Mexican cuisine has become as ubiquitous in America as the hamburger -- maybe more so. On just one freeway exit near my home, there are no less than five Mexican restaurants: Del Taco, El Pollo Loco, Chipotle, Taco Bell, and Baja Fresh. And Taco Bell, with more than 5,800 restaurants nationwide, consistently makes Entrepreneur Magazine's top 10 list of fast food franchises.
With that in mind, I have scrutinized the menus of some favorite chain Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants to determine which of their menu choices are the best and worst, calorie-wise.
In case your favorite restaurant isn’t included below, I've also compiled some general suggestions below for making healthier Mexican food choices, no matter which Mexican restaurant you frequent.
The following menu items have less than 500 calories and less than 6 grams (g) of saturated fat -- most have 4 grams or less. Most also total under 1,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
Most give you at least 6 grams of fiber; some even feature grilled fish, a great source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3s.
Baja Fresh Ensalada with Chicken or Shrimp (with Cotija cheese, pico de gallo and tortilla strips). Calories: 230-310. Total fat: 6-7 grams. Saturated fat: 2 grams. Sodium: about 1,210 milligrams. Fiber: 6-7 grams.
On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina Citrus Chipotle Chicken Salad with Mango Citrus Vinaigrette. Calories: 290. Total fat: 4 g. Saturated fat: 2 g. Sodium: 840 mg. Fiber 11 g.
Taco Bell Fresco Soft Tacos, Ranchero Chicken, or Grilled Steak (two tacos). Calories: 320-340. Total fat: 8-9 g. Saturated fat: 3 g. Sodium: 1,100-1,460 mg. Fiber: 4-6 g.
Taco Bell Fresco Burrito Supreme with Chicken or Steak. Calories: 340-350. Total fat: 8 g. Saturated fat: 2.5 g. Sodium: 1,060-1,110 mg. Fiber: 8 g.
Taco Bell Fresco Bean Burrito. Calories: 320. Total fat: 7 g. Saturated fat: 2.5 g. Sodium: 1,200 mg. Fiber: 9 g.
Baja Fresh Original Baja Taco with Chicken or Shrimp (two tacos). Calories: 400-420. Total fat: 10 g. Saturated fat: 2 g. Sodium: 460-560 mg. Fiber: 4 g.
Moe’s Southwest Grill Joey Junior (with steak, black beans, rice, cheese, and pico de gallo in a whole grain tortilla). Calories: 437. Total fat: 14 g. Saturated fat: 5.7 g. Sodium: 943 mg. Fiber: 9 g.
Moe’s Southwest Grill Close Talker Salad (with fish, beans, cheese, chopped romaine, pico de gallo, olives, cucumbers; without the crispy shell and chipotle ranch sauce). Calories: 430. Total fat: 17 g. Saturated fat: 5 g. Sodium: 1,103 mg. Fiber: 12 g.
Del Taco Half Pound Red or Green Burrito. Calories: 440. Total fat: 9 g. Saturated fat: 4 g. Sodium: 2,080 mg. Fiber: 12 g.
El Pollo Loco BRC Burrito. Calories: 421. Total fat: 11.9 g. Saturated fat: 5 g. Sodium: 1,013 mg. Fiber: 4 g.
Rubios Blackened Salmon Taco. Calories: 230. Total fat: 8 g. Saturated fat: 1.5 g. Sodium: 540 mg. Fiber: 4 g.
Rubios Grilled Mahi Mahi or Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos (two tacos; with creamy chipotle sauce in a stone-ground corn tortilla). Calories: 460. Total fat: 16-20 g. Saturated fat: 3 g. Sodium: 480-720 mg. Fiber: 8 g.