Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
It’s time to get real on judging "good" and "bad" foods. Tacos can be healthy or unhealthy – it all depends on how they are made and how many you eat.
To settle the question once and for all on healthy vs. unhealthy tacos, there is a pretty straightforward equation. In terms of calories, the shell matters quite a bit: corn tortillas have fewer calories and more fiber than the flour version, and with both, a fried version will add calories.
But given that there are about a million, perhaps more, variations on what ingredients you or your taco caterers put into that shell, the healthiness factor can go in all kinds of directions. Fish taco catering is pretty healthy and very tasty. The same is true with vegan tacos.
To the bigger question – do healthier tacos suffer a taste deficit compared to unhealthier tacos – you begin to venture into tricky territory. Taste is a matter of ... well, taste. The child raised on a certain fast food chain version of tacos might expect something different from the person who has discerning tastes, who will patronize a gourmet-healthy food truck or hire gourmet-healthy taco caterers for his special events. The child's fast food taco likely is loaded with salt and fat; the adult taco has the flavors of herbs, spices, and better-quality ingredients.
If you fall somewhere in between those two, perhaps it helps to consider these three points:
First, define "healthy": Nutrition science and the public understanding thereof has advanced in recent years. Healthy is not just about calories or fat or carbs. Nor is it the same thing to everyone: An athlete needs nutrients at an overall greater quantity than the sedentary person. Growing children need nutrients in different quantities than their parents. It’s ok to patronize the mobile taco catering cart if it's mealtime or to tide you over; less so if you have already eaten a full meal.
Next, let's discuss quantity: Four tacos have four times the amount of calories, fat, carbs, and sodium of one taco. Six tacos have six times as much. Ten tacos have ... you get the picture, as does any conscious diner.
Finally, ask not what your taco doesn't have: Discussions of healthy vs. non-healthy invariably seem to lead to the don'ts, can't haves, avoids, verbotens, and nevers. People who approach something as fun as tacos in that way are in serious need of a trip to Google (and perhaps a margarita bar). What a little research will show is that some of the herbs and spices alone in the better tacos come with butt-kicking health-promoting characteristics. They include: basil (antibacterial and a probiotic, boosts cardiovascular health), cumin (digestive aid, mitigates symptoms of diabetes, has essential minerals including phosphorus, thiamine and potassium), cayenne pepper (eradicates unwanted fungi, sooths digestion), oregano (antioxidants, minerals, fiber, omega-3s), cilantro (rids the body of toxic heavy metals, aids sleep) and parsley (vitamins K, B and C, anti-inflammatory).
If salt and Tabasco are the only ways your taco maker flavors your tacos, and if there is a lot of frying involved, maybe it’s time to explore. Finer and healthier tacos are out there.