Are Tacos Healthy? I’m a Latina Dietitian, and I Say Yes!

Ever wonder if tacos are actually healthy?

After all, memes about liking tacos too much to follow a diet are everywhere

But as a dietitian who has made it my mission to celebrate Latino cultural foods, these jokes frustrate me. 

They’re a sign of the fact that we treat tacos and other Mexican foods as shorthand for “unhealthy” and “junk food.”

But the truth is tacos, like so many other Mexican foods, can be very healthy!

If you’re curious just how tacos can be a healthy meal, this article is for you! We’ll go over the nutrition benefits of the tortillas, filling, and toppings. And I’ll give my best tips on how to build a healthy taco!

Grab your tortillas and let’s get started!

Are tacos healthy? I'm a Latina dietitian and I say yes

Are Tacos Healthy?

As a Latina dietitian, I want you to know that tacos can easily make a healthy meal. 

But at the same time, there are so many different varieties of tacos that it’s hard to speak to the nutrition benefits of all tacos. 

I’ll break down the nutrition facts for some common types of tacos below. But first, let’s talk about the major nutrients/food groups you’ll find in tacos:

  • Tortillas: Tortillas provide carbs, which help give you energy. While many of my clients think they should stop eating tortillas, I argue the opposite. Tortillas–especially corn tortillas– can be a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 
  • Filling: Most taco fillings provide protein, especially if the filling is made of meat. Pairing protein with carbs–like you do when you eat tacos–can help you get and stay full (1). 
  • Toppings: The most traditional toppings like cilantro, onion, salsa, and radish slices are all vegetables! This provides extra fiber and antioxidants to your tacos.

Tacos nutrition facts

But maybe you’re curious how different tacos fit into your individual nutrition goals. 

To help you understand, I ran a few different recipes for tacos through a nutrition analysis tool to show the possible nutrition facts for different tacos. 

Keep in mind different recipes will change these results. So just use these as a reference to start out with!

Street tacos

For the street tacos I chose carne asada (grilled skirt steak) on corn tortillas with simple toppings of salsa, onions, and cilantro. 

Here are the nutrition facts for 3 tacos de carne asada with onions, cilantro, and salsa (2):

Calories402 kcal
Protein20 g
Carbs32 g
Fiber5.3 g
Fat22 g
Saturated Fat3.5 g
Iron3.4 mg (19% dv)
Calcium83 mg (6% dv)
Potassium365 mg (8% dv)

As you can see, 3 tacos with corn tortillas, carne asada, and vegetable toppings can make a very balanced meal. 

These tacos are an appropriate amount of protein and carbs for a meal, and they’re a good source of fiber, iron, and potassium.

Crispy tacos

For the crispy tacos category I chose to use hard taco shells in the recipe because this was the best information available to me in the calculator.

But I want to acknowledge these are different from Mexican tacos dorados. However, both involved a fried tortilla so it’s as close as I could get for doing this calculation. 

For the meat, I switched from skirt steak to ground beef as this is a common filling for crispy tacos. 

I did not add sour cream or cheese to this calculation, so keep that in mind if you like either of these toppings with your tacos. 

Here are the nutrition facts for 3 crispy tacos with ground beef, topped with salsa, cilantro, and onion (3): 

Calories616 kcal
Protein22 g
Carbs60 g
Fiber7.6 g
Fat32 g
Saturated Fat11 g
Iron3.9 mg (22% dv)
Calcium83 mg (6% dv)
Potassium709 mg (15% dv)

These tacos are higher in calories, carbs, and saturated fat than the street tacos with skirt steak. But on the other hand, they’re also higher in fiber, iron, and potassium. 

This recipe could still possibly be an appropriate size for a meal, depending on your individual health goals. 

Soft tacos with flour tortillas

For this recipe I swapped in 3 small flour tortillas, and kept the ground beef. Like before, sour cream and cheese are not included in this calculation. 

Here are the nutrition facts for 3 small soft tacos with flour tortillas, ground beef, cilantro, onions, and salsa (4): 

Calories519 kcal
Protein25 g
Carbs55 g
Fiber5.4 g
Fat21 g
Saturated Fat7.8 g
Iron6.1 mg (34% dv)
Calcium182 mg (14% dv)
Potassium639 mg (14% dv)

These tacos are a little lower in fiber, but are higher in iron. 

How to build a healthy taco

Hopefully by this point I’ve convinced you that tacos can be a very healthy meal. But of course, there are so many different types of tacos out there! 

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your tacos, follow these steps to build a healthy meal with tacos. 

how to build a healthy taco


The correct serving size of tacos will vary person to person. In general, 2-3 tacos will be enough for most people, but be sure to check with your healthcare provider. 

Choose the right tortilla

As a Latina dietitian, my top choice of tortilla for healthy tacos is the classic corn tortilla. 

The nixtamalized corn provides a good amount of fiber, and can increase the calcium, resistant starch, and vitamin B3 you get from your tortillas. 

Of course, you can alter the tortilla size to better suit your needs. You can also try out flour tortillas, or whole wheat tortillas if you want!

(Want more information about the healthiest tortillas? Check out my post here)

Add protein

Choose a protein for your filling, like chicken, fish, shrimp, beef, or beans. 

If you’re looking for a vegetable filling, make sure to add protein on the side (more on that below). 

Add veggies

Add a variety of vegetable toppings to get a serving of veggies with your tacos. 

It may not seem like much, but if you choose 3 different vegetables, and get at least 2 tablespoons of each vegetable that’s just over ⅓ cup of veggies! 

To get the full recommended ½ cup of vegetables, aim for 3 tablespoons of 3 different veggies. 

Here are some vegetables you can top your tacos with:

  • Salsa
  • Diced onion
  • Cilantro
  • Radish slices
  • Diced avocado
  • Pico de gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Shredded cabbage

Maximize your sides

You can use your sides to get any other extra nutrients you need or increase your vegetable servings. 

Here are some sides you can pair with your tacos for a healthy meal:

  • ½ cup of beans will add protein and fiber
  • Grilled chiles are a classic taco side and will add to your vegetable servings
  • Grilled cebollitas are another easy and classic vegetable to serve with tacos

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to make a healthy meal with tacos!

Tacos are an overall balanced dish, pairing carbs with protein and vegetables. 

To make the healthiest tacos, choose corn tortillas, a high-protein filling, and top with plenty of vegetables.

Want more ideas for building healthy meals with your favorite Latino foods? Start with my FREE 1-week Mexican meal plan! Get a copy when you sign up for my newsletter below.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top