Keep the crispy shell and cut calories in half with beefed-up salsa-spiced beans. By: Sidney Fry, MS, RD
May 27, 2015
1 of 5Photo: Jennifer Causey
Taco Salad: Lighter, Fresher, Fast
One thing we know: A taco salad in its own wonderfully crisp edible bowl is irresistible. Admittedly, that crunchy fried vessel is an indulgence, but it can't be all that bad—it's a salad, so it all balances out, right? Not so fast. This heaping bowl of yum comes with some high numbers: almost 850 calories, 75% of your daily sat fat allowance, and more than 1,000mg sodium. This is a dish that's too good to bid adios, so we jumped at the challenge of making it lighter.
Classic 847 calories per salad 54.7 grams total fat 15.4 grams sat fat
Makeover 446 calories per salad 16.7 grams total fat 5.4 grams sat fat
2 of 5Photo: Jennifer Causey
How We Did It
We start with the shell, arguably the best part. Our portion-savvy 8-inch tortilla (a smaller tortilla means less shell to fill) creates a still-hefty bowl that holds about 2 cups of filling. We opt for heart-healthy whole-wheat tortillas, which have about 40% less sodium than those made from refined four. Instead of frying the tortillas, we lightly coat them with cooking spray and broil until crisp—a method that produces the crispiest shells while saving about 13g fat per serving. We swap fattier ground beef for extra-lean and use less, adding in some fiber-rich black beans for bulk. Instead of powdered taco seasoning, we flavor the lean beef-and-bean mixture with fresh salsa, which not only keeps it moist but also saves 450mg sodium per serving. A little iceberg adds crunch, and a fresh tomato-and-avocado combo tops of our bowl for a bright, crave-worthy finish. Our revamped taco salad is still a satisfying all-in-one meal, with fresher flavor, less than half the calories, and all the crunchy goodness.
3 of 5Photo: Jennifer Causey
Tip #1: Whole-Wheat Tortillas
Whole-wheat tortillas and cooking spray still give you a crispy shell while saving 138 calories and 160mg sodium per serving over oiled white four tortillas.
4 of 5Photo: Randy Mayor
Tip #2: Black Beans
Black beans add 3g fiber and bulk up our beef mixture to save 80 calories and 3.3g sat fat per serving over a larger portion of fattier beef.
5 of 5Photo: Jennifer Causey
Tip #3: Refrigerated Fresh Salsa
Refrigerated fresh salsa is not only convenient and quick but also flavor-packed, with 80% less sodium than taco seasoning.