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The Best & Worst Menu Items at On The Border

If you're spending your next Taco Tuesday at On The Border, you'll want to reference this list before you go!

Headquartered out of Irving, Texas, On The Border has slowly but surely found its way across America for a good reason. Its casual atmosphere and an extensive menu has you covered anytime you are craving anything from an enchilada to a chimichurri. This restaurant may be your first option when you want to sit down and have a quick burrito, but On The Border has a plethora of unhealthy options lurking in wait to throw off your diet. If you need to watch your weight, but still crave the perfect fajita to satisfy your craving, look no further. We consulted with Lindsey Pine, MS, RDN, CSSD, CLT, to figure out what you should and should not eat on the On The Border menu.

Appetizers

Best: Chicken Tortilla Soup

330 calories, 34 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 620 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 18 g protein

Appetizers tend to be a hard sell when you follow a diet, as they pack unnecessary calories and fat into an already full meal. So instead, we skipped the entire section and found your best appetizer option in the Salads & Soups section of the On The Border menu. Just order is as an appetizer!

"Everything in the appetizer category is more like a main meal. A cup of chicken tortilla soup at 330 calories is a nice way to start a meal if you need to have something right away."

Worst: Border Sampler

2,000 calories, 134 g fat (59 g saturated fat), 4,280 mg sodium, 109 g carbs (9 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 92 g protein

Packing in a chicken quesadilla, fajita steak nachos, and mini chicken chimichangas, this calorie bomb is enough to weigh you down for days.

"If you're going to order this, I hope you have a crowd of people to share it with because it contains 2,000 calories," says Pine. "There's the same amount [of] fat in this appetizer as 11 tablespoons of butter! There's also 2 grams of trans fat, which is terrible because we want to aim for 0 trans fat in an entire day."

To top it off, this item contains as much sodium as 20 dill pickle spears.

Salads and Soups

Best: Mango Chicken Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

380 calories, 15 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 890 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (8 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 30 g protein

"With the dressing, this salad only has 380 calories," Pine says. "The black beans, cabbage, corn, jicama, and mango contribute to the 8 grams of fiber, which is a nice amount. Ladies need at least 25 grams per day, while men need 38 grams. 30 grams of protein is also the perfect amount for your meal."

Exclude the dressing, and you can cut the calorie count even lower and have a properly balanced salad that fills you up until your next meal.

Worst: Grande Taco Salad with Seasoned Ground Beef and Ranch

940 calories, 73 g fat (22 g saturated fat), 2,000 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (11 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 31 g protein

"The recommendation for sodium is 2,300 milligrams per day, assuming you don't have any blood pressure or heart issues," says Pine. "With this salad alone, you've almost met that limit."

You would be much better off sticking to the chicken tortilla soup, as suggested by Pine already.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Enchiladas

Best: Tomatillo Enchiladas – Spinach & Mushroom with Cilantro Lime Rice

420 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 910 mg sodium, 74 g carbs (8 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 12 g protein

"Not only are these enchiladas only 420 calories, but they also come with a side of cilantro-lime rice," says Pine. "I would even order an extra side of black beans for 200 more calories and feel good about it. I love that these enchiladas contain vegetables, which are items that people typically don't consume when visiting Mexican restaurants. They contribute to the 8 grams of fiber."

Given the variety of ingredients and the low-calorie count, you can't go wrong with the Tomatillo Enchiladas to curb your cravings.

Worst: Ranchiladas

1,150 calories, 126 g fat (54 g saturated fat), 2,410 mg sodium, 53 g carbs (9 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 80 g protein

"If I'm going to order enchiladas, I want the whole package, which means rice and beans, too," says Pine. "The horrific numbers for these enchiladas don't include rice or beans! They do come with an entire steak and are then smothered in chile con carne. All of the meat and cheese must be what is contributing to the whopping 126 grams of fat in this dish! That's like eating 9 regular size Snicker's bars worth of fat. There's also the same amount of sodium as eating 212 potato chips!"

Tacos

Best: Grilled Fish Tacos Del Mar (1)

370 calories, 20 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (7 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 22 g protein

"Even though you don't get sides with the grilled fish tacos, they're only 370 calories [apiece], which leaves room to order a side of black beans or sautéed veggies," says Pine. "I was shocked to see that the tacos only have 610 milligrams of sodium, which is actually quite low for a restaurant entrée! Grilled fish is a great option to get in those healthy omega-3 fats that aid in brain and heart health."

Definitely opt to get 2 tacos over the 3 taco meal, and you can still get enough calories in to feel full for an afternoon or evening.

Worst: Dos XX Fish Tacos (3)

1,510 calories, 102 g fat (28 g saturated fat), 3,650 mg sodium, 105 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 41 g protein

"These tacos don't come with rice or beans, so the numbers seem so high for only tacos," says Pine. "Some people eat this many calories in an entire day! You get the same amount of fat as eating 25 slices of bacon and the same amount of sodium as eating 322 potato chips."

