By Stephanie Saunders

Nothing says “fiesta” quite like a good Mexican meal. Flavorful, filling, and always fun, Mexican cuisine is a fan favorite, whether served in a restaurant or at home. Frankly, the endless combinations of beans, rice, tortillas, meat, cheese, and sauce are flat-out dumbfounding. And growing up in Southern California, I knew no distinction between American and Mexican food. We had tacos for Thanksgiving once. I’m serious.

But as amazing as Mexican food can be, it can also be loaded with diet mishaps. Mexican food not only caters to the lovers of sour cream and cheese, but tends to contain lard and oil, and is often fried. Even a tostada salad, with all of the fixings, can pack over 1,300 calories and 77 grams of fat! So, let’s walk through a typical Mexican meal in this third installment of Beachbody Restaurant Rescue, and see how to avoid some major diet downfalls.


The minute you take a seat at a Mexican establishment, you’re usually greeted with an overflowing, endless basket of fried tortilla chips and salsa. For every 10 chips you consume, you are looking at 146 additional calories to your meal, which is really not so horrible. Until we start adding queso dip and guacamole—or even worse, upgrading to a nacho platter. Additionally, many people order chimichangas or taquitos, which are fried tortillas stuffed with meat, to begin a meal, adding a whole lot of badness to the mix. Stick with the plain chips and salsa, and count the amount you consume as you are eating them. Should you choose to indulge, use the following approximate nutritional breakdowns as a guide:

Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Nachos, plain, 3.5 oz. 320 18 g 34 g 560 mg 5 g
Chips and salsa, 2 oz. 266 12 g 35 g 461 mg 4 g
Guacamole, 3 oz. 129 12 g 6 g 51 mg 3 g
Chimichanga, 12 oz. 487 19 g 54 g 1,580 mg 16 g
Taquitos, 5 small pieces 330 15 g 35 g 480 mg 14 g


Mexican cuisine puts things in broth that the rest of us may never consider. For example, menudo, widely believed to be the cure for a hangover, contains tripe and hominy. Personally, I’d imagine consumption of cow intestine might do quite the opposite for my stomach.

Even fast food Mexican places seem to have at least the option of a tortilla soup; albondigas, a meatball soup; or gazpacho, a tomato-based, cold vegetable soup. As always, sticking with the veggies will be your safest bet.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Albondigas, 8 oz. 490 29 g 22 g 560 mg 35 g
Tortilla soup, 8 oz. 200 10 g 19 g 1,100 mg 8 g
Menudo, 8 oz. 110 3.5 g 20 g 760 mg 1 g
Gazpacho, 8 oz. 75 0.3 g 13 g 200 mg none


Unless you are eating at a taco stand, most Mexican establishments have greens to offer. And, as always, a salad can be a great way to begin a meal, provided you avoid the dressing, cheese, and tortilla strips that often go on top. There’s also the tostada, which is a lovely salad inside a giant fried tortilla shell, and the Mexican Caesar salad, which could cover your fat requirement for the day and then some. Stick to the house salad, remove anything that isn't a vegetable, and try a spicy salsa for a dressing.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Green salad, 2 Tbsp. dressing 150 15 g 3 g 220 mg none
Caprese, 3 slices 377 15 g 56 g 882 mg 26 g
Antipasto, 2 oz. 255 113 g 27 g 547 mg 27 g
Mexican Caesar salad; 5 oz. 939 85 g 36 g 1,751 mg 9 g

Main Course

Here is where the true self-control begins. The Mexican main course can be truly dangerous. A seemingly innocent chicken and vegetable burrito can pack a huge calorie count, depending on the size of the flour tortilla, which can be up to 356 calories all by itself. And the minute we start adding in cheese, sour cream, rice, guacamole, and refried beans, we’re looking at trouble.

So, when deciding on your main course, remember that the fewer ingredients you order, the better. Ask if they have whole beans as opposed to the refried variety. Skip the rice, as it’ll be saturated in oil most likely. Just say no to sour cream, cheese, and anything fried. Stick to lean meat choices and request extra vegetables. And ask if your selection can be made on corn tortillas, instead of flour; you could save yourself hundreds of calories in that one step—and many more calories by following the previously mentioned tips.

The following nutritional breakdowns are based on averages from some popular Mexican food chains. In case you aren’t a connoisseur of the stuff, here’s a quick guide. A taco is a tortilla stuffed with meat, lettuce, cheese, and usually salsa. A burrito is a much larger tortilla, containing the same ingredients as a taco, and/or rice and beans. An enchilada is a corn tortilla, stuffed with meat or vegetables, covered in sauce and melted cheese. Fajitas are grilled meat, onions, and bell peppers, served with tortillas and various toppings that you assemble on your own. A quesadilla consists of two tortillas with melted cheese in between them. Sometimes, meat and salsa are included in the mix. Chiles rellenos are chiles with skins removed, dipped in batter, fried, stuffed with cheese or meat, and covered with lightly spiced red sauce. A tamale is steam-cooked corn dough filled with various meats, cheese, and sliced chilis.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Taco, beef, 4 oz. 228 13 g 23 g 505 mg 13 g
Burrito, bean, 7 oz. 370 12 g 54 g 1,080 mg 13 g
Enchilada, 7 oz. 379 18 g 33 g 431 mg 19 g
Fajitas, 1 skillet, corn tortillas 330 11 g 23 g 2,080 mg 40 g
Quesadilla, cheese, 4.25 oz. 350 18 g 31 g 860 mg 16 g
Chile rellenos, cheese 365 29 g 8 g 521 mg 17 g
Tamale, chicken 222 10 g 25 g 600 mg 7 g


Desserts in Mexican restaurants are typically the same stuff you’ll find in any American restaurant: sundaes, brownies, cakes, and a variety of other diet disasters. The following choices are more “traditional” in the way we think of Mexican desserts, although I would guess most people living in Mexico do not eat “choco tacos” or flan, which has its origins in the Roman Empire. And note that although fried ice cream is really delicious, it is also the caloric equivalent of two meals. Just not worth it.

Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Flan, 4 oz. 305 11 g 45 g 96 mg 8 g
Churro, 1.2 oz. 122 7 g 12 g 153 mg 2 g
Choco taco, 1 serving 300 15 g 38 g 110 mg 4 g
Fried ice cream, 1 scoop 827 35 g 116 g 568 mg 12 g

Many towns in America have at least one Mexican joint, even if it’s just a Taco Bell®. Mexico has the second highest obesity rate in the world. But don’t worry, America, we are still number one, possibly because we have had McDonald's®; Burger King®; and, yes, Taco Bell, longer than our southern neighbors.

A lot of what we consider to be Mexican food in this country is what Mexicans would consider fast or junk food, so take a hint from their growing obesity rate, and drive right by the drive-thru. Mexico has a rich culture to explore. Check out the dancing or the music, for example. You’re so much better off doing the cha-cha than eating a chimichanga.