Building a Better Nacho



Photo by: DebbiSmirnoff ©DebbiSmirnoff

DebbiSmirnoff, DebbiSmirnoff

This Tex-Mex favorite can rack up the calories and fat rather quickly. Instead of ruining your healthy eating plan, use these tips to lighten up this popular appetizer.

Holy Nacho Calories!

Head to the Cheesecake Factory and order the Factory Nachos with Spicy Chicken and that’ll cost you 965 calories, 31 grams of saturated fat, 52 grams of carbs and 1,390 milligrams of sodium. At home, the numbers can be similar if you pile on chili, sour cream, guac and other calorie-laden toppers. Making your own allows you to control the ingredients and portions so you can enjoy the game while indulging in a lightened-up version.

The Base

With a plethora of chips hitting market shelves, you can now find better-for-you varieties that are made with whole grains and contain more fiber. Some chips to choose from include:

Sprouted tortilla chips like Way Better Snacks Black Bean or Multigrain

Bean chips like Beanitos Black & White Skinny Dippers and The Good Bean Sweet Chili

Lentil chips like RW Garcia Lentil & Ancient Grains

Chickpea chips like RW Garcia Chickpea & Ancient Grains

Remember, it’s still about portion size, so aim for 1 ounce (about 15 chips) per serving.

The Cheese

To lighten things up, choose a reduced-fat cheese, or to really get the taste buds flowing, combine a small amount of a flavorful cheese (like sharp cheddar or pepper Jack) with reduced-fat or part-skim cheese (like part-skim mozzarella). Aim for 1/4 cup of cheese per serving, which averages around 115 calories.

The Chili

If you’re drowning your nachos with meat, your best bet is to make your own lighter chili and add about 1/4 cup per serving or serve it on the side. A few lighter chili recipes to try include:

Quick and Healthy Turkey Chili

Three-Bean and Beef Chili

Game-Time Chili



Photo by: bhofack2 ©bhofack2

bhofack2, bhofack2

Additional Toppings

Other high-calorie toppings to be wary about include guacamole and sour cream. Some ways to lighten them up include:

Using a reduced-fat sour cream

Combining reduced-fat sour cream with nonfat plain Greek yogurt in a 50:50 ratio.

Opting for salsa over guac, if possible. Salsa contains 25 calories per cup, which is much fewer than any guac. If you do choose guac, serve it on the side and aim for 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving.

Serving the higher-calorie ingredients on the side

Other toppings that are much lower in calories and can be added in larger portions include jalapenos, chopped scallions, chopped cilantro, sliced olives and corn kernels.

This lighter Spicy Nachos with Fresh Pico de Gallo is the perfect recipe to try.

Related Links:

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Superfood Breakfasts to Start the Day Right

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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