How to Eat Healthy at Mexican Restaurants

Updated: Feb. 22, 2021

You can enjoy your favorite foods, and keep your blood sugar steady—here's how!

Ordering from a fast-food Mexican place is about as big as a blood sugar challenge can get. Portions are generally huge, the tortillas used for burritos are larger than your head and filled with a cup or more of white rice (blood sugar enemy # 1), and the entrées tend to be loaded with cheese — and we don’t mean the Magic low-fat variety. Thread your way around these potholes, and you can arrive at a delicious, moderate-GL meal.

Your Game Plan:

1. Ask the waitperson to take away the tortilla chips.

The Mexican equivalent of a big breadbasket is either a bowl of chips with salsa or nacho chips covered with cheese. Just say no.

2. Order a healthy starter instead.

Look for ceviches (marinated raw fish or seafood); guacamole, which is full of “good” fats (ask for soft tortillas instead of deep-fried chips to dip, and don’t overeat them); gazpacho, a spicy cold vegetable soup; black bean soup; and tortilla soup (chicken in broth with vegetables and thin fried tortilla chips). Ask for extra salsa for the table and eat it with a spoon rather than on chips.

3. For an entrée, look to fajitas.

These are made with lean beef (or chicken or shrimp) grilled with onions and peppers. Other good choices are grilled chicken or fish dishes.

4. Order tacos or burritos without high-fat sour cream.

Ask for extra salsa instead. Hard tacos are fried, so you’re better off with soft tacos; soft tortillas are even better. A small tortilla is the equivalent of a slice of bread. If you’re not eating rice, two or three soft tacos are fine, but stick to one or two if you are having rice. If you’re getting a burrito, ask for no rice and more beans.

5. As a side dish, go for rice and beans instead of Mexican rice.

Thanks to the beans, this dish has a lower GL than rice alone. But check first to be sure the beans aren’t refried. Refried beans are loaded with fat.

6. Have dessert at home.

Desserts at Mexican restaurants, such as flan and fried ice cream, are usually high in calories and fat, so skip them and eat something healthier elsewhere.

Just say no to:

  • Tortilla chips
  • Nachos
  • Chimichangas
  • Quesadillas
  • Enchiladas (beef, cheese, or any other kind)
  • Chiles rellenos
  • Refried beans
  • Anything “grande”

See also:

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest