Taco Bell Survival Guide!

Sep 27 2013
HG UPDATE: For the most recent Taco Bell survival strategies, check out our 2015 Taco Bell Survival Guide! It features up-to-date info on the smartest picks at the Bell, plus tips on special-ordering strategies!

Looking to "Live Más," as they say at Taco Bell? That doesn't mean you need to eat más calories and más fat. Here are our best tips for keeping it guilt-free when you run for the border...

Need-to-Know Menu Lingo

Fresco - Each item on the Fresco menu has 350 calories or less and under 10 grams of fat! Plus, you can order ANY item Fresco-style, and T. Bell will replace the cheese, creamy sauces, sour cream, and/or guacamole with pico de gallo. Think of it this way: Fresco is to Taco Bell what Skinny is to Starbucks!

Cantina Bell - These schmancy-looking items include upscale ingredients, like marinated grilled meats and cilantro-flecked rice. Does that mean these are automatically smart picks? NOPE. Keep reading for the full scoop.

Power Protein - Before you get TOO excited, these double-the-meat (chicken or steak), slimmed-down offerings are currently available at only a few test locations. But maybe if we all wish really hard (and post on Taco Bell's Facebook page!), this menu will soon appear at locations nationwide.

Tacos & Burritos

SÍ! Chicken, Steak, or Beef Soft Tacos

1 soft taco: 160 - 200 calories, 5 - 9g fat, 450 - 500mg sodium, 16 - 18g carbs, 2 - 3g fiber, 1 - 2g sugars, 9 - 13g protein -- PointsPlus® value 4 - 5*

1 Fresco soft taco: 140 - 160 calories, 3.5 - 7g fat, 410 - 490mg sodium, 16 - 18g carbs, 2 - 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 8 - 11g protein -- PointsPlus® value 3 - 4*

Whether you go regular or Fresco-style, soft tacos are among the best options on the menu. You could have three Fresco Chicken Soft Tacos for 420 calories and 10.5g fat... That oughta satisfy!

NO! Cantina Burrito

1 burrito: 720 - 760 calories, 25 - 28g fat, 1,710 - 1,920mg sodium, 94 - 104g carbs, 12 - 17g fiber, 7 - 8g sugars, 20 - 33g protein -- PointsPlus® value 18 - 19*

It looks like it could be the fresh and virtuous burrito of your dreams, but even the Veggie version is trouble. (It also comes in Chicken and Steak.) We suspect that's because a) it's large, and b) rice + beans + creamy dressing + giant tortilla = many, many, many calories. Pass!

SÍ! Burrito Supreme

1 burrito: 390 - 420 calories, 12 - 16g fat, 1,050 - 1,140mg sodium, 51 - 52g carbs, 6 - 8g fiber, 4 - 5g sugars, 17 - 20g protein -- PointsPlus® value 10 - 11*

1 Fresco burrito: 340 - 350 calories, 8 - 9g fat, 1,020 - 1,090mg sodium, 49 - 50g carbs, 6 - 7g fiber, 4g sugars, 18g protein -- PointsPlus® value 8 - 9*

What a difference from the aforementioned burrito bombs! The Fresco picks are our preference -- choose from Chicken and Steak -- but the originals won't do you in. And they'll certainly fill you up.

Curious about those Doritos Locos Tacos? They're not that much higher in calories or fat than the other tacos on the menu. The basics (not Supreme) each have 160 - 170 calories and 10g fat (PointsPlus® value 4*). We'd suggest getting one Fresco-style to slim down those stats.

Known Offenders: Nachos & Taco Salad

From Cheesy to Volcano - The nachos are so not worth it, whether in their simplest chips 'n cheese form (290 calories and 16g fat) or the over-the-top concoction that is the Volcano Nachos (990 calories and 59g fat). Skip 'em all, and whip up some cheesy items at home -- click here and here for a couple of HG classics.

See Ya, Salads - We often remind people that salads aren't always the smartest choices on the menu, and these guys are proof. The Fiesta Taco Salads have 730 - 780 calories and 35 - 42g fat! Your best bet is to get the Chicken version Fresco-style, and ditch that massive shell. Or make our absurdly adorable recipe for Tiny Taco Salads!

Specialty Items

SÍ! Cantina Bowl

1 bowl: 510 - 550 calories, 20 - 23g fat, 1,240 - 1,450mg sodium, 59 - 69g carbs, 9 - 14g fiber, 4g sugars, 14 - 26g protein -- PointsPlus® value 13 - 14*

This item could use some tweaks, but you shouldn't count it out. Slim down the stats by skipping the creamy cilantro dressing, guacamole, and/or even the rice. It's a nice complete meal, with chicken, steak, or veggies!
1 quesadilla: 960 calories, 45g fat, 2,070mg sodium, 97g carbs, 9g fiber, 10g sugars, 43g protein -- PointsPlus® value 25*

This is a limited-time-only item. (Thank goodness.) It's oozing with beef and cheese, and it comes with a SIDE of chips, salsa, and sour cream. BONKERS.

Need a side dish? The Black Beans and Rice is our pick, with 180 calories and 4g fat, plus 5g fiber and 6g protein (PointsPlus® value 4*). Add some pico de gallo or Border Sauce to kick it up a notch.

Taco Swapo Recipe Roundup

Hungry Grilled Nacho Wrap - When you want something that's a li'l gooey and a li'l meaty, this swap is where it's at.

Por Qué No? Mexi Pizza - The Mexican Pizza on the Taco Bell menu is mighty tempting. However, our guilt-free creation has less than half the calories and a small fraction of the fat!

Twice-as-Nice Guapo Taco - We LOVE the idea of a taco within a taco -- it's like the Inception of Mexican foods. But stick with our recipe, okay?

Spicy Chicken Crunchtastic Supreme - The original poultry-packed Crunchwrap is no longer on the menu, but keep the memory alive with this recipe.

Flat-tastic Ranchy Bacon Wrap - Another HG makeover of a limited-time-only food that has come and gone. Like we WEREN'T going to re-create an item with ranch dressing and bacon...

And for more classic Taco Bell swaps, click here!

Chew on this:

Today, September 27th, is Crush a Can Day. If said can of soda is a Diet Orange Crush, has the crushing already commenced?

Know any Taco Bell fiends? Click "Send to a Friend" now!


We may have received free samples of food, which in no way influences whether these products are reviewed favorably, unfavorably, mentioned with indifference, or mentioned at all. Click for more about our editorial and advertising policies.

SmartPoints® value* not what you expected? We follow the same method as WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) when calculating the value of a recipe: We add up the SmartPoints® values* of the individual ingredients using the Recipe Builder, not the calculator. (Many foods have a value of zero and remain zero in recipes.)

*The SmartPoints® values for these products and/or recipes were calculated by Hungry Girl and are not an endorsement or approval of the product, recipe or its manufacturer or developer by WW International, Inc., the owner of the SmartPoints® trademark.