Taco Bell Foods That Are Actually Pretty Healthy

Taco Bell has managed to gain a reputation for being the fast-food restaurant that's healthy-ish. In spite of the fact that you can get a taco in a shell made of Doritos, or nachos with enough fat for more than half of your day's recommended allotment, the Mexican-inspired chain has a few surprises for health-conscious customers. Not only does it have a vegetarian menu, but it's also made some efforts to ensure there are healthy options on the menu — even if they are served alongside chips made out of chicken and Cinnabon-branded desserts. So keep an open mind, and check out these Taco Bell foods that are actually pretty healthy.

Fresco tacos

Back at the tail end of 2007, Taco Bell debuted its now-established Fresco menu, one of the healthier moves seen within the fast-food industry. Essentially, if you order something Fresco style, you're swapping out the cheese and sour cream — a major source of fat and calories — for pico de gallo, which packs flavor but very few calories and no extra fat.

This is a great tool to use if you want to make your tacos as low-calorie as possible. The best of the Fresco tacos is the soft steak taco, clocking in at a paltry 140 calories and four grams of fat. The Fresco shredded chicken soft taco has 150 calories and six grams of fat, and the Fresco beef soft taco contains 160 calories and seven grams of fat. And if you want the crunch? No worries — the Fresco crunchy beef taco has 140 calories and seven grams of fat. 

That's pretty healthy, especially since they all pack a bit of protein and fiber as well.

Fresco burritos

If you're a little too hungry for just a taco by itself, Taco Bell has a few burritos on their Fresco menu, too. You can get a chicken or steak supreme burrito for only 340 calories each, both of which are filling, but low in fat. And there's also a Fresco bean burrito if you're looking for a vegetarian option, which only has ten more calories than the chicken supreme burrito. 

One thing to note is that each of these have over 1000 milligrams of sodium, which is a lot for one item. However, Taco Bell has cut their sodium content down by 15 percent since 2008, and plans to cut another 10 percent across the menu, so those numbers may improve in the future.

Chicken soft taco

Even if you're not ordering off the Fresco menu, there are still quite a bit of relatively healthy options at Taco Bell. One of my favorite old standbys is the chicken soft taco. Comprised of a soft tortilla, chicken, lettuce, and cheese, it's taco in its most basic form insofar as fast food chains go. In total, it has 170 calories and eight grams of fat, along with ten grams of protein. Throw in a gram of fiber and you have a decent nutritional profile, albeit a little high in fat, and like most fast-food items, high in sodium. 

Additionally, as of the beginning of the year, all of the chicken that Taco Bell serves in the United States is raised without antibiotics important to human medicine.

Crunchy taco

This taco is the OG when you conjure the image of American, fast-food tacos: ground beef, lettuce, and cheese served in a hard corn shell. Like the chicken soft taco, it too has 170 calories, but it has a bit more fat (nine grams total), and a hair less protein (eight grams instead of ten). It also has three grams of fiber, which is slightly better than its poultry counterpoint. Altogether, that's not too bad. Plus the flavor is arguably pretty good.

If you order it, keep it basic, as making it supreme adds extra fat and calories that can tip things in a more unhealthy direction. You can add the tomatoes though — just skip the sour cream.

Black beans and rice

A beloved staple all over the world, this classic and super healthy food pairing seems to be the one meal everyone can agree on. And just because it's on the vegetarian menu doesn't mean that omnivores can't enjoy it, too.

It's arguably one of the healthiest items you can buy at Taco Bell, too. One order has 190 calories and only 3.5 grams of fat, none of which is saturated. It also has six grams of protein, making for a nutrition choice that your dietitian will approve.

And while it's vegetarian, bear in mind that it's not vegan! That's because the rice has dairy in it. More rice options may be on the horizon though, so this dish may even be vegan friendly down the road.

The vegan menu

Speaking of vegan, did you know Taco Bell has certified vegan menu options? If you're vegan you probably did, especially if you go on the road a lot and find yourself with limited food options. But you don't have to be vegan to appreciate that there are healthy, certified AVA vegan options that anyone can order, which include beans, guacamole, flatbread, and usual suspects like vegetables and sauces.

A lot of it involves customization, something a lot of fast-food restaurants are offering in light of competition from fast-casual establishments. So it makes sense that a lot of these options mean eliminating higher fat items like sour cream and cheese, and substituting black or refried beans for the animal protein options. So for the most part, the vegan menu will naturally cut out any so-called problematic foods. 

Spicy tostada

Whether you order it vegan or not, the spicy tostada is another item at Taco Bell that's relatively healthy in and of itself. Basically, it's a riff on a traditional tostada: it's a flat, hard corn tortilla served with refried beans, topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red sauce, and chipotle sauce. Note that the chipotle sauce is a newer addition to the (now spicy) tostada, which previously didn't have it.

Nutritionally speaking, it's 210 calories, ten grams of fat, six grams of protein, and five grams of fiber. And unless you customize it, it's among one of the cheaper healthy items they sell, though I find it's better when you add guacamole. You may up the fat content, but it's healthy fat so it's not a big issue. Plus you can't beat the price.

Egg and cheese breakfast soft taco

Of all of the breakfast items that Taco Bell offers, one stands out among the healthiest: the egg and cheese breakfast soft taco. On its own it's nothing especially remarkable, though it is nutritionally reasonable at 170 calories, nine grams of fat, and seven grams of protein. That's certainly better than skipping breakfast if you don't have time, or forgot to pack your oatmeal. Plus if you spice it up with the hot sauces, you can get a nice kick.

It's also better than many other breakfast offerings at Taco Bell, which can quickly and easily eat into your daily allotment for fat and calories. Given that some of the Crunchwraps and quesadillas can have 500 calories or more (not to mention the fat), this is an excellent default breakfast choice. 

Gordita supreme chicken

You might not think of this as a healthier option based on the name, but the Gordita Supreme with chicken is actually a surprisingly balanced food choice. It differs from a taco or burrito in that it's served on flatbread, making for a thicker bite all around. But that doesn't throw off the nutritional balance. One Gordita has 260 calories and nine grams of fat, combined with two grams of fiber and a whopping 16 grams of protein. 

The steak version isn't bad either, given that it only has ten calories more than the chicken Gordita. The beef version clocks in at 280 calories, but by that point the fat jumps (along with the protein decreasing) enough to warrant to sticking with the poultry option. 

Bean burrito

For the most part, the burritos at Taco Bell are all relatively healthy. But among all of them, it's the regular bean burrito that clocks in as the healthiest of the lot. Overall it has 380 calories, which is ten fewer calories than the black bean burrito (which came in a very close second). It also has four grams of fat (the same amount or less fat than the others) and a hearty nine grams of fiber — that's 36 percent of your daily recommended allotment, which is really good for one menu item.

Pintos N cheese

Last but not least is one of the simpler offerings that Taco Bell has to offer: Pintos N Cheese. It's a simple concoction of pinto beans, red sauce, and Taco Bell's three cheese blend. One serving has 190 calories, along with seven grams of fat, but also ten grams of protein and seven grams of fiber. 

Unless you're sticking to the aforementioned vegan menu, this is an excellent addition to one of the other items listed above, such as a chicken soft taco or the beans and rice. In combination, you'll get a meal that will be both satisfying, protein-rich, and relatively low in fat and calories.