How to Order Healthy Mexican Food

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Photo by Chitokan from Pexels
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Mexican food can be healthy and good for you, but the key is to stay away from sugar-laden margaritas, high sodium tortillas, and instead, load up on veggies and healthy fats.

In general, you can eat healthier at a Mexican restaurant if you stick to grilled proteins with lots of vegetables, ditching the chips and tortillas, and saying no to rice and refried beans.

I recommend asking for sauces on the side, yet feel free to load up on salsa, guacamole, and lime wedges for added flavor.

You may also like: How to Order a Healthier Margarita

And if tempted to have a margarita, go for our cleaned-up margarita with tequila and fresh lime juice on the rocks. And p.s. don’t be fooled by Agave syrup: it’s sugar and isn’t “healthy” or better for you, so limit your intake of it by asking for “less to no Agave” in your drink.

Here’s how we order healthier Mexican food:

How to Order Healthier Fajitas:

Flour tortillas are high in salt and sugar, so best to ask for corn tortillas instead, or better yet, say no to tortillas altogether. Ask for steak, chicken, chicken, shrimp, Portobello mushroom, or a combo. Watch out for toppings like fried onions, cheese, and sour cream. While they’re tempting to eat, if looking for a healthier fajita then it’s best to say no to these or don’t eat them. But feel free to enjoy the included guacamole and fresh pico de gallo.

Because I personally eat a Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) Diet, my go-to fajita order is portobello mushrooms, extra veggies, no tortillas, and extra pico de gallo alongside my scoop of guacamole. I simply eat it with a fork. And it’s so good and good-for-you too – I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had someone come up to my table just to ask me what I ordered so they could get the same thing.

How to Order a Healthier Burrito:

For a healthier burrito, ditch the tortilla altogether and ask for your burrito to be “bare” in a bowl or better yet, ditch the rice too, and have a burrito salad bowl. Add lots of veggies (like fajita veggies), guacamole/avocado, Pico de Gallo. Use salsa and lime wedges for dressing.

Pro Tip: Some places, like Chipotle, now offer cauliflower “rice” in place of standard rice.

How to Order Healthier Tacos:

And of course what you’ve been waiting for, how to order healthy tacos!

Like with flour tortillas, the flour taco shells are high in salt and sugar, so soft corn shells are a better option. Many traditional Mexican food restaurants will serve corn taco shells by default, but best to always confirm they’re not flour shells before ordering.

Lettuce wraps in place of a taco shell are becoming increasingly popular and more common. It may not be listed on the menu, but ask if you can have your taco in a lettuce wrap. Not only will you reduce the sugar, salt, and unhealthy oils in your order, but you’ll also be sneaking in your daily greens. And if you’ve been reading my blog or weekly Wellness Wednesday emails for some time, you know that my number one recommended micro-habit is to eat your greens. When you swap your taco shell for a lettuce wrap it’s a win-win!

In general, tacos can be a healthier choice when ordering at a Mexican restaurant. However, there are a few gotchas to watch out for. If ordering a fish taco, they commonly come battered or fried, which you want to avoid. Ask for a fresh fish, not fried, option. Fish tacos also tend to come with a cream-based sauce. Ask for it on the side or skip it altogether.

Like with the fajitas and burrito bowl, feel free to load up on the pico de gallo, guacamole, and lots of lime wedges to amp up the flavor and nutrient density of your meal.

How to Order a Healthier Taco Salad:

My go-to order waaaaaay back in the day used to be the taco salad. That was until I discovered how incredibly unhealthy it is.

For a healthier taco salad option, ask for an entrée sized salad with lots of veggies (fajita veggies are delish), avocado, black beans, and Pico de Gallo. Ask for salsa and lime wedges on the side which you’ll use as the “dressing”. And if wanting a bit more ask if they can fajita mushrooms on top, or chicken/shrimp if eating animal proteins. And while it may be so tempting to eat the taco shell “bowl,” be sure to say no or don’t eat it as that’s where a high level of salt, sugar, and unhealthy oils are lurking.

Pro Tip: Just because it has “salad” in the name, doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good for you. You may also be interested in learning where Healthy Fakes are lurking on the menu.

Okay, my mouth is officially watering! Today is Cinco de Mayo, so I’m off to order my favorite healthy whole food plant-based WFPB fajitas and marg. Share in the comments below if I inspired you to try one of these healthier Mexican food options.

Track this new habit:

Check off this habit in your Healthy Habits Tracker (download yours for free here).

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Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson is on a mission to inspire healthier living using the power of micro-habits.

She’s a popular speaker, a board-certified health & wellness coach, and founder of One Degree Health.

As a former Fortune 500 executive, she knows firsthand how a busy schedule can interfere with prioritizing our health.

Danielle started One Degree Health to share her Micro-Habit Mindset and wellness formula with other busy professionals through engaging workshops, online coaching & nutrition programs, and private coaching.

Founder & Chief Wellness Officer, One Degree Health; Functional Nutritionist, Lifestyle Medicine Specialist, Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Gluten-Free Practitioner, Plant-Based Nutrition certified from Cornell University.

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