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5 Fast-Food Tacos With the Lowest Quality Ingredients

Authenticity and good ingredients were not prioritized in the making of these tacos.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

Tacos are a staple fast-food item, and a beloved meal by many. While you may make homemade tacos with ground turkey instead of beef, use fresh corn tortillas, and avoid frying, drive-thru tacos are a different story. Sure, your order may resemble what you make at home, but chances are the crunchy beef taco you order at a fast-food restaurant is not quite as nutritious as what you make at home.

Here are the five fast-food tacos with the lowest quality ingredients. Then for more healthy fast-food tips, check out 9 Fast-Food Breakfasts To Stay Away From Right Now.

Jack in the Box Two Tacos

jack in the box tacos
Jack in the Box/Facebook

This may not be your primary destination for fast-food tacos, but Jack in the Box's tacos are actually one of its most popular items. These tacos have an extensive ingredient list that goes well beyond the ground beef and select seasoning you may use at home, and one of the more curious (and concerning) ingredients is American cheese.

Why they decided to top their taco with American cheese we may never know, but of all the cheese options available, American cheese is at the very bottom on the list, from a quality perspective. American cheese is made of a blend of cheeses, acidifying agents, and artificial colors, amongst other ingredients. Of note, American cheese is also lower in protein than other cheeses and contains much more sodium, a nutrient that may have a negative impact on blood pressure and other health conditions.

Taco Bell Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme

Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme
Courtesy of Taco Bell

Over the years you have no doubt seen commercials for the numerous tacos available at Taco Bell. One of their current options, the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme, is more known for its flavor-packed punch than its nutritional value.

The ingredient list is far too long to fully dissect here, but some of the ingredients that stand out are food dyes and colorings, vegetable oil, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), all of which are found in the taco shell alone. Food dyes and colorings have some concerning research attached to them, while vegetable oil is considered to be a low-quality oil due to its makeup of inflammatory fats. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as "generally regarded as safe," however, some people may have sensitivities to this ingredient that can cause symptoms like headache, nausea, and fluttering heartbeat.

Taco Bueno The Muchaco

Taco Bueno The Muchaco
Courtesy of Taco Bueno

This taco is unique as Taco Bueno has swapped the traditional crunchy taco shell for pita bread. This swap also makes this taco option less ideal than some traditional crispy tacos. Made with a variety of low-quality oils, like vegetable, soybean, and corn oil, the makeup of fat grams in this taco is less than ideal.

Additionally, the ingredient list notes the pita may contain TBHQ, a preservative linked to negative health outcomes. In fact, the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends avoiding it, although this is only based on an animal study and there isn't much evidence based on human studies.

Taco Bell Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch—Nacho Cheese

Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Courtesy of Taco Bell

This bad boy contains all of the same worrisome taco shell ingredients as the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme, plus the added ingredients in the Gordita flatbread.

Soybean oil, sugar, and corn syrup solids are some of the notable ingredients, and also of note, the ground beef mixture contains added sugar. While these combined sugar grams aren't anywhere near the sugar found in a soda, for example, the miscellaneous grams from savory dishes like this can add up quickly throughout the day.

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Taco Johns Mini Fried Chicken Taco

Taco John's Mini Fried Chicken Taco
Taco John's / Facebook

This probably doesn't come as much surprise with "fried" in the name, but the only thing this taco has going for itself, nutritionally speaking, it that it's small. Because frying is done at such high temperatures, typical frying oil, like soybean, doesn't pack as many healthy fats as other oils, like olive and avocado. The soybean oil used at Taco Johns is better than traditional vegetable oil but there are better options out there. The oil used to fry the breaded chicken makes for a less desirable option compared to grilled chicken and even some ground and shredded beef options.

Kelsey Hampton Abdullah, MS, RDN
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey