Whether you have a dietary restriction or need a pre-workout snack, look for these healthy choices at Taco Bell.
It’s unlikely you’ll want options when reading the Taco Bell menu. More likely, you’ll face internal conflict when narrowing down your choices. From the Baja Blast to the Mexican pizza — which returned last year following a petition to bring it back — Taco Bell’s fan favorites are iconic in the truest sense of the word.
Still, maybe you’re wondering what your Taco Bell options are based on your dietary preferences, or perhaps you’re ready to branch out from your go-tos and are seeking recommendations. Look no further — below, registered dietitians highlight healthy items at Taco Bell you can try during your next visit.
Vegetarians: Veggie Power Menu Bowls
Whether you’re a full-on vegetarian or limit your meat intake, you’ve got options. “Vegetarian proteins can be hard to find at fast food eateries, but luckily Taco Bell offers many menu items with vegetarian beans, including this Veggie Power Menu Bowl,” says Bianca Tamburello, RDN, a registered dietitian with Fresh Communications. “Ask for extra lettuce and tomatoes for more fiber and veggies to keep you full, and choose sour cream or cheese (instead of both) to decrease the saturated fat in this dish.”
Per serving: 420 calories, 47 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 20 grams fat, 10 grams fiber, 870 milligrams sodium
Vegan: Crunchy Tacos with Black Beans Instead of Meat, Made Fresco
Finding a vegan meal at Taco Bell is very doable, if you’re up for asking for a modification to a menu item. “Vegans have a few options to choose from at Taco Bell, but the classic Crunchy Taco with black beans instead of seasoned beef, and made fresco (which replaces cheese and sour cream with freshly prepared chopped tomatoes), gets my pick,” says Mia Syn, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and author of Mostly Plant Based. “This is one of the lowest-sodium meal options on the menu and provides a decent amount of protein and fiber, while being low in saturated fat.”
Per serving: 130 calories, 17 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 4.5 grams fat, 5 grams fiber, 150 milligrams sodium
Low-Carb: Grilled Chicken Crunchy Tacos, Add Guacamole
“Portion size is important when eating low carb,” says Tamburello. “This crunchy taco with grilled chicken has only 12 grams of carbs. Adding guac instead of sour cream adds healthy fats to make this taco more satisfying.” It’s still more of a light meal/large snack, so if you’re on the hungry side, go for the Grilled Chicken Power Menu Bowl with no rice (and without beans if you’re on a super low-carb diet) instead, she says.
Per serving: 180 calories, 12 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 10 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 410 milligrams sodium
Dairy-Free: Fiesta Veggie Burrito, No Cheese, Sour Cream, Chipotle Sauce
Most of Taco Bell’s foods contain dairy ingredients, but you can ask for them to be omitted, notes Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, author of Planted Performance and founder of Greenletes. “Some of the healthier Taco Bell options include the veggie Power Menu Bowl and the Fiesta Veggie Burrito — both of which are around 400-500 calories and 13 to 14 grams of protein,” says Rizzo. “Leave off the cheese, chipotle sauce, and sour cream, and ask for extra veggies, [such as] tomatoes, lettuce and avocado and/or extra protein, [e.g.] double black beans or add chicken.”
Per serving with extra black beans: 480 calories, 69 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 17 grams fat, 11 grams fiber, 970 milligrams sodium
Energizing Breakfast: Spicy Potato Soft Tacos
While Taco Bell has a dedicated breakfast menu, Rizzo recommends looking elsewhere to get your potato fix. “The breakfast options at Taco Bell are a bit higher in saturated fat and sodium than I would recommend,” she says. “Instead of choosing something off the breakfast menu, I’d suggest starting your day with one or two Spicy Potato Soft Tacos, which [each] have 240 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. That combination of nutrients will keep you full and energized. If you have the time, [ask to] add an egg, which has 6 grams of protein, to make it more of a breakfast item.”
Per serving: 240 calories, 28 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 480 milligrams sodium
For Muscle Gain: Chicken Power Menu Bowl
Chicken and rice is a go-to among those looking to build muscle, and the combo may seem less boring if you’re ordering it from Taco Bell. “When looking to build muscle, you want to ensure you are consuming enough protein and calories in conjunction with a weight lifting regimen,” says Syn. “The Power Menu Bowl is a good option for consuming post-workout that checks both of those boxes with 460 calories and 27 grams of protein per serving. Plus, ingredient portions can be customized to meet your individual needs, such as scaling up on the chicken or rice portions.”
Per serving: 460 calories, 41 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 21 grams fat, 8 grams fiber, 1250 milligrams sodium
For Endurance Athletes: Bean Burrito
“Endurance athletes need plenty of carbohydrates to fuel working muscles and replenish glycogen stores after a long period of physical activity,” says Syn. Ideally you’d eat a meal that’s rich in slow-digesting carbohydrates three to four hours before endurance training or events to prepare your body, she says. “The Bean Burrito clocks in at 380 calories with 55 grams of energizing carbohydrates and 10 grams of fiber with moderate protein and fat,” says Syn. “If your nutritional needs are higher, you can even add rice or additional beans to increase the total carbohydrates.”
Per serving: 350 calories, 55 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 9 grams fat, grams fiber, 1040 milligrams sodium
Morning Pre-Workout Snack: Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burrito, No Bacon
If you’re planning to swing by the drive-thru before a morning gym session, you can fuel up with one of the healthy items from Taco Bell. “A pre-workout snack should have a carb and protein component to fuel your activity,” says Tamburello. Ask for the burrito without bacon or sausage — since the foods are high in fat, they can take longer for your stomach to digest, which may not feel great while you’re exercising, she says. You’ll still get both protein and carbs from the tortilla, eggs, and cheese. “This is a heftier snack, so give yourself time to digest before your workout,” says Tamburello.
Per serving: 290 calories, 38 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 670 milligrams sodium
Afternoon Pre-Workout Snack: Soft Taco with Chicken
You can fuel up for a workout — or stave off a hanger between lunch and dinner — with a chicken taco. “This soft taco offers high quality protein from the chicken and carbs from the tortilla to fuel your workout,” says Tamburello. “Soft tacos are not fried making them a better carb choice than crunchy tacos for pre-workout. (Fried foods can be tough on the stomach.)” She recommends choosing grilled chicken as your filling, since it’s leaner than beef.
Per serving: 160 calories, 16 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 1 grams fiber, 510 milligrams sodium
Post-Workout Snack: Pintos and Cheese
“For post-workout, you want something that has some protein to aid in muscle recovery and growth and some carbohydrates to replace glycogen — research actually shows that eating carbohydrates with protein helps with muscle protein synthesis,” says Rizzo. “I recommend the Pintos and Cheese, which has 9 grams of protein and 170 calories. It’s a bit high in sodium, though, so make sure you’re watching your sodium intake throughout the day.”
Per serving: 170 calories, 20 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 9 grams fiber, 640 milligrams sodium