THOUGH TRAVEL in general has slowed tremendously over the last year, family road trips for my family of four hasn’t.
And if your car looks anything like ours, food takes top priority. But all too often there also comes a time when what’s in the cooler just isn’t cutting it—particularly for our 9- and 11-year-old daughters, who love the idea of fast food. And, well, we also have to stop to stretch our legs a bit and get a change of scenery so we usually oblige.
That then creates the question of where to go, what to eat and what offers a balance of decent nutritional options (I’m a registered dietitian, so what can I say?), appealing to all, but that’s also quick.
Which brings us to Taco Bell. Are there other fast food chains out there offering a menu that’s more robust in vegetables? Sure. Would I rather stop somewhere that didn’t offer so much processed cheese goop? Of course.
But for all of the Taco Bell jokes out there, the chain is doing a decent job of trying to include at least a few nutrition-conscious options for active guys like me who are just looking to feed themselves and their families.
Taco Bell actually has some pretty impressive initiatives around well-being include reducing sodium across the menu by 15 percent since 2008, with the plan of another 10 percent removal by 2025. They’ve removed all artificial flavors and colors from the core menu, along with nixing partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat). They also removed XL soda cups from their restaurants.
What’s also fortunate is that Taco Bell has a customizable menu, which is great when you need options and want a little less grease and a little more quality protein and produce.
Finding healthy-ish, lower-calorie food at Taco Bell isn’t that difficult—you just need to steer yourself in the right direction.
Healthy Taco Bell Order #1: Chicken Power Menu Bowl
This option offers a little something for everyone: chicken, black beans, and a variety of fresh produce like lettuce, diced tomatoes. Bonus: the healthy fats from the avocado in the guacamole.
As is, the Power Menu Bowl has 470 calories, 26 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbohydrates (7 grams are fiber), and 19 grams of fat.
You can cut some calories by leaving off the sour cream and avocado ranch sauce (it already has guacamole) for a satiating meal that’s filled with close to 30 grams of protein and nearly 10 grams of fiber, the exact pairing Men’s Health says you should shoot for at each meal.
Healthy Taco Bell Order #2: Power Menu Bowl – Veggie
Taco Bell has long been a go-to spot for vegetarians. The chain has more than 30 certified vegetarian ingredients on its U.S. menu and has partnered with the American Vegetarian Association since 2015.
But even if you aren’t vegetarian, the no-meat version of the Power Menu Bowl is a solid option. (Basically you swap out the chicken, double the black beans, and then add refried beans.)
The nutrition: 430 calories, 12g protein, 57g carbs (10g fiber), 17g fat.
Also keep in mind that any vegetarian menu item at Taco Bell can even be made vegan by ordering “Fresco Style,” which swaps out cheeses, mayo-based sauces, and sour cream.
Healthy Taco Bell Order #3: Chicken Quesadilla + Extras
Maybe Power Menu Bowls aren’t for you and you want something a little more road-friendly.
Try Taco Bell’s Chicken Quesadilla, which has 520 calories, 27 grams protein, 38 grams carbs (four of which are fiber), and 25 grams fat.
Add in black beans to boost fiber and protein, along with some fresh produce, like tomatoes and lettuce, and you’ve got an option that can satisfy your taste buds and from a nutrition front.
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