10 Healthy Orders at Taco Bell, According to Nutritionists
1 or 2 Egg and Cheese Breakfast Soft Tacos
When you think "Taco Bell," the word "healthy" probably doesn't come to mind. But the truth is, the restaurant has made huge strides in offering options that are health-conscious. "Literally anything on the menu can be customized according to your lifestyle," says Taco Bell's in-house dietitian, Missy Schaaphok, R.D.
Not sure how to make an item fit your goals? Check out the brand's nutrition calculator, Schaaphok says. It's easy to add or remove ingredients and see the impact on the nutrition of your meal, and you'll actually find options for pretty much every dietary concern, from items high in protein to vegetarian picks, and even low-calorie and low-fat items.
As with any fast-food chain, dietitians say you'll want to watch out for high sodium content, which can cause bloating and make it harder to lose weight. (Although you don't need to worry *too* much about occasionally upping your sodium intake, since research suggests too little sodium is just as bad as too much.)
When it comes to breakfast options at the chain, there's a lot to choose from, but the egg-and-cheese-only version of their soft tacos is a dietitian favorite. "At 170 calories per taco, this a lower-calorie option, plus it contains 7 grams of protein," says Amy Goodson, R.D., C.S.S.D., a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant based in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. Depending on your goals, you might want to grab one or two of these. "Starting the day with carbohydrates (tortilla) and protein (egg and cheese) will help stabilize your blood sugar throughout the morning," she adds.
Mini Skillet Bowl, Side of Black Beans, and Low-Fat Milk
Looking for a full-on breakfast that will keep your energy high all morning? "This mini skillet bowl, black bean, and low-fat milk combo is high in protein and fiber to keep you full until lunch," says Stacey Mattinson, R.D.N., a registered dietitian based in Austin, TX. She recommends skipping the cheese sauce that usually comes with the skillet bowl for a breakfast that clocks in at 330 calories with 18g of protein.
Shredded Chicken Burrito
Yup, you can totally order a burrito and still keep your nutrition in check. "With 14 grams of lean protein, the shredded chicken burrito is lower in fat than other options," Goodson says. "This burrito also has long-grain rice, which helps push the fiber up to 3 grams, which is great!"
Plus, there's another way to lighten things up. "Almost any menu item can be customized 'Fresco style,' which replaces mayo-based sauces, cheeses, sour cream, and guacamole on almost any menu item with freshly prepared pico de gallo," Schaaphok explains. "By removing these ingredients, you can reduce fat by up to 25 percent."
Chicken Power Menu Bowl
TB's "Power menu" is especially suited to those looking for high-protein options. "The power bowls are really high in protein, making them a good choice for someone who has high protein needs. However, they are high in sodium, so you will need to watch your salt at your other meals during the day," Mattinson advises. "Take off the rice since it already comes with beans, which are a better fiber source of carbohydrates than refined rice." Without rice, the nutrition on this item comes out to 320 calories, 28g of protein, and 1240mg of sodium.
"This burrito is rich in plant-based protein (14g) for those vegetarians looking to incorporate more beans into their life," says Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, R.D., founder of Tracy Lockwood Nutrition in New York City. "Black beans are nutritional powerhouse high in folate, iron, and magnesium. Add tomato, onions, or lettuce for more vegetables." Beckerman also recommends tearing off any excess tortilla on the burrito if you're trying to limit your refined carbohydrate intake.
Chipotle Chicken Loaded Griller
"With only 340 calories and lower sodium content than other burritos, the chipotle chicken option uses lean protein and low-fat sour cream to lower the calories," Goodson says. "Ask for the sauce or sour cream on the side to control how much you use," she adds.
Veggie Power Menu Bowl
Beckerman suggests this dish as one of the healthiest options on the menu, but it could use a few adjustments: "While lighter without the outer tortilla, it's still a tad bit heavy in the carbohydrate department coming from two different sources: a double portion of black beans and rice," she says. "Remove the rice, double up on the romaine lettuce, and ask for no avocado ranch sauce since it has guacamole."
(Can't get enough avocado in your life? Scope these health benefits of avocado oil and get inspired to try something new.)
"This burrito packs in a hefty flavor profile with seven vegetarian ingredients," Beckerman says. To make it a little lighter without compromising flavor or moisture, she recommends swapping out sour cream for a double layer of lettuce. This will reduce the fat and sodium content while keeping things tasty.
2 Ground Beef Crunchy Tacos
"These crunchy tacos are fairly low in sodium for a fast-food restaurant, and having two will provide enough calories and protein to make a proper meal so you won't find yourself grabbing for snacks later," Mattinson says.