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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 for Mexican food, it's almost inevitable that you'll overstuff yourself with tortilla chips dipped in salsa and guacamole before even cracking into the main course. The common starter seems to always find its way to the table somehow, so after indulging in the delicious treat, it's important to be conscious of what you're ordering next to avoid consuming too many calories, sodium, and fats. And that means you'll want to avoid ordering one specific dish as your meal.

We checked in with Morgan Brod, RDN, CDN to educate us on the worst possible dish that you should never order at a Mexican restaurant. While she recommends always watching portion size and balancing healthy foods throughout the day to avoid high a calorie intake, the expert says there is one popular meal you should really stay away from at a Mexican restaurant. (Spoiler alert: It's probably one of your favorites. Sorry!)

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, but unfortunately, it's not as 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 it's also fried."

Brod points out that deep-fried foods in oil are not ideal for your health because they tend to be very high in saturated fat and trans fat. In fact, the 2015-2020 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," she further 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, Brod says that if you do choose to eat a chimichanga, be mindful of your triglyceride level.

"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 is a personal favorite, as it 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," she says.

So 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, as the calories can add up quickly with these carbohydrates. Keep this in mind next time you're heading to your favorite Mexican spot, and you'll be able to make a better meal choice!

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