Here’s How to Eat Healthy at Taco Bell, According to Nutritionists

Photo: Getty Images / Mark Tan-EyeEm
Let's be real: Even if you're a person who eats green smoothies for breakfast and keeps a spare yoga mat in their trunk, you're still probably going to be at a Taco Bell at some point in your life.

Sometimes it's because a Quesarito craving strikes out of nowhere. Other times, you may be looking for something a bit more health-friendly. And that's when ordering fast food gets tricky. The key, of course, is being prepared. Knowing the healthy (or at least healthy-ish) options available before you go means less anxiety at the drive-through window.

Here, two registered dietitians—Jessica Cording, RD, and Carissa Galloway, RD, give their advice on what to order if you're vegan or vegetarian, keto, or Paleo. Keep reading for their top healthy options at Taco Bell.

Vegan or vegetarian

Menu picks: Vegetarian Crunchwrap Surpreme; Veggie Power Bowl

What the RDs say: Both experts preferred the Veggie Power Bowl because it's customizable. (This especially matters if you're vegan, because popular add-ins such as sour cream and avocado ranch sauce have dairy and will need to be left off.) "I'm a huge fan of anything customizable because it puts you in control," Galloway says. Her recs for building your bowl: take the fiber- and protein- rich black beans, add as much lettuce and pico de gallo as you can, and one sauce. "The sauces are high in sodium, so it's best to pick one, preferably the guac," she says.

There may be more healthy options for vegetarians and vegans soon, as Taco Bell is testing out a dedicated vegetarian menu at a location in Dallas, Texas, which includes vegetarian versions of the Quesarito and Crunchwrap Surpeme by subbing black beans for the beef. However, just because they're meatless doesn't mean they're both inherently healthier. "With the Quesarito, you're taking black beans—which are great and have a lot of fiber—and adding rice that's seasoned with a high sodium mix, cheese, and sour cream, and wrapping that in a white tortilla wrap," Cording says.

However, both experts are on board (mostly) with the plant-based remake of the Crunchwrap Supreme. "One positive about this one is that you are getting lettuce and tomatoes, which is a nice little drop in the bucket," Cording says. Adds Galloway, "It's not as great as an option as the Veggie Power Bowl, but it's better than the Quesarito because you're at least getting fiber and a small amount of vegetables." Here's hoping this product comes to more locations.

Order tweak: When building your Veggie Power Bowl, Cording says to choose between the rice or the beans instead of having both. "Yes, beans are good source of fiber and protein, but they are also high in carbs, which many people forget," she says, adding that it's best to have just one carb per meal. And again, if you're vegan, skip the sour cream, cheese, and avocado ranch sauce.

Side dish recommendations: For a mini meal, both dietitians recommend the Black Beans. "You can build it into a nice little meal if you add lettuce and pico de gallo on top," Galloway says.


Menu pick: Power Bowl 

What an RD says: "Keto eaters have it pretty rough at Taco Bell because they can't have rice, they can't have beans, and they can't have tortilla wraps or taco shells," Galloway says. (You know, because carbs.) What does that leave? The customizable Power Bowl, which both experts recommend as the go-to choice for ketogenic dieters. "You can build it with chicken or steak, tomatoes, onion, lettuce, and sour cream," Galloway says. Cording agrees, and says adding guac as an add-in is a keto-friendly option, too.

Order tweak: When building your bowl, nix the rice, but both experts say the serving of cheese is keto-approved.

Side dish recommendations: If your bowl leaves you hungry, Galloway says to go ahead and order a side of chips and guac. "Yes it has carbs, but if you go to a Mexican restaurant, they're going to put an endless bowl of chips in front of you as an appetizer, so at least this way you keep the portion under control," she says.


Menu pick: Power Bowl; Fiesta Salad

What an RD says: "Paleo eaters are in the same boat as keto with having little to choose from because Paleo purists can't have rice or beans," Galloway says. Cording says you *could* get the Fiesta Salad and just not eat the shell, or you could go for the Power Bowl, building it with either beef, steak, or chicken, lettuce, pico de gallo, and guac.

Order tweak: "You'll want to skip the beans, cheese, and sour cream to stick within the Paleo guidelines," Cording says.

Side dish recommendations: Like keto, Taco Bell comes up short with Paleo-approved sides, so Galloway recommends just going for some extra salsa or guac. "I also think it's important to keep in mind that this is one meal, so it's good to keep that in perspective," she says.

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