When you’re ordering fast food, odds are you aren’t expecting it to be healthy. But Taco Bell challenges that. With nearly 75% of their menu being under 500 calories, this chain is one of the healthiest ones out there. Due to their highly customizable menu, Taco Bell has become a hotspot for anyone with a dietary restriction, or anyone who’s trying to stay healthy while also getting that fast food fix. Here are 10 Taco Bell Items You Can Eat and Still Be Healthy.
10. Veggie Power Menu Bowl
Taco Bell promises that this menu item gives you the power-up boost similar to one in a video game, which is a very creative take on food. Well, while Mario and Luigi have to stick to yucky mushrooms to grab a power-up, we get a delicious combination of rice, black beans, cheese, romaine lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, and creamy avocado ranch sauce. Our stomachs are grumbling already. Health experts say that the Veggie Power Menu Bowl is one of the healthiest options on the menu, even if it’s a bit heavy on the carbohydrates because of the double portion of rice and beans. If this is a problem for you, you can remove the rice, double up on the romaine lettuce, and ask for no avocado ranch sauce. You can also make the decision to pass on the sour cream in order to reduce fat, or to add a slice of meat for some protein. This Veggie Power Menu Bowl comes in at 480 calories, 19 grams of fat, 13 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein, making it one of those menu items that falls under 500 calories. The best thing about this bowl is how filling it is: you can leave the restaurant will a full belly and a happy heart, knowing that you’re taking care of yourself.
9. Chicken Soft Taco Fresco Style
As the name suggests, this menu item consists of grilled marinated chicken, crispy shredded lettuce, and fresh tomatoes, all bundled up in a warm, soft flour tortilla. This classic is every shade of warm and comforting, and is a great pick for when you’re feeling nostalgic. Just curl up under your favorite blanket, put something on Netflix, and tuck into this deliciously healthy snack. When you order it fresco style, you’re swapping out the cheese and sour cream – a major source of fat and calories – for pico de gallo (also called salsa cruda or salsa fresca, which is where the fresco style name comes from), which is a Mexican salsa that is traditionally made from chopped tomato, onion, Serrano peppers, with salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro. Basically, it packs a ton of flavor, but with very few calories and no extra fat. Fun language lesson for you: fresca means fresh in Spanish. With only 150 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein, you don’t even have to feel guilty about eating more than one. You might even want to add some lime or extra-spicy hot sauce if you want to turn it up a notch. However you like your chicken soft tacos, you can go to sleep at night knowing that a Taco Bell run won’t be having negative side-effects on your health.
8. Bean Burrito
Ah, beans. Good for your heart, and perfect for childhood chants (beans, beans, the wonderful fruit! Yeah, we’re not going to finish that lyric). This mouth-watering classic consists of a warm, soft flour tortilla wrapped around hearty beans, real cheddar cheese, tangy red sauce and diced onions. This Bean Burrito is the perfect option for vegetarians, as it’s rich in plant-based protein – a whopping 14 grams! This is because black beans are a nutritional powerhouse. They contain high amounts of folate (a B-vitamin used to make red and white blood cells, convert carbohydrates into energy, and produce DNA and RNA), iron (an important component of hemoglobin, which is the substance in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout your body) and magnesium (which plays an important role in over 300 enzyme reactions within your body, as well as helping with muscle and nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and supporting the immune system). To make it even healthier, you can limit your carbohydrate intake by tearing off any excess tortilla, and you can add tomatoes, onions, and lettuce if you want more veggies. You can also replace the red sauce with pico de gallo to reduce your sodium intake and increase your vegetable consumption, but even without all the adjustments, this clocks in at a reasonable 380 calories, 11 grams of fat, 9 grams of fiber, and the aforementioned 14 grams of veggie-based protein. Wow – beans, beans, the wonderful fruit indeed.
