Which items are Taco Bell are the healthiest? Let’s find out.
Well, before we dive in, I want to hit you with a few overall notes regarding Taco Bell in general.
First and foremost, I fully understand that there are many people out there who find Taco Bell to be gross. That’s totally fine.
I can remember learning way back (probably 20 years ago now) that Taco Bell used the lowest quality meat that was deemed acceptable. I’m pretty sure the rumor was that they used all the animal scraps that didn’t make it into grocery stores. That’s not true at all, but I think the “low quality meat” rumors left a bad taste in people’s mouths about Taco Bell.
In doing research for this guide, it’s clear to me that Taco Bell actually has some quality options. If ground meat isn’t your thing, they now have grilled chicken or steak options, which are great alternatives.
And, for all the plant-based eaters out there, they have plenty of vegetarian options as well!
The other thing that I would like to note here is that this guide is reflective of the menu as of December, 2020. Due to the global pandemic this year, Taco Bell has simplified their menu, and this guide reflects that.
Who knows, by the time you’re seeing this, Taco Bell may have Nacho Fries or Mexican Pizzas back on the menu. But for now, we’re rolling with the menu in front of us.
We’re going to break down the Taco Bell menu calories and macros, but I should also note that “healthy” doesn’t necessarily refer to the lowest calorie option. Much like my Wendy’s breakdown, I just want to provide you with the information to make the decision for yourself if you consider Taco Bell healthy.
Obviously, it’s called Taco Bell for a reason.
Tacos are the bread & butter here (if you’re asking me, the Doritos Locos Taco is the best tasting on the menu, but many will argue for the Cheesy Gordita Crunch), but what you see here is not all you are limited to.
The tacos listed here are if you order them exactly as-is, but there are plenty of substitutions you can make to save some calories or up the protein.
Let’s take the Soft Taco Supreme and make some changes to see how it affects the final nutrition.
As is, the Soft Taco Supreme is 210 Calories, 10g Fat, 20g Carbs, and 10g Protein.
If you want to save some calories and bump up the protein a bit, you can swap the beef for grilled chicken. That will change it to 180 Calories and 13g Protein.
Another option you have is to order the taco “fresco.” Fresco simply means swapping out the dairy (cheese and sour cream) and mayo-based sauces for tomatoes. This will work for either a crunchy taco or soft taco.
In this case, ordering the Soft Taco Supreme “fresco style” changes the nutrition to 160 Calories, 7g Fat, 18g Carbs, and 8g Protein.
Finally, you can make any of the tacos vegetarian by order a black bean taco instead of seasoned beef, chicken, or steak. For the ultimate calorie saver, you can order the taco vegetarian AND fresco. In this case, the taco would end up being 140 calories!
Quesadillas & Burritos
After tacos, the burritos/quesadillas are the most popular items at Taco Bell.
By looking over the items here, you can see that the calories are all over the place.
A Quesarito comes in at 650 calories, while a bean burrito is only 350 calories!
When it comes to deciding what to order here, aside from calories, protein may be the largest differentiator. If you’re looking to maximize your protein intake (personally, that would be my goal), a quesadilla would be the way to go. At 510 calories and 27g of protein, the chicken quesadilla is actually quite a solid option!
If I were ordering, I’d also go for extra chicken. When you do that, the chicken quesadilla ends up being 560 calories and a whopping 35 grams of protein! Not bad at all.
Overall, these Taco Bell menu items tend to be higher in calories due to the melted cheese and nacho cheese they are loaded up with. If calories are a concern, check out the bowls below!
Sides & More
If you’re looking to maximize your protein intake, the “power menu bowl” is a great choice. These bowls are similar to a “burrito bowl,” swapping out the flour tortilla for a bed of seasoned rice. The lack of tortilla makes it easier to load up on protein, too!
Since Taco Bell did away with their taco salad (at least, as of the time of writing this), this will be your closest alternative!
If I were ordering the bowl, I’d go with the “fresco” style we talked about earlier, as well as getting extra grilled or shredded chicken.
When you do that, the entire bowl is only 410 calories, but packs 30g of protein! Now, that leaves out the nacho cheese sauce and shredded cheese, but for me, those aren’t super important. I’d much rather use salsa & some fire sauce, which is a very minimal caloric impact and tastes even better to me!
Another note about sides is for the tortilla chips & nacho cheese. Much like French fries at most fast-food restaurants, the amount you receive is going to vary greatly. Use the calories for the tortilla chips as an estimate here, but know that sometimes you may end getting a larger serving, and other times you may get way less. Hopefully, you’re served by somebody in a good mood!
Oh, and we obviously can’t let this post end without mentioning the Cinnamon Twists. Are they the best dessert ever invented? Possibly.
I have nothing to add about the nutrition of ’em, I just want to be sure to call out how delicious they are.
Last, but certainly not least, we have breakfast.
I’ve never had breakfast from Taco Bell, but looking at their options, I’m very tempted to give it a try!
With breakfast options, you have less room for substitutions or calorie savers. There isn’t a “fresco” option, and since all the items are eggs &b meat (aside from the hash browns) there is not a vegetarian option, either.
That being said, you can always take the cheese out of the any of the options! It may not seem like much, but if you were to order the grande breakfast burrito without cheese, it knocks the calories down from 560 to 470- nearly 100 calories worth!
Final Note: is Taco Bell healthy?
While Taco Bell has historically gotten a bad rap for using low-quality ingredients, that has certainly changed in recent years!
When you break down the menu, you can see that there are some real quality options. If you’re looking for fresh food, Taco Bell is actually not a bad choice at all.
Nutritionally, it’s only as unhealthy as you make it. If you know what substitutions to make, the Taco Bell menu can actually be great healthy!
All in all, if you’re looking for low-calorie options, steer clear of the nacho cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or heavy sauces. “Fresco style” without the cheese or sauce will save a ton of calories in some cases, and will still be very delicious with the addition of the salsa!
Ultimately, if you’re going to eat Taco Bell, you certainly do not need to worry about the nutrition!
If you want to just enjoy some tacos without the thought of calories or macros, you absolutely should.
That being said, I always find it helpful to be educated about the nutrition of the food I’m eating. Whether or not I’m actively tracking my macros or counting my calories, I find it incredibly helpful to have a general idea of the calories/macros I’m consuming.
I hope you find it helpful, too!