Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Choices for Athletes
Equipping athletes with healthy menu choices at their favorite Mexican food restaurants can help set them up for success. Taco Cabana is a Tex-Mex restaurant that originated in San Antonio, Texas. It is a popular restaurant chain for anyone desiring a quick Mexican food meal.
Let’s explore some general tips for helping athletes make healthy choices at Mexican food restaurants. Then we will review the Taco Cabana nutrition information to identify healthy choices for athletes.
Healthy Choices for Athletes
When considering healthy options for athletes at Mexican food restaurants, there are a few key nutrients to look at. First, examine whether the item provides a good source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide the energy the body needs to run at its best, thus including carbohydrates with your meals is a great choice for athletes.
Next, consider whether the item contains a moderate amount of lean protein. Consuming protein throughout the day with meals and snacks is important for athletes. Protein helps support athletes with building and maintaining lean muscle mass.
Finally, look at how much saturated fat the item contains. Eating too much saturated fat is associated with elevated LDL cholesterol levels as well as an increased risk of chronic diseases. Choosing menu items that contain lower amounts of saturated fat is a healthy choice for athletes.
Healthy Tips: Mexican Food Restaurants
When eating at a Mexican food restaurant, keep the tips below in mind for making healthy choices.
Tortilla chips are commonly served as an appetizer at Mexican food restaurants. Unfortunately, it is easy to fill up on chips prior to your meal arriving and miss out on the nutritional benefits of your entrée. A serving of tortilla chips is approximately 7 – 12 chips (depending on the size of the chip). Consider limiting yourself to one serving of chips prior to your meal so you can save room for your entrée.
Mexican Food Entrée Choices
Chicken or beef fajitas are a good choice for athletes at Mexican food restaurants. Fajita meat is grilled, making it a leaner choice. Top your fajitas with salsa, pico de gallo, corn salsa, and avocado. Limit the amount of sour cream and queso added to your entrée, as these toppings are higher in saturated fat.
Choosing corn tortillas for your tacos is a lower saturated fat option than flour tortillas. However, keep in mind that a single corn tortilla is typically lower in carbohydrates than the same size flour tortilla. Enjoying your fajitas on a double-layer of corn tortillas can help you get in extra carbohydrates without the saturated fat.
When selecting your entrée at a Mexican food restaurant, try to limit entrees with heavy cheese sauces (queso) or that are fried, such as taquitos, nachos, or chile rellenos (pepper stuffed with meat or cheese and fried).
Healthy Side Options
A great high-carbohydrate side option for athletes is Mexican rice. Consider adding rice to your burrito or enjoying it as a side dish with your meal.
Instead of refried beans, choose black beans or pinto beans (charro beans) as a side item or topping on your burrito bowl. Refried beans tend to be higher in saturated fat than cooked black or pinto beans.
Make sure to load up your tacos, burritos, and entrees with vegetable toppings. Many Mexican food restaurants offer grilled peppers and onions, lettuce, tomato, onions, pico de gallo, and a variety of freshly made salsas you can enjoy with the meal.
Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Choices for Athletes
Keeping the information above in mind, let’s now review the Taco Cabana nutrition information to identify choices that can help you meet your sports nutrition goals.
All the nutrition information included in this article comes from the Taco Cabana® website. Menu options and nutrition information may change as products are updated. For the most current nutrition information, refer to the Taco Cabana website.
Taco Cabana Nutrition: Tacos, Burritos, and Bowls
Chicken and Beef Fajita Tacos
Fajitas are a great choice for athletes at Taco Cabana, providing both lean protein and carbohydrates. The chicken fajita is a slightly higher protein option, containing 18 grams of protein compared to 15 grams of protein in the beef fajita. If you can’t decide, you can opt for a mixed meat fajita taco that contains both chicken and beef.
The Taco Cabana fajita tacos are served on a flour tortilla, which provides 19 grams of carbohydrates. You can opt to swap the flour tortilla for two corn tortillas for a lower saturated fat option. To further boost the nutrient content of your fajita, try topping it with lettuce, tomato, pico de gallo, and a variety of salsas.
