried. Choosing soft tortillas over crunchy ones can easily save a few hundred calories.
  • Savor the salsa. If you simply love the pre-meal chips (or if your dining companion wants them on the table) ask for a soft tortilla instead and spread it with salsa. Then fold it up and eats it like a taquito. Or you can tear it into small bits to dip into fresh salsa.
  • Choose healthier Mexican beansBlack beans are an excellent choice for most people. They are low in fat, high in protein and provide plenty of fiber. They get a thumbs up as a low-calorie Mexican food. Refried beans may sound like a good choice, but they are often prepared with lard, cheese, and bacon, making the calorie and fat counts quite high. Pinto beans can be a smart option if you love the taste traditional refried beans. You'll get a similar flavor without the extra fat.
  • Watch portion sizes. Use caution when ordering the beans and rice combo if you follow a low-carb eating plan or have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Consider splitting an order with a companion.
  • Dips are a don't. Con queso dips and nacho cheese are tempting toppers for chips, but they're both extremely rich and high in fat and calories. Sour cream is another topper to avoid. Guacamole is made with avocado, which is a healthy fat. But a little bit of it can quickly add up your fat and calorie intake, so keep an eye on portion sizes.
  • Make healthy Mexican swaps. Switching to bean burritos instead of beef or cheese burritos will save you lots of extra calories and get in plenty of fiber to boot. Ask for corn tortillas to be used instead of flour and you'll be doing even better.
  • Avoid the most unhealthy Mexican dishes. Some popular dishes to avoid include nachos, chimichangas, chalupas, taquitos, chile relleno, (all of which are deep-fried) and "double-decker" burritos. Healthier choices include chicken fajitas, bean burritos, grilled chicken dishes with peppers and onions (hold the cheese!), or a soft taco. 

Low-Calorie Mexican Food—Savvy Swaps

Side dishes can make or break your healthy Mexican meal. Even if you don't see healthy, low-calorie Mexican side dishes on the menu, ask your server about options.

Some Mexican restaurants will replace the high-calorie sides that come with meals with a salad, or you can ask for a side of marinated vegetables.

If you order a side or entree-sized salad, top it with salsa (instead of creamy dressing) and you'll have a yummy, low-fat side dish and plenty of healthy veggies. If you really missing dressing creaminess, ask for some reduced-fat ranch dressing and blend it in with your salsa until it's got a more dressing-like texture.

If you order a taco salad, be sure to request it be served on a plate rather than the deep-fried, bowl-shaped tortilla. The fried bowl alone can add an entire meal's worth of calories to your daily total. You can also ask for the cheese to be eliminated or reduced. Some restaurants even provide low-fat cheese as an option. Add extra tomatoes, onions, and black beans for flavor.

Lastly, ask for healthier grains when you dine out. Choose brown rice, if it is available, or whole-wheat tortillas to add healthy diet-boosting fiber.

A Word From Verywell

Eating out can be a challenge if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss. But an occasional indulgence won't make a big difference on the scale. If you find it challenging to eat healthy in a Mexican restaurant, don't give up on Tex-Mex dining completely. It's easy to cook low-calorie Mexican food, like chicken verde quinoa casserole, in your own kitchen. Not only do you save hundreds of extra calories, but you save a few bucks as well.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tortilla chips, yellow, plain, salted. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  2. Black beans. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  3. Guacamole. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.