Taco Cabana Nutrition Healthy Choices for Athletes

Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Options for Athletes

Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Options 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 options 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

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 option.

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.

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.

Healthy Mexican Food Reminders

Healthy Options for Athletes at Mexican Food Restaurants

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 athletes with the energy needed to perform at their best. Athletes can boost the carbohydrate content of their meal at a Mexican food restaurant with rice, tortillas, and black or charro beans.

Athletes should also select items that provide a lean source of protein. Protein has many important roles in the body, including supporting athletes with building and maintaining muscle mass. 

To get the most benefit from protein, athletes are encouraged to spread protein intake throughout the day with several meals and snacks (1). 

Finally, athletes should select items that are low in saturated fat. Saturated fat is associated with increased inflammation in the body (2). Choosing menu items that contain limited saturated fat is a healthy choice for athletes.

Healthy Choices for Athletes at Mexican Food Restaurants

Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Options for Athletes

Keeping the information above in mind, let’s now review the Taco Cabana nutrition information to identify options 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.

A Note on Sodium

It is important to note that many of the Taco Cabana menu options discussed below are also high in sodium. In general, consuming sodium in the diet can help athletes with replacing the sodium lost in sweat.

However, athletes who have been advised to restrict sodium in their diet should work with a sports dietitian nutritionist to develop an individualized plan for meeting their sports nutrition needs.

Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Taco, Burrito, and Bowl Options

Chicken and Steak Fajita Tacos

Fajitas are a healthy option for athletes at Taco Cabana, providing both lean protein and carbohydrates. 

The chicken fajita is a slightly higher protein option than the steak fajita.  If you can’t decide, you can opt for a mixed fajita taco that contains both chicken and steak.

  • Chicken Fajita Taco: 210 calories, 18 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates
  • Streak Fajita Taco: 220 calories, 15 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates
  • Mixed Fajita Taco: 220 calories, 16 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates

To further boost the nutrient content of your fajita taco, try topping it with lettuce, tomato, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a variety of salsas. 

Taco Cabana Healthy Options Fajita Tacos

Shredded Chicken Soft Tacos

Similar to chicken fajita tacos, shredded chicken soft tacos are a great option for athletes. Similar to the fajitas, load up your taco with extra vegetable and salsa toppings.

  • Shredded Chicken Soft Taco: 240 calories, 13 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates

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. 

  • Shredded Chicken Crispy Taco: 210 calories, 12 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates

Chicken Burrito

If you are stopping at Taco Cabana following a game, the chicken burrito can be a good post-game meal option. The burrito provides both carbohydrates and protein, which can support athletes with meeting their recovery nutrition needs.

  • Chicken Fajita Burrito: 660 calories, 37 g protein, 74 g carbohydrates
  • Shredded Chicken Burrito: 730 calories, 34 g protein, 76 g carbohydrates

You can add black beans to the burrito to increase the carbohydrate and fiber content of your meal. Also make sure to request extra veggies and salsas be added to your burrito.

I suggest ordering the burrito without sour cream, which will help to reduce the saturated fat content of the 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 Cabana Bowl® comes with a choice of protein along with rice, beans, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, shredded cheese and sour cream.

  • Chicken Breast Fajita Cabana Bowl: 640 calories, 32 g protein, 60 g carbohydrates
  • Shredded Chicken Cabana Bowl: 710 calories, 29 gf protein, 62 g carbohydrates
  • Steak Fajita Cabana Bowl: 660 calories, 28 g protein, 60 g carbohydrates

To make this a healthier option, request your Cabana Bowl® be served in a bowl instead of 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.

Build a Healthy Cabana Bowl

Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Breakfast Options for Athletes

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. 

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®. 

  • Carne Guisada Breakfast Taco: 210 calories, 14 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates

Healthy Breakfast Taco Options

In addition to carne guisada tacos at breakfast, Taco Cabana offers several other breakfast tacos that are healthy breakfast options for athletes

The potato and egg breakfast taco as well as the steak and egg taco are both good options for athletes.

  • Potato and Egg Breakfast Taco: 220 calories, 8 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates
  • Steak and Egg Breakfast Taco: 250 calories, 14 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates

For breakfast, consider ordering a couple of the taco options listed above 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

Mexican Rice

A great way to boost the carbohydrate content of your meal at Taco Cabana is by adding a side of Mexican rice. 

  • Mexican Rice (4-oz): 160 calories, 3 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates

Black Beans

Taco Cabana also offers black beans as a side option at their restaurants. The black beans are a great way to add carbohydrates, fiber, and protein to your meal. 

  • Black Beans (4-oz): 120 calories, 7 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates

According to the Taco Cabana nutrition information available online the beans are vegetarian and gluten-free

When ordering 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, unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to an athlete’s meal plan (3).

Consider adding guacamole to your tacos and burritos, as well as including it as a topping in your Cabana Bowl®.

Taco Cabana Nutrition Healthy Choices for Athletes Menu Items

Taco Cabana Nutrition: Healthy Options for Athletes

You are now set with a variety of ideas for healthy menu items to order at Taco Cabana. Remember, 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 Tyler 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 has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. 

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If you are looking to take your performance to the next level, make sure to check out my new Sports Nutrition Game Day Guide. This downloadable guide is written to help athletes develop an individualized plan to achieve peak performance on game day.

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