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Fast Food Fix: Taco Bell


Hello again everyone!

It’s time for another Fast Food Fix and this time it’s all about cute Chihuahua’s and a big bell – yep it’s Taco Bell. The commercial’s famous slogan with the cute pooch is “I think I need a bigger box”, but will you need a bigger belt as well? Along the lines of Subway, Taco Bell has recently produced a line of commercials showcasing Christine, a women who lost 54lbs eating daily off the Fresco line of menu selections. More on that later…

Obviously Taco Bell has been in the news a LOT recently due to the ‘is it meat’ controversy. But lawsuits aside I can tell you that reviewing the menu was quite an undertaking. The options are seemingly limitless and I never realized that how big the menu was – ranging from tacos to salad, pizza to nachos. I have to say in the past twenty years, I have maybe eaten at Taco Bell 5 times. I just never liked the food or found it appealing although I know it’s hugely popular, even with many people I know.

Taco Bell does have a dedicated “Diet Menu”, so lets take a look at what I think the chain’s 3 best choices are based on total calories, fat content, sodium, and balance of nutrients.

1. Fresco Grilled Steak or Chicken Soft TacoBoth of these choices are from the “diet menu” and come with salsa, meat and lettuce. They both have less than 200 calories, 5 grams of fat, and at least 9 grams of protein. The big difference between these and other similar taco’s on the Fresco menu is that they contain half as much sodium, 550 and 680 respectively compared to upwards of 1300 mg in the bigger, more calorie dense versions. And they have about 3 grams of fiber. As a quick meal, this is a good option.

2. Steak Gordita Nacho CheeseThis is basically a flatbread style taco with steak, salsa, lettuce and tomato. Notice how my choices are sans cheese? Without the gooey stuff, this one comes in at 220 calories, 7 grams of fat with 12 grams of protein. Sodium is also decent at 530 mg and it too has a few grams of fiber. I like using the fat content of butter as an analogy so at 7 grams, this is equivalent of eating 1/12 a stick, which is great. And the fat in this Gordita is only HALF saturated (heart clogging goop). That’s a plus.

Like other options on the menu there are “Supreme” versions of this with added 3 cheese blends and low fat sour cream. They are roughly 100 + more calories, have about 4 grams more fat and a bit more protein. If your calorie requirements fit within a 300-calorie meal, this is a good choice as well.

3. Grilled Steak TaquitosIn essence these consist of grilled steak and cheddar cheese rolled up in crispy tortillas. They’ve got 11 grams of fat and 15 grams of protein – making up about 20% of the total calories. The sodium is a bit higher at around 800mg, which I suspect is due to the cheese.

There are more options on the menu that are very close in nutrition to my selections. There are others that fall within my guidelines for being decent choices. Truthfully, it looks to me like most of the menu is comprised of mostly the same ingredients with the main differences being size, the number of ingredients, and different combinations. It’s amazing how many possibilities you can come up with chicken, steak, cheese, tortillas, flatbreads, beans, salsa, sour cream and a few others including a wide array of sauces. The keys to look for are sodium content, total fat and of course – calories.

Unlike my McDonalds recommendations, this fast food fix contains no salad referrals. Here’s why-

Caution: Avoid at all costs!

1. Chicken Ranch or Chipotle Steak Taco Salad 900 freakin’ calories and 57 grams of fat! I felt my arteries close up just reading it! You must be kidding me. That’s more than the ridiculous calorie monsters from Mickey Dee’s. Using my butter analogy this salad is like eating almost an entire stick, that’s just gross. Taco Bell claims only 10 grams of the near 60 total grams of fat is saturated, but I must question this – it just doesn’t add up with the ingredients; cheddar cheese, low fat sour cream and steak. 10 grams? No way I say.

And additionally stay away from this unless your pants have elastic waistbands:

2. Volcano Burrito – 790 calories, 40 grams of fat and nearly 2000 mg of sodium. Who reading this can spell hypertension? That’s an unreal amount of salt for one meal, heck, for all your meals in one day it’s a lot, and more than your total daily allowance! The chain also states that of the 81 grams or 364 calories of carbohydrates (way too much) that only 9 grams, or 36 calories comes from sugar. Only 9 grams of sugar, I’ll say it again, no way.

There you have it. I was really surprised to see that Taco Bell has higher calorie and more fattening food than other fast food places. I mean who would think a salad with chicken has more calories and fat than a burger with bacon and cheese on it? But that said, most of the items can be ordered in a healthier way – sans cheeses, less sauce, sour cream on the side etc. Again, it’s all about portion control when it comes to gaining body fat. Which brings me to Christine, Taco Bell’s version of Subway’s Jared, whose commercials lead consumers to believe eating their food promotes weight loss.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axew7sCk3A0[/youtube]

As I stated in my Twinkie Diet piece Christine did not lose weight because she consumed Taco Bell. Instead she lost weight because she was on a calorie and portioned controlled diet that consisted of 1 Taco Bell meal per day. A person that’s overweight can eat 1,500 calories daily of Ben & Jerry’s and still lose body fat. Is ice cream now a diet food – of course not!

My goal is to inform people about their body and how it works. And in keeping with that theme I’d like you to see the Taco Bell menu calorie counter for yourself. Simply click on all of the items you’d like to review and their calorie counts will appear below. Be prepared to be amazed! http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/calculator

But what do you think? Do you agree with my suggestions? Or have additional ones to add? Start weighing in!


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