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

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:



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.

Related Links:

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.

Next Up

Building Strong Bones

Be sure you're getting enough of these nutrients that help prevent osteoporosis and promote good bone health.

Building a Smarter Sandwich

Nutritionists share their favorite ways to build a healthier sammie.

50 Nachos

We piled on the toppings to make the ultimate game-day snack.

Better Butter Alternatives

Are you substituting butter with margarine as a "healthier" alternative? Some butter substitutes may actually clog your arteries just as much -- if not more -- than good old butter. Learn more about the butter-versus-margarine debate and find out what butter alternatives to try.

Use Butter Better

Is butter bad for us, or does it just have an image problem?

Touchdown Baked Nachos

Make a football-party appetizer everyone can enjoy, regardless of food sensitivities or preference: gluten-free, dairy-free baked nachos.

Nachos, Lightened Up

Every so often I get a big time craving for spicy, cheesy and crunchy nachos. But when most restaurant orders top 1500 calories and 100 grams of fat, I’d much rather make them myself. Use these tips to indulge wisely.

Bake a Better Cupcake

Food Network Magazine made more than 1,750 cupcakes while working on 50 Cupcakes! Here's what the editors learned.

Related Pages