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What to Order at a Mexican Restaurant

Enjoy your favorite food without the guilt.

Family Dinner

We hear the fun that Cinco de Mayo brings once a year. Parties, festivals, parades, drinking sweet and sour cocktails are loved by many people. What happens when the holiday is over? Well, nothing! The party continues as Americans love their Mexican cuisine. We love it so much that Mexican restaurants are more popular than Chinese and Italian eateries. We can thank our Mexican friends who’ve been wrapping tortillas around vegetables and meat since the days of the Aztecs. Thank them for introducing us to guacamole, salads, burritos, nachos and tacos, which are simple and healthy. Okay, maybe if you make it at home it’s healthy. Since we love to eat out, we need to be smarter. Why? The dishes at Mexican restaurants are packed with extra calories, salt, sugar and could make you regret the decision on the way home. Nutritionist Sharon Palmer said in an interview with that the calories can really add up. “There are bigger gut busters on the menu, like giant quesadilla and nacho platters, which can rack up closer to 2,000 to 2,600 calories—exceeding the amount that a healthy, active person should consume in a whole day.” We don’t want that! But you can enjoy your favorite Mexican restaurant without the guilt.

Watch Your Portions

Vegan Wrap

The portion at Mexican restaurants is pretty tremendous as well. You know the chips, rice, beans and cheese piled high with temptation. “Portions at Mexican restaurants tend to be large and perfect for sharing,” nutrition consultant Jessica Fishman Levinson shared with Everyday Health. She also added that if you are going with a group, share dishes to reduce the amount of food that you eat. “You can enjoy your favorites as long as the portions are small.” You can also ask for smaller plates and refuse to eat more than one portion. To really get a head start on portion control, drink water before the meal to help control your appetite. If you need help, ask one of your friends to keep you accountable.

Go Skinny

Cocktail Spritzer

No, don’t take away the margaritas! Slow down, you can still have your drinks without the 600 calories that they contain. Your frozen blended beverage is made with premade margarita mixes and will be loaded with sugar. According to, a 32-ounce glass may have a whopping 88 milligrams of salt per serving and upwards to 156 grams of sugar! What you can do is have a margarita on the rocks or ask the staff how they make them. “Ask for it with just tequila, triple sec and lime juice. Skip the salted rim — the extra sodium might have you looking puffy the next morning,” Everyday Health added. With the calories that you are saving, you can have a couple of skinny margaritas.

Try Compromising  

Black Bean Salad

The temptation is tough to overcome when there is so much to choose from! Now, don’t shoot the messenger here, but to reduce a possibility of overeating, add more veggies to your burrito and ask for sour cream to be added to the side. Go for extra salsa and have avocado instead of all the cheese. You can go for a vegetable, grilled fish or chicken taco. Be mindful that tacos come with a creamy sauce so ask the staff to go light on the sauces. Sometimes you will be given more than one tortilla for a fajita. Ask your server to just bring one and eat the rest of the meat and vegetables without the shell. Fajitas are a safer bet because you can control how much you will be eating and the veggies and the meat portioned out already.

Go Simple

Nutritionist Isabel Smith shared with to order simpler dishes. You can go for a taco salad without the sour cream and substitute the dressing with salsa. She recommended that you order an entree-size house salad in a bowl and ask the staff to add beans, beef, chicken and avocado to the mix. “The black beans have soluble fiber that slows digestion, keeping me feeling fuller, longer. The avocado and protein-rich chicken help balance blood sugar and boost satiety as well.” You can order a grilled shrimp salad or have an avocado salad or a green salad. Always ask to have the dressing on the side. It is common for a restaurant salad to contain at least a quarter of a cup or 4 tablespoons of dressing.

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Beware of Buzzwords


There are buzzwords that you need to be mindful when you get to the restaurant. Let’s start with some homework, don’t fret, you will get to eat soon! If you’re looking to watch what you’re eating, there are rules that will help. Steer clear of words like fried, creamy, stuffed, crispy, melted, sauteed, refried (full of lard), battered, au gratin or cream-based. Some people have no idea what a Chimichanga is, a deep-fried burrito! If you don’t know what it is, don’t order it. In the case of the Chimichanga, it could have a whopping 1,660 calories. Start digging around and look for the healthier words like baked, grilled, roasted or boiled. Every restaurant has buzzwords, so this will give you an idea of what to look for on your next outing.

Skip the Chips

white bean dip

You need to skip the bottomless chips! Ask for fresh vegetables and dip them in guacamole. In just a 2-ounce serving of tortilla chips, there are an estimated 275 calories with 100 calories derived from fat. Chips are accompanied with Mexican cheese dip, a calorie-dense food. Instead, order a small bowl of tortilla soup, this will fill you up and cut down on the amount of food that you eat. Like with anything else, ask the staff to go light on the cheese and hold the sour cream on the soup. “It could just be my love of anything with avocados, but in my eyes, few things beat a bowl of authentic tortilla soup. It’s nourishing, comforting and satisfying—but doesn’t carry a lot of calories. It’s perfect for a light meal or appetizer,” said Marisa Moore of Marisa Moore Nutrition.

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Whew! That wasn’t that bad, right? You can still party a little, drink, enjoy Mexican food without the guilt. We know it will be tempting with the gobs of food piled on everyone’s plate. But at least now you know what to expect.

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