With only three tacos per order, this menu item packs in enough poor nutrition to derail your diet for the day. Do your body a favor and select any other taco.

Fajitas

Best: Border Smart Chicken Fajitas

650 calories, 13 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 1,500 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (20 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 53 g protein

Standing as one of On The Border's signature diet-conscious items, the Border Smart Chicken Fajita is one of the healthiest, well-rounded options on the entire menu.

"I like this option because beans, rice, and corn tortillas are included in the 650 calories! Not bad for an entire restaurant entrée," says Pine.

Worst: Classic Carnitas Fajitas

760 calories, 65 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 1,840 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 34 g protein

"The calories don't include rice, beans, and fajita condiments that typically come with this type of dish," Pine says. "So, you're easily looking at way more than 1,000 calories if you include the other items."

In addition to the standard amount of packed in fat and calories, something even more sinister lurks in this meal.

"I really don't like the 1.5 grams of trans fat," says Pine. "While that number looks low, we should really be consuming zero grams in an entire day. Trans fat is the very bad type of fat that can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol."

Burritos & Chimis

Best: Veggie Burrito (without Sauce) & Cilantro Lime Rice

on the border veggie burrito with salsa on the side Courtesy of On The Border
770 calories, 34 g fat (16 g saturated fat), 1,810 mg sodium, 91 g carbs (4 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 28 g protein

"This burrito still contains quite a few calories—but that includes a side of cilantro rice," says Pine. "If you omit the side of rice, you could save yourself 180 calories and 37 grams of carbs. Order a side of sautéed veggies instead."

To save a few carbs and calories, even consider omitting the tortilla or try a burrito bowl in its place.

Worst: The Big Bordurrito with Steak

1,750 calories, 98 g fat (36 g saturated fat), 3,770 mg sodium, 156 g carbs (13 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 69 g protein

While you may imagine a deep-fried chimichanga securing its spot as the most unhealthy item in this category, The Big Bordurrito packs in enough saturated fat and carbs to give any option a run for its money.

"Once again, these horrific number[s] don't include any rice or beans," says Pine. "At 1,750 calories, 98 grams of fat, and 156 grams of carbohydrates, that's like eating the same amount of carbs as in 22 Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies."

Favorites

Best: Mexican Grilled Chicken with Salsa Fresca

630 calories, 18 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 2,510 mg sodium, 60 g carbs (8 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 59 g protein

"The Mexican grilled chicken is a respectable choice," Pine says. "I like this dish because it is high in protein, comes with veggies, and is low in saturated fat at only 3 grams. Make this dish even better by ordering double veggies and ditching the rice."

The sodium content in this menu item may be the only worrisome aspect, thanks to the over a teaspoon of salt found in this dish.

Worst: Carne Asada

990 calories, 65 g fat (20 g saturated fat), 2,920 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (6 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 49 g protein

Despite its standing as a menu favorite, the Carne Asada can't benefit your diet in any way.

"This entrée does include veggies, side of rice, and seasoned butter," Pine says. "It also has 1.5 grams of trans fat and the same amount of sodium as 108 mini pretzels. You could turn this into a better option by ditching the rice and ordering a double portion of veggies and omitting the seasoned butter."

Sides

Best: Sautéed Vegetables

grilled vegetables on a platter Shutterstock
90 calories, 7 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 2 g protein

"Sauteed veggies are my pick for best side because most of us don't eat enough of these nutrient powerhouses," Pine says. "The shrimp skewer side and the avocado slices/guac could be good options as well, but we're probably already getting enough protein and fat from other areas of the meal. The 250 milligrams of sodium are also lower than any of the rice or bean sides."

Worst: Empanadas – Ground Beef (2) with Queso

510 calories, 35 g fat (16 g saturated fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 18 g protein

Adding sides to an already-full meal always treads into perilous dietary territory, and this empanada proves no different.

"You really don't need the extra calories that come with this fried side," says Pine. "You could get 6 orders of avocado slices for that amount or 10 orders of the grilled shrimp skewer."

Desserts

Best: Caramel Churros

810 calories, 32 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 119 g carbs (5 g fiber, 73 g sugar), 10 g protein

"My guess is that you'll be full by the time you get to the end of your meal, but if you need a sweet treat, the caramel churros are one of the better options," says Pine. "Better yet, there's two to an order, so share with your friend."

Worst: Border Brownie Sundae With Vanilla Ice Cream

1,340 calories, 69 g fat (32 g saturated fat), 640 mg sodium, 164 g carbs (7 g fiber, 128 g sugar), 16 g protein

Just like sides, tacking dessert onto a meal can add on a surprising amount of extra calories, and the Border Brownie Sundae stands as the worst offender.

"This sundae has more calories than many of the savory menu options at 1,340," says Pine. "You'll get 32 grams of saturated fat, which is too high, and 128 grams of sugar, which is comparable to eating 32 sugar cubes."

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Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more