Foods You Should Never Order at a Mexican Restaurant

When hunger strikes, nothing tops a big plate of tasty Mexican food served alongside a basket of warm tortilla chips and salsa. But anyone who tries to watch their weight and track calories knows that Mexican restaurants can be a dietary disaster — and if you’re watching your waistline, it’s often better to make tacos at home.

It’s definitely tough to navigate a Mexican restaurant menu if you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet, but It’s not impossible. Simply knowing which foods to avoid is half the battle. The menu items on this list are either loaded with fat and calories or a waste of money (or both). Stick to the recommended alternatives to keep your waistline and wallet happy.

Don’t order the nachos …

loaded nachos

Nachos pile on the calories. | iStock

Considering nachos are fried chips topped with layer after layer of artery-clogging ingredients, it’s best to avoid them — a plate of nachos can really rack up the calories. Plus, since you can easily make them at home, they’re a total waste of money.

Next: If you’re craving nachos but want to stick to your diet, this dish will tide you over.

… Instead, order chilaquiles

Chilaquiles Mexican breakfast dish

The dish typically has fewer calories than nachos. |

This traditional Mexican dish typically consists of lightly fried tortilla strips cooked in red or green salsa and topped with beans, eggs, or both. You’ll get all the flavor of the nachos minus half the calories and fat — a serving averages 450 calories, less than half of what you’d get with nachos.

Next: Banish the burrito.

Skip the giant burrito …

Burritos wraps

Burritos have a ton of calories. | Elena_Danileiko/iStock/Getty Images

Not only are most Mexican restaurant burritos roughly the size of an infant, but they’re also loaded with meat, beans, rice, cheese, and sour cream in massive quantities. A single burrito can be 1,350 calories or more, so even if you only eat half, that’s a ton considering you’ll also likely be munching on chips and salsa.

Next: Try this tasty alternative to a burrito.

… And order a burrito bowl or a taco de harina

Chicken burrito bowl

Take the tortilla out of the equation. | AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images

Alicia Romano, a registered dietician, swaps a standard burrito for a burrito bowl with brown rice, beans, grilled chicken, and tomato salsa, slashing the calories to just 400. And if nothing but a burrito-like meal will do, try a taco de harina, which is a smaller, thinner flour tortilla topped with meat or seafood and a smaller portion of toppings like rice and beans.

Next: This dish might seem healthy, but it’s really not.

Steer clear of the fajitas …

mexican beef fajitas

You’ll probably end up eating too much. | rez-art/iStock/Getty Images

Fajitas might seem like a nutritionally sound choice since they’re basically just meat and veggies. But they’re also served in huge portions with flour tortillas, so it’s easy to eat way too much. Plus, they’re not very authentic — although they were inspired by Mexican ingredients, they were invented in America.

Next: This dish is just as delicious as a fajita.

… And go for cochinita pibil

Two tacos Cochinita Pibil

It usually comes with healthier options. | Jacopo Ventura/iStock/Getty Images

 If you see cochinita pibil on the menu, order it instead of fajitas. It’s a slow-roasted pork entrée that requires marinating the meat in citrus juice and roasting it wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s usually accompanied by healthier corn tortillas, pickled red onion, and habanero chiles.

Next: Avoid this fried calorie bomb at all costs.

Say no to chimichangas …


They’re unhealthy fried food. | Jupiterimages/iStock/Getty Images

Chimichangas are tasty. They are also deep fried, so much so that they sometimes lose their flavor, meaning they’re not even worth the calorie splurge.

Next: Spare your waistline with this dish instead.

… And say yes to authentic street tacos

two authentic street tacos

They’re simple and delicious. | irez-art/iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve ever had a traditional street taco, you know it’s a small tortilla filled with meat, cilantro, and grilled onions — and it’s delicious. Plus, you can enjoy three steak street tacos for 290 calories and about 6 grams of fat.

Next: This Mexican staple is loaded with lard.

Pass on the refried beans …

Black Beans in Iron Skillet with Cheese

They pack in the fat. | LeslieBrienza/iStock/Getty Images

Beans are a healthy diet staple, but traditional refried beans are pinto beans that have been cooked, smashed, and often mixed with oil or lard. Then they’re topped with fattening cheese.

Next: Don’t worry, you don’t have to skip the beans.

… But do look for healthier alternatives

black beans

Black beans are a healthier choice. | tycoon751/iStock/Getty Images

Fear not, in most cases, Mexican restaurants are one step ahead of you here. You’ll probably see heart-healthy baked pinto beans or black beans on the menu, and if you don’t, you can always ask for them.

Next: This isn’t very fun, but it will spare you some serious remorse.

Say ‘No, gracias’ to a margarita …

Jalapeno Pepper Margarita

You’ll cut hundreds of calories if you abstain. | iStock/Getty Images

Margaritas may be a fun beverage to order when dining out, but at 400 calories or more (much, much more) a pop, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor by not ordering one. In fact, abstaining from booze entirely while you’re trying to lose weight is the best way to boost your metabolism.

Next: Hello, H2o.

… And say ‘Si!’ to the water pitcher

water and lemon slice on glass

Drink lots of water to offset the sodium. | Jjarih/iStock/Getty Images

Your best bet is to stick to water when you’re at a Mexican restaurant. Staying hydrated will curb your appetite and offset the sodium in the food, all while freeing up more calories for you to have with your meal. If you must have a drink, try a lower calorie cocktail like a vodka-soda or a mojito instead.

Next: This meal might have a satisfying crunch, but it’s not doing your health any favors.

Instead of hard shell tacos …

Tacos hard shell

Frying makes them unhealthy. | ahirao_photo/iStock/Getty Images

Hard taco shells are fried in copious amounts of oil, making them greasy. It’s really not worth the crunchy texture.

Next: Don’t worry, not all tacos are off limits.

… Order some fresh fish tacos

Spicy fish tacos with red cabbage lime slaw and avocado

They’re a healthy taco option. | jenifoto/iStock/Getty Images

Grilled fish tacos are often topped with fresh coleslaw, creamy avocados, and tart lime juice. Best of all, they’re usually served in small soft tortillas.

Next: You won’t need to order this, as tempting as it may be.

Just skip the chile rellenos

Chile Relleno stuffed with mashed potatoes

They’ll spoil your meal. | ronpaulk/iStock/Getty Images

Often seen on the appetizer section of a Mexican restaurant menu, chile rellenos are peppers that have been deep fried and stuffed with cheese or sour cream and spices, then topped with sauces. Not only is this dish unhealthy, it’s unnecessary — between the chips and salsa and your healthy entree, you’ll be too stuffed for another snack.

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