Reducing Calories When Eating Mexican Food Out

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

2821-1359193_burrito.jpgWe all know it happens…. A friend or significant other begs us to go out to eat chips, cheese dip, burritos, and drink margaritas at the Mexican restaurant down the road.

This is possibly a high calorie disaster. So, what’s a Mexican food loving person to do?

Healthy Swaps

  • Instead of cheese dip, have salsa or guacamole.
  • Each chip is about 1 gram of fat! Break the chips into smaller pieces, or ask for a few soft shell corn tortillas which are lower fat and whole grain.
  • One average margarita will set you back about 500 or 600 calories! Order a glass of white wine instead, or make your own skinny margarita with lower calorie mix at home.
  • Avoid flautas, taquitos, chimichangas, and other fried items.
  • Ask for a red or green sauce instead of a cheese sauce topping.
  • Beware of some vegetarian items as they are loaded with extra cheese. Some vegetarian items like vegetarian enchiladas are filling with cheese and then topped with more cheese.
  • Salads can be high calorie because of all the toppings. If you order a salad, make sure to ask for no taco shell, and use salsa instead of dressing.

Lighter Mexican Food Menu Options

  • Tacos are usually a good choice because they are small and simple.
  • Fajitas are usually one of the best menu options. Order fajitas to share with someone else!
  • Order a grilled chicken or fish dish with a side of beans and sautéed peppers.
  • If ceviche is on the menu, this is one of the lightest and healthiest appetizer (or entrée) items.

Finally, the most important thing is portion control. Even if you happen to order a higher calorie, more indulgent menu item, just eat fewer bites. Focus on savoring the flavors. Always ask for a box when your food arrives so that you can pack away the food as soon as you begin to feel full. Lastly, focus on the people you are eating out with and less on trying to fill yourself with food to feel satisfied.

Do you eat at Mexican restaurants, and if so, what do you like to order?


  1. ArrowSmith

    Stick with rice, beans, veggies, meat, salsa and pico d’gallo and you’ll be fine. Also a good tall shot of Jose Cuervo washes it all down just right you gringos!

  2. Michelle

    Whenever my coworkers and I get Mexican food for lunch, I order the low(er in) carbs burrito and split it in half. Whole wheat tortilla, grilled sliced chicken breast, and grilled vegetables with salsa. So delicious, filling and I’m not left in a food coma afterward. Give it a try!

  3. O.

    I try that, but the corn tortillas have an almost rubbery texture to them while the flour ones melt in your mouth.

    Living in California I have endless Mexican food options.

    One place I really liked was La Salsa which is located in mall food courts. They have a salsa bar with so many flavors. colors. and heat levels, it’s impossible to have just one kind of salsa with your meal.

  4. Nicole German (RD)

    Great idea! I will do one of those next!

  5. Spectra

    Great tips! I’d also add that if you have the option, order corn tortillas instead of the flour ones. The corn ones are typically smaller and lower in calories than the larger flour ones.

  6. Heather

    Hate Mexican food… love to see this for Indian, Thai, or Japanese hibachi