Shredded Chicken Soft Tacos
Similar to chicken fajita tacos, shredded chicken soft tacos are a great option for athletes. Each shredded chicken taco provides 16 grams of protein and 22 grams of carbohydrates. Similar to the fajitas, load up your taco with extra vegetable and salsa toppings and consider corn instead of flour tortillas.
You can get the shredded chicken tacos at Taco Cabana on a flour tortilla or a crispy taco shell. The taco served on a flour tortilla is the higher carbohydrate and protein option. The crispy chicken taco provides 14 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbohydrates.
If you are looking for a high-carbohydrate option to fuel your afternoon activities, consider a burrito made with either chicken fajita or shredded chicken. The chicken fajita burrito contains 38 grams of protein and 79 grams of carbohydrates, while the shredded chicken version provides 40 grams of protein and 80 grams of carbohydrates.
To help reduced the saturated fat content of your burrito, consider ordering the burrito without sour cream. Also make sure to enjoy extra veggies and salsas in your burrito.
Taco Cabana Bowl® Nutrition
Another way for athletes to get a high-carbohydrate, lean protein meal at Taco Cabana is with the Cabana Bowl®. The typical Cabana Bowl® comes with a choice of protein along with rice, beans, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, shredded cheese and sour cream.
To make this a healthier option, order your Cabana Bowl® without the large crispy tortilla shell. Also, choose black beans over refried beans and select guacamole instead of sour cream. When ordering the bowl request extra lettuce, tomatoes, pico de gallo, and salsa be included. You can further boost the carbohydrates of your meal by requesting double rice or ordering a tortilla on the side.
Taco Cabana Nutrition: Breakfast
Carne Guisada Tacos
The Taco Cabana carne guisada taco can be a good choice for athletes at breakfast. Carne guisada is a type of beef stew made by cooking pieces of beef in spices such as garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Some recipes also call for the addition of diced onions, potatoes, and jalapenos. The stewed meat is then served inside a tortilla.
The Taco Cabana nutrition facts for a carne guisada taco shows the taco contains 13 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbohydrates. Carne guisada tacos are particularly good on corn tortillas, thus consider requesting corn instead of flour tortillas for your taco.
Although this taco can be enjoyed any time of day, many enjoy carne guisada tacos at breakfast. If you have never tried carne guisada and are interested, check out this recipe from Texas Monthly®.
Healthy Breakfast Taco Options
In addition to carne guisada tacos at breakfast, Taco Cabana offers several other breakfast tacos that are good options for athletes. The potato and egg breakfast taco contains 8 grams of protein and 22 grams of carbohydrates, making it a healthy breakfast choice.
Another option is the steak and egg breakfast taco, which includes steak fajita meat and scrambled eggs wrapped in a flour tortilla. This taco contains 14 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbohydrates.
For breakfast, consider enjoying a couple of the taco options listed above on corn tortillas and topped with tomatoes, pico de gallo, and salsa. Enjoy your tacos with a bottle of 100% orange juice for added carbohydrates and Vitamin C.
Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Side Options
A great way to boost the carbohydrate content of your meal at Taco Cabana is by adding a side of Mexican rice. A half-cup (4-oz) serving provides 29 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of protein.
Taco Cabana also offers black beans as a side option at their restaurants. A half-cup (4-oz) serving of black beans contains 7 grams of protein and 21 grams of carbohydrates. According to the Taco Cabana nutrition information available online the beans are vegetarian and gluten free.
If you order a meal at Taco Cabana make sure to request black beans instead of refried beans on the side. The black beans are lower in saturated fat and a healthier choice for athletes. Black beans also make a great addition to a burrito or Cabana Bowl®.
Guacamole, made with avocados, is an easy way to add healthy fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your meal. Consider adding guacamole to your tacos and burritos, as well as including it as a topping in your Cabana Bowl®.
Healthy Choices at Taco Cabana
You are now set with a variety of ideas for healthy menu items to order at Taco Cabana. You can apply these principles to make healthy choices at other Mexican food restaurants that you visit.
For additional sports nutrition tips for dining out, check out my blog: 10 Whataburger Healthy Options for Athletes.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.