How to order Mexican food and stick to your health goals

by | Jan 21, 2022 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Maybe you’re over-committed today, and you just can’t find the time to cook up the tofu in the back of your fridge or wait for pasta water to boil. Or maybe you’re just in the mood for takeout from your favorite local shop. At Noom, we’re all about empowering you to make the best food choices for yourself in any situation, and we believe firmly in treating yourself and enjoying your food—including takeout.

Whether you’re trying to be mindful of portion sizes or reduce the added fat, sugar, and/or salt in your foods, ordering takeout might feel in opposition to your health goals. So, we want to share some tips to help you order takeout and reach your health goals. 

This article is the first in a series of restaurant guidelines that’ll help you order foods you enjoy and feel good about your choices. In the spirit of on-the-go meals for busy days, we’ll start with Mexican food, arguably one of the most portable cuisines. (Really, you can hold a burrito just about anywhere!) Consider these five tips next time you’re in the mood for a premade fiesta. 

1. Opt for a healthier shell

When it comes to the delightful casing around tacos, burritos, and other tortilla-swaddled delights, “soft or hard” is not the only decision you can make. The type of shell you order can significantly impact how nutrient-dense and how caloric your meal is. Consider one of these substitutions for a healthier-for-you meal. 

  • Corn tacos instead of tostadas (fried taco shells) for a lower-fat option
  • 2-3 flour tacos instead of 1 flour burrito (much larger) for a lower-calorie option
  • Whole-wheat tortillas instead of flour tortillas for a higher-fiber option 

2. Choose a veggie-packed appetizer

To many of us, ordering Mexican by definition means ordering nachos and dip. Unfortunately, those fried chips and their usual accompaniments are often very calorie-dense. For that reason,  think about swapping out the queso and other heavy toppings for salsa. Or maybe swap out the chips altogether and consider one of these other green food-forward apps:

  • Mini chicken fajitas
  • Grilled jalapenos
  • Vegetarian chili beans
  • Grilled corn
  • Avocado salad

3. Moderate deep-fried foods

Did you know that a chimichanga is just a deep-fried burrito? Deep frying can add a lot of calories and fat to your food, and in general, we suggest eating deep-fried foods in moderation. Here are some deep-fried entrées to be mindful of:

  • Chimichangas
  • Chalupas
  • Empanadas
  • Taquitos

4. Choose your protein mindfully  

Another reason we love Mexican food: it’s often so customizable. The protein you choose to fill that taco, torta, or burrito bowl with will have a significant impact on whether you stick to your calorie goal for the day. Carnitas is usually simmered with lard and/or oils, chicken tinga is often high in sodium thanks to the adobo sauce it’s prepared in, and beef usually has high caloric density—you’ll want to consider your red-food allotment for the day before ordering. Your healthiest bets are those proteins with the lowest caloric density, which luckily are also delicious:

  • Grilled fish
  • Grilled chicken
  • Tofu

5. Modify the preparation where you can

That stuff all around your protein may be subtler, but tweaking it just a little can make a big difference. For example, can you ask if your food can be made with less added salt or fat? You can also substitute fillings and sides altogether. For instance: 

  • Swap out Mexican rice for brown rice for a higher-fiber option
  • Replace rice or refried beans with sautéed veggies for extra green foods
  • Opt for a sprinkle of queso fresco, cotija, or Oaxaca cheese instead of sour cream for more protein and fewer carbs

For extra guidance, use Noom’s food logging tool where you can find nutrition information for your favorite restaurant meals. This way, you’ll already have a healthier-for-you order in mind when it’s time to order. The produce in your fridge will forgive you, promise.