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Better Choices at Taco Bell

Note: Whether you’ve had bariatric surgery or not, you’ll likely visit a fast-food or fast-casual restaurant at some point. With our rushed and busy lives, fast food may cross our minds. Often, we can get something to hold us over without destroying the diet, but it’s important to choose right. Speak to your bariatric practice and dietician for guidance…do not rely on this guide alone.

Taco Bell, the 4th most popular fast food restaurant in the U.S. is known for being a classic “late night” fast food joint, due to its convenience, low cost, and often late opening hours. However, Taco Bell has been making a concerted effort over the past 15 years to change this image. According to its website, Taco Bell has reduced the sodium across the entire menu by 15%, with an additional 10% expected by next year. In addition, Taco Bell claims to have removed all artificial colors and flavors, removed palm oil and used only cage-free eggs and antibiotic-free chicken. Finally, Taco Bell has a surprising amount of menu items that contain fresh vegetables as well as a variety of easily customizable meals.

Below, we’ve reviewed and listed some of the best options at Taco Bell, so that you can make the healthiest decision possible when ordering a quick meal after your bariatric procedure.

Eat This

Cantina Chicken Bowl

  • This menu item is completely customizable, so make sure you load up on all of the included veggies. Just make sure to limit add-ons such as ranch, fries, nacho cheese, and sauces, which all increase the fat and overall calories but offer little added nutrition.
  • Calories (estimated): 490
  • Protein: 25 grams

Cantina Veggie Bowl

  • This bowl is surprisingly high in protein (12 grams) considering it’s mainly vegetables and rice! The bowl itself is around 400 calories, so feel free to add beans or meat if you want extra protein.

Chicken Enchilada Burrito

  • This option sounds like it might be a high-calorie bomb, however, it’s only 380 calories with 19 grams of protein, making it a decent option. Opting for the addition of black beans only adds 50 calories and helps you get more fiber.

Bean Burrito

  • This option is basic yet satisfying, especially as a vegetarian option. A standard Bean Burrito has 360 calories and 13 grams of protein.

Crunchy or Soft Taco

  • These may be a surprising menu choice, but the standard tacos are fairly low-calorie and high protein. Each taco has 180 calories and 9 grams of protein, so two tacos is a relatively good choice for a small yet filling meal.

Dietitian-Approved Tips

  1.  Add veggies whenever possible to get more fiber and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
  2. Limit creamy sauces as they’re especially high in fat and sodium, 2 things to avoid after bariatric surgery.
  3. Opt to make an item “fresco style”, which replaces the dairy (cheese + sour cream) with tomatoes.

Overall, while Taco Bell may not be the healthiest restaurant, it’s possible to craft a fairly healthy meal, especially if your options are limited and you are concerned about skipping a meal. As always, ensure eat your protein first, avoid sauces, and forget the soda and soft drinks to make the most of your meals.

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