The Best & Worst Menu Items at Taco Bell, According to an RD
If you're looking for healthier options and are trying to steer clear of items high in sodium, fat, and calories, being aware of how Taco Bell's delicious creations stack up against each other nutritionally is a good idea.
We asked Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, author of Eat Your Vitamins and founder of sustainable seafood brand Minifish, to decipher the Taco Bell menu for us. She reviewed it in its entirety and highlighted the absolute worst items you could order, as well as the chain's most nutritious options. And don't miss The 4 Worst New Burgers on Fast-Food Menus, According RDs.
The Worst Menu Items at Taco Bell
Wild Strawberry Lemonade Freeze
This drink might sound light and refreshing, but it's one of the worst items you can get at Taco Bell.
"The added sugar content in this one drink alone surpasses the American Heart Association's recommendation of no more than 24 grams of added sugar daily for women and 36 grams for men," Davis warns. The frosty beverage has a whopping 56 grams of sugar, which is like eating four and a half cream-filled, glazed donuts.
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Customers rejoiced when the quesalupa, a cross between the Chalupa and a quesadilla, hit the Taco Bell menu this year. As an occasional treat, it's fine to indulge in the quesalupa, but our nutritionist advises against ordering it frequently, especially if you suffer from cardiovascular conditions.
"It has 610 calories, 12 grams of saturated fat, and over 1000 milligrams of sodium, which is close to the recommended daily limit of 1,500 milligrams for those with high blood pressure," Davis explains.
Another mashup menu item, the beef quesarito combines a beef burrito and a quesadilla for a hefty dish with plenty of gooey cheese—and of some less-than-ideal nutrients. Davis points out that this dish has alarming levels of both sodium and fat, which could be detrimental to heart health.
Cheesy Gordita Crunch
This menu item features a hard-shell taco with beef, cheese, lettuce, and spicy ranch all wrapped in another layer of cheese and a soft-shell tortilla. With menu items that feature cheesy interiors wrapped in another layer of cheese, it's unsurprising to see high counts for sodium, fat, and calories.
With 10 grams of saturated fat, 850 milligrams of sodium, and 500 calories, the cheesy gordita crunch is "a better choice than the quesalupa or quesarito, but still isn't one of the healthiest options on the menu," Davis says.
Nachos BellGrande is a classic and popular Taco Bell dish. It seems simple enough: tortilla chips covered in beans, beef, cheese sauce, reduced-fat sour cream, and fresh tomatoes. But don't let the reduced-fat label fool you.
This item still has 38 grams of fat, plus a massive amount of sodium. With 1,050 milligrams of sodium, Davis warns that this dish is especially problematic for customers who have high blood pressure.
The Best Menu Items at Taco Bell
Black Beans & Rice
Looking to satisfy those Taco Bell cravings without all the added sodium? Luckily, there are still many options at Taco Bell that are more nutritious.
"One of the best options is a simple side of black beans and rice, which contains only 170 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein," Davis says.
It's easy to upgrade this side, too, with fresh, customizable choices like added jalapeños, tomatoes, or lettuce for some extra crunch.
Power Menu Bowls
Taco Bell's Power Menu Bowls offer a lot of bang for your buck. These large bowls cost about $5 to $6 for a fulfilling meal packed with protein, veggies, and rice.
"The Power Menu Bowls are also healthier options that provide 12 to 26 grams of protein and 7 to 10 grams of fiber all for under 500 calories each," Davis explains.
One of the great things about Taco Bell is that it offers so many options, regardless of your dietary preferences. Whether you follow keto, paleo, or plant-based diets, you can still find something to eat at this fast-food chain.
A popular menu item for vegetarian diners, the bean burrito is a delicious pick that is actually great for just about anyone to enjoy.
"[It] offers 11 grams of fiber (about a third of the daily recommended intake) and 13 grams of protein for 350 calories," Davis says.
Black Bean Chalupa
The black bean chalupa is another popular pick for plant-based customers, even if this dish can get a little messy. The mess is worth the health benefits though, as this chalupa is a lower-calorie, lower-sodium option with a decent amount of protein and fiber, according to Davis.
When in doubt, stick to the basics. "A single crunchy taco is a lower calorie option that has 8 grams of protein and 310 milligrams of sodium," Davis says.
While it might not be as flashy and cool as a quesalupa or quesarito, the classic, hard-shell taco still offers the delicious flavors that Taco Bell customers love, but with far less sodium.
For more, check out the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are.