Can Tacos Be Good For You?

If we had it our way, here at Best Food Facts, we’d live every day like it’s Taco Tuesday. But when it comes to consuming them, can there be too much of a good thing? Are tacos considered junk food or health food? To find out more, we reached out to Michelle Jaelin, a Registered Dietitian based in Toronto.

What should tacos be considered — Junk food or health food?

Jaelin: “Tacos could be considered as either a junk food or health food, depending on the ingredients used in the taco dish or how it was prepared. For example, if the taco was prepared in a fast food restaurant where it was fried in lots of oil and prepared with a high amount of salt, seasonings, cheese and sauce with no vegetable toppings – it would be considered junk food.”

While the origins of the taco are relatively unknown, it has been theorized that tacos were first developed by miners in Mexico. As tacos gained popularity, different regions throughout Mexico began creating their own versions that were unique to the region. The first documented taco in the United States was in a newspaper article in 1905. Over time, the original taco recipe (thin slices of meat, salsa, onions, guacamole and lime in a corn tortilla) was altered and has been altered to many different versions to fit individual tastes.

What are the healthy components? Not so healthy parts?

Jaelin: “If prepared with lean protein (beef, chicken, fish) or vegan protein (tofu, beans), those would be healthier components than high-fat beef. Whole grain taco shells are healthier than the ones made with white flour. Vegetables on top, such as lettuce and tomatoes are healthy. In terms of toppings, salsa is your healthiest bet, while sour cream and cheese would be considered not so healthy. Guacamole can be healthy, however, most guacamole prepared in restaurants usually is made with full-fat sour cream to give it that rich flavour.”

What are some ways to make tacos healthier?

Jaelin: “Make your own! Create your own taco party and have guests assemble their own. Be sure to include lots of lean protein options, vegetables and healthier toppings such as homemade guacamole, and salsa. Have the heavier toppings (sour cream, cheese) as well, but try to encourage eating a variety and trying new and different topping combinations.”

If you’re looking for additional healthy taco ideas, Health has put together a list.

So, we have seen celebrities talk about the taco cleanse – is it actually considered to be healthy?

Jaelin: “Raved about by Jennifer Aniston, the taco cleanse is real, you can check out this journalist’s experience with it here. To me, the taco cleanse is like any other diet: eat “good foods” (ie. tacos, vegan foods, everything consumed has to be in a taco shell). ‘Bad foods’ are animal-based products and anything that cannot be consumed in a taco. The good thing about this diet is it does encourage mindful eating – eating with attention and intention. However, it still limits some types of food which promotes diet culture. My other theory is because everything is to be consumed in a taco, you will eat less, which would result in weight loss.

“Whether healthy or not, by the end of it you would be so sick of tacos, that you wouldn’t stick to it. That isn’t very healthy to me!”

Do you have any favorite taco recipes?

Jaelin: “I personally love fish tacos. If it has fish in it, I will eat it! I don’t have a particular favourite one, but I would love to try this one.”

The simplicity of tacos makes them a staple that almost anyone can make. Not only are they budget-friendly, but they also allow for personalization and can serve a crowd. Choosing ingredients such as lean protein and vegetables can make tacos a healthy part of any eating plan.

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