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The Worst Dish You Should Never Order at a Mexican Restaurant

It's time to break up with this go-to favorite, once and for all.
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When dining out at a Mexican restaurant, it's almost inevitable that you'll overstuff yourself with tortilla chips dipped in salsa and guacamole before even cracking into the main course. Because this common starter somehow seems to always find its way to the table, it's important to be conscious of what you eat next in order to avoid exceeding your daily recommended values of calories, fat, and sodium. That means you'll want to steer clear of one specific entrée . . .

We checked in with Morgan Brod, RDN, CDN to help us uncover the worst possible dish that you should never order at a Mexican restaurant. This expert recommends watching portion size and balancing healthy foods throughout the day to keep your calorie intake in check, and she says there's one popular meal you should really stay away from at a Mexican restaurant. (Unlike any of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now!)

Spoiler alert: It's probably one of your favorites. Sorry in advance!

So what exactly is the worst dish you should never order at a Mexican restaurant?

Chimichanga

chimichanga
Shutterstock

We know a deep-fried burrito is every Mexican food-lover's dream come true. Unfortunately, it's not so kind to your health.

"A chimichanga is a commonly found meal at Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants and is one you may want to avoid if you are looking for something on the healthier side," Brod says. "Since the dish is a fried burrito, not only does it have the ingredients of a typical burrito—which can vary between different types of meats, cheeses, vegetables, beans, rice, and sauces—but also it's fried."

Deep-fried foods are not ideal for your health because they tend to be very high in both saturated and trans fats, Brod points out. In fact, the 2020-2025 dietary guidelines recommend that an individual should consume less than 10% of their daily calories from saturated fat and little to no trans fat.

"This recommendation is based on research that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease," Brod says, adding that saturated fats can increase your "bad" cholesterol (LDL), which is a cause of cardiovascular disease. "Foods like red meats and processed meats, whole-fat dairy, and fried foods are high in saturated fats. Foods like avocado (often found in Mexican food), olive oil, nuts, and seeds and some fish are high in unsaturated fats."

In addition to the high saturated fat content, if you do choose to eat a chimichanga, you'll want to be mindful of your triglyceride level, Brod says.

"When excess calories are consumed, especially ones from simple carbohydrates like added sugars, your body stores them as triglycerides," she explains. "High triglyceride levels in the blood can also increase your risk for heart disease."

Unfortunately, typical burritos are not always a better choice.

"Usually, a restaurant will use an oversized tortilla. Then pile on the toppings, and things really start to add up [calories-wise]," she says. (If you're looking for some more help navigating menus, your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!)

What should you eat at a Mexican restaurant instead?

"There are many ways to enjoy Mexican food in a healthy way. The cuisine typically includes many different vegetables, legumes, and whole grains in many recipes," Brod says. "Chicken enchiladas verdes are a personal favorite, as they typically comes with two corn tortillas filled with shredded chicken in a tomatillo sauce when served in a restaurant. When consuming this dish, you are eating lean protein, a vegetable-based sauce, and an appropriate portion of carbs."

Yes, you can enjoy a tasty and well-balanced meal! And if you're wondering about sides, rice and beans can actually be a good option, too.

"Together, they create a complete protein, which means they provide all of the essential amino acids our bodies need to function," Brod shares. "They are also both a great source of fiber, which can help fight against chronic disease."

Just don't double up with rice and beans inside a chimichanga or burrito and on the side, since the calories can quickly add up with these carbs. Keep this in mind the next time you're heading to your favorite Mexican spot, and you'll be able to make better food choices!

Samantha Faragalli Younghans
Samantha Faragalli Younghans is a freelance food, health, and lifestyle writer. Read more
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