How to Find Healthy Options on the Menu at a Mexican Restaurant

With Cinco de Mayo coming up and Mexican restaurants an ever-growing part of the Austin landscape, I’ve recently found myself dreaming of sizzling shrimp fajitas – really anything that sizzles makes me do a happy dance. But the sad reality is that a meal that starts with bottomless chips and salsa can be a little tough on the waistline. With these tips, you’ll know when to pass and when to say si.

Appetizers, Soups, and Salads

Try asking for fresh corn tortillas in place of the fried chips to eat with salsa. Queso and sour cream are delicious but high calorie dipping options so stick to salsa or pico de gallo and save the higher calorie dips for special occasions. About 85% of avocado is fat but much of it is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat so go for the guacamole but keep your portions small. If you decide on a taco salad, ask for it to be served on a plate instead of in a taco bowl.


Avoid high fat, deep-fried dishes such as nachos, chimichangas, chalupas, taquitos, quesadillas, crunchy tacos, and chile relleno. Instead, why not try burritos, soft tacos, tamales, flautas, or my favorite, fajitas. Beans, grilled fish, veggies, or chicken tend to be healthier fillings than cheese, pork, or beef. Ask for whole-wheat or corn tortillas as they both provide more fiber than flour tortillas and the corn tortillas are usually prepared without added fat.


Mexican meals commonly come with a side of rice and beans. Try asking for brown rice for an extra punch of fiber. Black beans are an excellent choice high in fiber and protein and low in fat. Refried beans tend to be high in unhealthy fats and calories because they are prepared with lard, pork, or Mexican cheeses. Pinto beans offer a flavorful but healthy compromise. You may also be able to substitute a side salad or grilled vegetables for the rice and beans.

Desserts and Drinks

Fried ice cream, flan, and most Mexican desserts tend to be pretty high in added sugar, fat, and calories so save dessert for a special occasion or go for fresh fruit. Margaritas contain a lot of sugar which really bumps up the calorie content. If you decide on a margarita, stick to just one and ask for no salt or half salt. Mexican beers can be fun too so why not try a Dos  Equis or Carona. Of course your best bet is to stick with water, maybe with a splash of lime.

My Favorites in Austin

  • The ceviche taco from Taco Deli – only available on the weekend
  • Portobello fajitas from Trudy’s – share with a friend or save half for the next day
  • What’s your favorite?

Still confused about all of the foreign words on the menu? Well, you are in luck! Check back for the Mexican Eats Dictionary I’ll be posting soon.

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