Few joys in life can stack up to the tortilla-infused happiness of biting into a perfectly crafted taco. From fillings to toppings, hard shell to soft shell, salsa or pico de gallo, the possibilities of taco bliss are endless for your taste buds… but not always for your waistline.
Luckily, the registered dieticians at Philly-based Family Food, LLC., also share a mutual admiration for these tasty handheld bites of heaven.
“One of the greatest things about tacos is that they are so versatile, and can be prepared to suit many dietary needs,” says Emma Donnelly, Family Food Registered Dietitian.
Check these simple dietician-approved tips to prepare a taco Tuesday feast that packs just enough flavor to satisfy your taste buds, while also keeping you in top shape for Zumba class the following morning.
Choose a hearty protein
Shredded chicken, fish, beans and ground beef are staples for classic taco fillings but not all are created equal. Picking a protein too lean can cause your stuffing to become dry, while something too fatty causes grease.
Lean ground beef, like Laura’s Lean Ground Beef, range from 92 percent to 96 percent lean meat. These leaner options are a great option for classic flavor while still keeping your plate healthy. Plus, studies show incorporating lean beef into a balanced diet can reduce cholesterol, LDL and risk of developing heart disease.
Give it some spice
“Traditional taco seasoning packets are very high in sodium, and tend to contain artificial ingredients and preservatives,” says Donnelly. And since Laura’s Lean Beef is a great all-natural option, steering clear of artificial additives is key for maintaining fresh flavors.
Mix your own seasonings with a blend of garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, oregano and paprika into the lean beef for a hearty blend of classic Tex-Mex goodness.
Dress it up
Beware the “four C’s” says Family Food Registered Dietitian Anthony Tassoni. If it’s crispy, crunchy, creamy or cheesy there’s no room for it in your healthy taco. These toppings tend to be processed and packed with sodium.
Instead, try your hand at a homemade pico de gallo with fresh tomatoes, onions, scallions, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice and salt.
Generally speaking, a taco shell is about six inches in diameter and a serving is two tacos—any tortilla over 10 inches crosses into one-serving burrito territory.
While the best style of shell may be in the eye of the beholder, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing:
- Whole wheat flour tortillas provide extra fiber.
- Although corn tortillas can be finicky about breaking, they are the lowest in calories and are gluten free.
- Lettuce wraps are your best option if you’re counting carbohydrates and calories.
Keep it green
Whether you choose to pack in the lettuce, or top with cilantro, lime and fresh peppers—green goes great with tacos. Besides lean green toppings, a few slices of avocado or dollop of Greek yogurt are solid ways to add a healthy serving of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Regardless of how you choose to build your taco, start with a lean, healthy base of Laura’s Lean Beef. To learn more about Laura’s Lean Beef products and redeem a special Philly mag reader coupon click here.