Let’s face it, there are some versions of tacos that have too many calories, and we should try to make a few changes to fare better in the nutrition department.
It’s possible that you already have a solid plan to eat healthier tacos, but if you don’t, look over the tips below and see if any inspire you to tweak your tacos a bit to improve their positive nutritional impact while still enjoying them. Obviously, there are too many variables, so I only listed a few suggestions.
TIPS AND TWEAKS FOR HEALTHIER TACOS
You can’t have a great taco without a great salsa. A great salsa will go a long way in helping you love your tacos even if you have to tweak them to make them more nutritious. If possible, make a great homemade salsa ahead of time.
If using a store bought salsa, compare labels. Choose one made with all natural ingredients. In tight sealed containers, homemade salsas can last longer in the refrigerator and this is helpful when meal planning.
As I may have mentioned in an earlier blog post, planning ahead is a good way to help you eat well more consistently. I’ll introduce you to some of my favorite salsas on later posts!
The tortilla is missing in this picture, but you bet that it was part of the meal! Some lean pork with sauteed red bell peppers…these taquitos were delicious! The okra was not part of the taco, but If I had cut it up and sauteed it with the pepper, it could have been. Actually, this was not supposed to be a taco meal but the combination screamed for me to serve it with corn tortillas!
Most of the time I do not like to assemble the tacos ahead of time. I prefer to keep the tortillas in a tortilla warmer and each one assembles their own.
It is probably best to alternate from time to time if flour happens to be your preference, but regardless of which kind you like, a good quality tortilla makes a big difference.
Make sure your flour tortillas are made with vegetable oil and not with animal fat, and of course compare labels for fat content.
As with the salsa, don’t settle for just any brand if you purchase your tortillas.
Avoid getting super large or thick tortillas, unless you plan to cut these and share. Your brain will record the satisfaction just the same if you eat a smaller tortilla, and this is a great place to start to decrease overall caloric intake. Smaller tortillas, slower eating pace, two or three tacos, complimented with one or two small sides if you need extra food, and you will have a delicious more balanced meal.
You have my admiration if you make your own tortillas regularly. I do not know how to make flour tortillas, but I do make corn tortillas occasionally. My husband would have liked to have had homemade corn tortillas often over the last twenty two years, but I just couldn’t deliver!!
One day this past holiday season he questioned whether it was really that difficult to make corn tortillas because I don’t make them often. He knew that it took only two ingredients, and that one of them is water. So he purchased the mix and he made them with a tortilla press that we have had forever.
He has now made them about three or four times, and I suspect he will continue to make them from time to time. For me, however, even if they are not that difficult to make, the extra time it takes me to make them will never be appealing. Store bought tortillas are perfectly fine with me!
Double tortillas is a trend, but the second tortilla is not always needed…try leaving it on the plate, or ask that it not be place there to begin with.
Oil Cooking Tips
One common practice when preparing corn tacos is to use oil on the corn tortillas before assembling them. Although these are very delicious, it is possible to omit this step and still have mouthwatering tacos, especially if you have your best salsa, your favorite tortillas, and other flavorful ingredients.
Most restaurants are usually ok with making this accommodation.
Just say no to the oil, and once again, you will do just fine without it, especially if the main ingredient already contains more fat calories.
If you must use the oil, don’t pour the oil in a pan or grill, use a brush or a spray bottle and use a minimal amount.
Potatoes Cooking Tips
Recently I prepared potato and egg breakfast tacos with a baked potato and I was pleasantly surprised that I did not end up with mashed potato and eggs. The potato was soft, but it did not break up. With a little bit of olive oil, I was able to crisp up the potato cubes before mixing in the egg. They were great, and no doubt they had fewer calories. I will definitely use baked potato for tacos more often.
I found that the consistency of the potato for this purpose is better if it is wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked in the oven. My plan…..is to plan. I will bake the potato in the oven when baking something else for dinner, and use it in the morning for tacos! Next time I will cut potato into smaller cubes.
Bacon Cooking Tips
When I was little, I could not tolerate the smell of bacon, and so I did not eat it often. The problem went away as I got older.
One of the most popular ways to use bacon in our part of the world, of course, is in breakfast tacos and that is how we consume it the most at home.
This next picture is of an omelette that I intended to eat by itself, but the tortilla was too tempting, and it became an omelette taco!
I think bacon is one of the things that you can tweak in your breakfast tacos to come out ahead in the nutrition front, and not sacrifice satisfaction. This is because the flavor of bacon is bold and can’t be missed even if you use it sparingly on one taco.
You may disagree if you are a super bacon lover, but if the goal is to cut calories here and there and to eat better, this is where you can make some sacrifices, and you won’t really notice that much of a difference.
Read package labels, as not all bacon is created equal. Sodium, fat, protein…let your goals dictate which type of bacon you should purchase.
You can decrease calories by cutting down on the amount of bacon per taco, but you can also cut calories by not using the rendered fat, if you currently use it to cook eggs or other meal ingredients.
I usually cook the bacon first and place it on paper towels, and either clean the pan or use a second pan to cook the eggs.
If you are cooking for more than one, using the bacon as a garnish, instead of mixed in allows you to better track how much you eat.
Another tweak that can be made is to avoid putting bacon in more than one of the meal components. For example, if you are eating eggs and beans, use bacon as a garnish or mix it in with the eggs, but you don’t necessarily need the same flavor in the beans. Spicing up the beans with herbs or a chunky salsa instead would make the meal more interesting and you end up with less calories over all.
If you want to tweak your tacos to an extreme, you can use a bacon substitute, such as turkey bacon, or instead of eating regular bacon, you can use a little bit of the rendered bacon fat just to impart flavor.
If you think in terms of nutrition, eggs and beans have plenty of protein, so in this case, if you think of the bacon as a garnish, it will make it easier to justify cutting the quantity that you use. If you remember from an earlier post, mental work is required to make progress, and thinking in terms of nutrition will definitely help you make healthier choices!
Sausage and Chorizo Tips
Unique blends of spices have allowed food brands to create healthier versions of sausage and chorizo that are just as good as the high calorie options. I think it is worth it to shop around for a healthy version that satisfies your taste buds without the extra calories, or you can try making your own with lean ingredients!
Chicken, Meats and Seafood Tips
Great tacos can be prepared with lean grilled meats and seafood, but we know that some very delicious versions are not as lean. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we stop eating them, but it does mean that we place more effort in trying to tweak the ingredients to make them better, and try to eat more of the healthier versions overall.
Yes, for some of us, tacos maybe in our DNA but they don’t have to compromise our wellness goals every time we eat them!!
Here’s a link from the Huffington Post to a list of some traditional and non-traditional taco recipes. See if you agree with the author about whether they are the best tacos in the planet!
How many tacos should we eat in one meal?
How many calories should we eat in one taco?
The following links are printable portion control guides designed to help us learn how to monitor such things. I found these at WebMd. One is a letter size portion control guide, and the other is a wallet size portion control guide. Use it during meal planning to help you meet your wellness goals.
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