TACOS: Reasons to Include them in Our Diet


Tacos are a very popular dish not only in Mexico but all over the world. The forms, the type of tortilla and even the salsas have been modified. Tacos have adapted to every corner of the planet and to all tastes, but what has not changed is the reputation that, in addition to being a delicious food, they are not very nutritious.

This is false. We could even say that tacos can be part of a healthy diet, the important thing is to make certain adjustments in the preparation.

But How Can Tacos be a Balanced Meal?

The answer is very simple and we will give you some arguments.

First, tacos contain practically all the food groups that a meal should contain such as:

  • Product of animal origin – meat that could well be beef, chicken, pork or even fish.
  • Cereals – corn tortilla
  • Vegetables – sauce, onion, tomato and even in some places they use lettuce.
  • Fat – the one used for the preparation and that will also give them just that special flavor.
  • Fruit – if they are al pastor, pineapple is usually used and some sauces also use it to give it a unique touch.
  • Legumes – beans are preferred.

Why are tacos considered “unhealthy”?

Well, let’s not forget portion sizes. As we already know, we should be mindful of portion sizes and generally, tacos found in the street have excess fat due to their preparation. The type used is generally lard but also the quality of the meat will determine the number of lipids it contains and, sadly the healthiest meat options are not always chosen in taco stands.

Another thing to consider tacos as healthy or not is hygiene. Eating tacos on the street is not always hygienic since the food is outdoors and dirt or dust may fall on it. It is also very important to analyze the way sauces and vegetables are handled.

So,  can we make our tacos “healthy tacos”?

Let’s prepare tacos at home and also take care of hygiene. We should be able to prepare tacos for a wide variety of tastes and we should be able to choose the quality of meat, fat, vegetables, cereal that we want to use according to our nutrition plan and diet we follow.

Let’s look at some options:

Traditional taco – Choose the tortilla you like the most. Although in some countries flour tortilla is used, remember that it has a higher carbohydrate content that will impact your blood glucose levels, so we suggest you use corn tortillas whenever possible. This taco can go with the stew that we crave the most and can include your salsa as well as normally used vegetables such as onion and previously disinfected coriander.

Tacos without carbohydrates – Use lettuce to replace the tortilla. For this type of taco you can use lettuce leaves as if they were tortillas. You can fill them with the meat you prefer by also adding the sauce and other vegetables you want.

Low Carb Tacos – Use nopal (cactus) tortillas in these tacos. Depending on the brand, the nopal tortilla contains about half the calories and carbohydrates of a traditional corn tortilla and this is because it is a mixture between nopal and cornflour.

Vegetarian tacos – Use soy preparations that taste like meat or you could also opt for delicious poblano strips with cream (rajas con crema).

Cuaresmeños tacos – for those who prefer to eat fish or shellfish. Shrimp tacos are very famous in coastal areas of Mexico.

But if you still want to eat tacos in the street there are some things that we would recommend:

  • Analyze the hygiene of the establishment in which you are buying. It would be best if they had someone who handles cash and does not have contact with food. Observe the quality and how the food is handled as well as the hygiene of those manipulating the food.
  • Prefers low-fat meats.
  • If possible, request your tacos to be prepared without adding fat. They will still have some fat from the grill but it will be in less quantity.
  • Generally tacos come with two tortillas (known in Mexico City as a copy), eat only one tortilla or divide your taco in two, so you’ll feel that you are eating twice as much but will be eating only one taco.

As you can see, tacos are not seasonal foods, you can consume them at any time of the year and they are always a quick, simple and inexpensive alternative.

But if you are going to eat tacos, make that a special occasion. I remember that my father had a ritual to prepare tacos and it was during September (Mexico’s Independence Month) that he chopped the coriander, onion and tomato and arranged it decoratively in the shape of our Mexican flag. As soon as we saw those colors on the cutting board, we knew we would have tacos for dinner that night.

WRITTEN BY Eugenia Araiza, CDE Nutritionist, POSTED 11/12/20, UPDATED 08/01/23

Eugenia has a degree in nutrition specialized in diabetes and is a diabetes educator. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 25 years ago. She is the creator of Healthy Diabetes. She really enjoys studying and helping others in managing their different types of diabetes. She loves studying, managing type 1 diabetes and nutrition. She especially enjoys writing about the impact diabetes has on her life. She lives surrounded by love in a family made up of Luis Felipe, who lives with latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) diabetes and her teenage son Indigo.