7. Egg and Cheese Breakfast Soft Tacos
Picture this: you’ve just gotten out of bed, and you’re hankering for something quick and easy to start your day with. Your eyes are bleary with sleep, and as you stumble into the kitchen for a refreshing cup of joe, you get a glance at the clock – you’re already late for work. But your stomach is rumbling, and you know that it’ll be agony if you don’t get something to eat. Well, stop on by Taco Bell and grab one or two of these delicious snacks, because they’re a great reason to get out of bed in the morning. While this originally has bacon it in, the healthier option is to opt out of the sodium-rich meat entirely. A simple, cheap, and healthy breakfast option, these Egg and Cheese Breakfast Soft Tacos consist of – you guessed it – scrambled eggs and shredded cheese, folded neat and tidy into a soft flour tortilla. As part of their breakfast menu for a cheap, cheap $1 dollar, this is really all we could’ve asked for in a dish. This is a favorite amongst dieticians and nutrition consultants alike, because while it only contains 170 calories per taco, it also contains 7 grams of protein. Because of the low-calorie count, you can feel free to grab more than one. These are great if you want to start your day in a fulfilling and satisfying way. The carbohydrates found in the tortilla paired with the protein in the egg and cheese will help stabilize your blood sugar throughout the morning, so be prepared to feel unstoppable.
6. 7-Layer Bean Burrito Fresco Style
With a grand total of 7 vegetarian ingredients, this burrito packs a hefty flavor profile. Though we’re not sure what all 7 of the layers are, Taco Bell tells us that the 7-Layer Bean Burrito consists of a warm, soft flour tortilla wrapped around seasoned rice, hearty beans and a blend of three cheeses – cheddar, Monterey Jack and part skim mozzarella. You have the option to add crisp shredded lettuce, diced ripe tomatoes, cool reduced-fat sour cream cheese, and guacamole. Well, holy-guacamole, this is a veggie lover’s dream come true. As seen in the Chicken Soft Taco, making any item on the Taco Bell menu fresco style is bound to reduce fat and calories. But there are other ways to make this full-to-the-brim burrito a little lighter, without compromising the tantalizing flavor or the perfectly-balanced level of moisture. Swapping the sour cream for a double layer of lettuce will be sure to reduce fat and sodium while keeping things delicious and adding that extra crunch. While this probably messed with the alleged 7 layers, it makes for a healthier treat, which is something we can’t complain about. If you decide to do it fresco style, then the 7-Layer Burrito comes in at 340 calories, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein. Not bad, at all.
5. Mini Skillet Bowl
Taco Bell seems to have a penchant for knocking breakfast foods out of the park, and this is no exception. Really, they’ve got it perfected. This option is another great breakfast item from the popular fast-food chain, and for good reason. The Mini Skillet Bowl is breakfast, levelled up. The company seems to like the idea of levelling and powering up it’s customer base, but hey, who’s complaining. This downsized skillet bowl consists of scrambled eggs, seasoned potatoes, nacho cheese sauce, and some delicious pico de gallo. This bowl is perfect for those who want a full-on breakfast that will keep their energy high all morning. The eggs in the bowl contain 5 grams of lean protein, and there are enough potatoes to keep your belly full until lunch rolls around. This all-time favorite clocks in at 180 calories, 11 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and, in order to reduce your sodium and fat intake, you can always choose to take a pass on the nacho cheese. Another way to make this even healthier is if you add a side of black beans and low-fat milk, which is high in protein and fiber, to help start your morning off right. The best part? You don’t need to worry about paying big bucks for a healthy breakfast: this Mini Skillet Bowl is being sold for the price of one dollar.
4. Grilled Steak Soft Taco Fresco Style
Taco Bell’s Grilled Steak Soft Taco proves that you don’t need to stick to poultry to stay healthy. This Grilled Steak Soft Taco is a steak alternative to the Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco, and, originally, it featured a lime sauce with lettuce, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes. Now, however, the taco features Avocado Ranch sauce, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and (contrary to the Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco’s fiesta salsa) tomatoes. Though ordering it fresco style eliminates the creamy avocado ranch sauce and the yummy cheese, you can always order some jalapenos to keep it saucy. And if you’re looking to pack it with a little more protein and fiber, you can always add a spoonful of those beloved refried beans. The Grilled Steak Soft Taco (fresco style) boasts only 150 calories, and helps you tamper down your beefy cravings without loading you up with fat. Additionally, it contains 4 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein. At only $2.89 US, this goody is perfect for a midnight snack without all of that pesky guilt, and is definitely something to keep in mind the next time you have a yearning for some of that delicious, irresistible Taco Bell.
3. Mini Quesadillas
If you’re really craving some gooey, melted cheese, Taco Bell’s got your back. These quesadillas contain seasoned beef or chicken, creamy chipotle sauce, and a three-cheese blend. While it’s true that an entire sandwich full of cheese probably isn’t the best option, and it’s difficult to add things to these that would make them a bit more nutritious, it’s also true that you shouldn’t forego the things you love completely for a diet. That’s what we like to tell ourselves, at least. Dieticians say that really, just watching your portion size will help with your calorie intake, and seeing as these mini quesadillas are, well, mini, these make for the perfect choice to tamp down that cheesy hunger. One serving of mini quesadillas contains 200 calories, 10 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of protein. Basically, this is proof that you can treat yourself every once in a while and not go overboard with the calories. Even if it doesn’t have the most efficient nutritional value, it’s still fuel for your body. Most importantly, though, is that these circular, cheese-filled tortillas bring us joy. Taking the first bite out of this low-calorie snack, your teeth sinking into the warm tortilla, the cheese oozing into your mouth… It’s pure ecstasy, and knowing that we don’t need to give that up for some diet is probably the best news we’ve heard all week.
2. Chicken Power Menu Bowl
Taco Bell’s Power Menu is perfect for those who are looking for high-protein options. Protein is one of the essential building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood, and your body uses it to make hair, nails, and to build and repair tissues. Your body also uses it to make enzymes, hormones, and a plethora of other useful chemicals, which means it’s important that you get enough of it in your diet. However, while these power bowls are a great source of protein, they’re also high in sodium. This means that if you’re eating a Taco Bell Powerful Bowl for breakfast, you need to make sure to watch your sodium intake for the rest of the day. This is very similar to the Veggie Power Menu Bowl, with rice, black beans, cheese, romaine lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, and creamy avocado ranch sauce. The only difference is that this non-vegetarian option also contains a good portion of yummy chicken. Like the Veggie Power Menu Bowl, because this dish contains both rice and beans, you can take out the rice to make it a bit healthier, since beans are a better source of refined carbohydrates than refined rice. Without rice, this item comes out to 320 calories, 28g of protein, and 1240 mg of sodium.
1. Spicy Tostada
Who says you need to give up spice and crunch just because you’re health-conscious? Not Taco Bell! Their Spicy Tostada gives you all the crunch and spice you could want, without all the extra calories. Heads up! Here comes another flash Spanish lesson: the word ‘tostada’ means ‘toast’, which is a perfect description for this crunchy goodness. This scrumptious meal is part of the company’s $1 Cravings menu, and it features refried beans, red sauce, creamy chipotle sauce, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and tomatoes on a crunchy tostada shell. Translation: this mouth-watering goodness comes from Heaven itself, and we couldn’t be more grateful. The combination of red sauce and creamy chipotle sauce is the thing that really makes this meal stand out as possibly one of the most delicious options on the menu, and that’s saying something. This is fully customizable as well, so you have the option of giving it as much nutritional value as you want. But at only 210 calories, with 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein, do you really need to change up the recipe? Because of its low calories and the amount of protein and fiber it contains, this light meal is the better, more nutritional cousin to the crunchy tacos that are available on Taco Bell’s menu. And, due to the fact that it’s on the cravings menu, it’s cheaper, too!