Are Nachos Healthy?

Is it just us? Or does everyone love nachos? Nachos are comfort food at their finest.

Carby, saucy, cheesy, meaty, crispy, crunchy – nachos can be whatever you want them to be. What’s more? It is one of the easiest meals to prepare in existence.

Are Nachos Healthy?

All you have to do is throw a packet of tortilla chips in a tray (gently) and load them with sauce, cheese, and toppings.

Slide the whole thing into the oven and in no time you will be taking your first big bite.

However, with all the deliciously cheesy goodness that nachos represent, there is an elephant in the room and it’s looking at your calorie counter.

Is your favorite Mexican fare healthy? Let’s take a figurative deep dive into nachos to find out. 

Are Nachos Healthy?

Nachos is a dish that can be healthy, sure, but most of the time it isn’t. Why? Because nachos are a very versatile dish that can be loaded to the ceiling or made purposefully light.

If you order nachos at a restaurant, there is a very good chance it will lean to the less healthy side.

For instance, the Neighborhood Nachos with beef at Applebee’s is filling and delicious, there is no debate about that.

However, with almost 2,000 calories, 55 grams of saturated fat, and 4,400 milligrams of sodium, this deliciously comes at a price, and that price is your health. 

The good news is that if you make your own nachos at home you will be able to make a filling meal for a fraction of the calories and fat.

Depending on your toppings, you could easily make light nachos at home with a total calorie count of fewer than 500 calories.

If you make it a snack size, this amount could be halved again. To find out which nachos ingredients are best avoided and how to make a healthy version of the dish, it is suggested that you keep reading. 

How Do You Make Nachos Healthier?

Now that you know that nachos can be both super unhealthy and, in fact, very healthy, it is time to find out how to put your nachos in the latter category. 

Tortillas

Fried tortilla chips are the backbone of authentic Mexican nachos. They create a base layer from which all toppings rest.

The problem with tortilla chips is that they are inherently unhealthy. They are both high in fat and calories.

This means that any nachos which go big on tortilla chips are instantly unhealthy.

When you learn that the American Heart Association recommends Americans avoid eating fried tortilla chips, you just know that they aren’t doing wonders for your heart. 

The cool thing about fried tortilla chips is that they are a super easy ingredient to swap out for a healthier alternative.

The simplest idea that still allows you to savor tortilla chips is to use baked tortilla chips instead.

Whether you buy them from the store or bake your own, baked tortilla chips have less saturated fat than fried ones. If you source whole-wheat tortillas, even better!

Another idea that will take a little time for die-hard nachos enthusiasts to come around to is to ditch the tortilla chip in its entirety.

We know, controversial right? Swapping out tortilla chips for skin-on sweet potato slices is a great way to give your nachos a boost of nutrients.

Refrain from frying your nachos-bound sweet potato. Loaded with vitamins, fiber, and good fats, baked sweet potato is a healthy option that skips the saturated fat. 

Cheese

Cheese

There is no arguing the fact that without cheese, there are no nachos.

You can replace tortilla chips with a sweet potato alternative and just about get away with it, but nobody wants nachos without melted cheese on top of it.

We aren’t about to tell you to take the cheese away from your nachos in the name of health, it just wouldn’t be fair. 

What we are going to do, however, is to suggest to you to portion control your nachos cheese amount.

You can’t pour an entire packet of shredded Pepper Jack across your nachos and expect it to be healthy.

Keep it controlled on the cheese front and your nachos will be so-much-healthier. 

If you are a vegan eater, these days, there are ample vegan cheeses that replicate the real thing rather well.

If you are feeling up for it, you could even make your own cashew cheese at home to ensure you know exactly what is going into your nachos, and, subsequently, your body. 

Meat (or Beans)

Nachos topped with some form of meat are always going to be a filling and delicious meal.

To make sure your nachos are the healthiest version of themselves, the featured meat needs to be healthy.

Look for lean ground beef, chicken, or turkey, and don’t fry it in a bunch of oil beforehand.

Instead of using too-much oil for flavor, collect all your spices together and generously sprinkle them over the meat instead.

Spices like cumin, chili powder, and paprika are all insanely good at bringing a Mexican edge of flavor minus the fat. 

Another controversial one that dedicated carnivores may scoff at is to swap the meat out for beans.

The healthiest beans that make sense in nachos are pinto and black beans.

These two varieties are low in fat while remaining high in protein and fiber. If you can, try to avoid adding refried beans as these will have a much higher fat content. 

Conclusion

So there you have it. The three worst offenders of your favorite Mexican meal have been found out and seen to.

Whether you want to keep it traditional with tortilla chips, meat, and cheese.

Or, if you are feeling adventurous and want to shake up your nachos’ preconceptions for a healthier alternative, we hope this article hasn’t discouraged your love for nachos, only grown it.

Jenna Priestly
Latest posts by Jenna Priestly (see all)