We’ve seen taco trucks in the headlines a lot lately, and all the buzz has us thinking: Can tacos fit into a healthy diet? If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of ordering a nutritious yet delicious taco, don’t fret. We created this simple guide to help you navigate everything from the type of taco shell to the toppings and everything in between.
Beans, cheese, and guac, oh my! Let’s get started!
1) Build your base – The foundation of your taco is going to be your source of carbohydrates, and whole grain is the way to go. Whole grains nourish your body with dietary fiber, giving you a sustained fullness, and can also help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Your whole grains can come from the taco shell itself or from the fillings.
- If possible, choose a corn tortilla, which will provide you with the whole grains a white flour tortilla is lacking.
- While not a necessity, adding brown rice or corn inside your taco will also provide whole grains, but don’t forget your serving sizes. If you want corn and rice, asking for half a portion of each will give you a variety of whole grains without the extra servings.
2) Pick a protein – Getting to the meat of the matter, your protein source can be either animal protein or plant protein. Regardless of the source, the best choice will be your lean proteins, which will contain less than 3g of fat per serving.
- Lean animal proteins include turkey breast, chicken breast, and fish.
- Beans serve as a plant-based protein option, providing high levels of fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. These will help you feel fuller faster and support numerous body functions.
3) Value your veggies – This is the part of the taco you can really experiment with. Try it all!
- Salsa — There may be different types of salsa varying from mild to extra spicy, and you’ll have to choose which you think you can handle. While salsa is extremely flavorful, the tomatoes in the salsa also contain lycopene, which is a protective antioxidant that may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Iceberg lettuce is virtually free of calories, so feel free to add on as much as you want. If leafy greens are a choice, opt for those as they are rich in vitamin A, a nutrient that can improve eye health and bone growth, as well as folate, which is vital to cell growth and especially crucial for pregnant women.
4) Try the toppings – Perhaps the most important question: How do I know when my taco is ready? There are a lot of choices when it comes to toppings, so let’s figure out how to decide.
- Cheese vs. sour cream — While neither are absolutely essential, cheese and sour cream do add a rich taste. If you’re set on both, we suggest choosing half the portion size for each to keep your saturated fat intake below the recommended daily allowance.
- Guac? — Sí, por favor! Guacamole is made from avocados, a food that contains vitamin E, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Avocados are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which may improve your “good” cholesterol.
- Spicy add-ons — This one is an umbrella term that basically contains any extra sort of spice you want to finish your taco with.
While there are dozens of different taco combinations you could create, the bottom line is that you should enjoy your taco and feel satisfied after you eat it. Try these four nutritious tips to make your taco truck experience the best for your health it can be!