Chain restaurants still have a reputation for being overwhelmingly unhealthy, and with good reason. Even though there are plenty of up-and-coming chains that focus exclusively on healthy food, and more and more old-timers are beginning to offer healthier options, it’s still very easy to go overboard in the calorie department at nearly every chain restaurant. These Tex-Mex and Mexican chains, however, make it exceptionally easy.
Moe’s prides itself on the use of fresh ingredients, but the end result still isn’t exactly healthy. Burritos and quesadillas can quickly jump to more than 1,000 calories, the most basic order of nachos contains 720 calories, and basic salads can stretch past 700 calories.
Chipotle’s menu is very straightforward, and its use of fresh ingredients has gotten plenty of press (and gotten the brand into some trouble). But while its ingredients may be high-quality, at the end of the day it’s the portion sizes that put this chain into unhealthy territory. A chicken burrito with white rice, pinto beans, salsa, lettuce, and cheese, for example, clocks in at 935 calories, and an order of chips and guacamole alone will set you back 800 calories. An order of carnitas tacos with beans, rice, and sour cream clocks in at 905 calories.
Pancheros has a limited menu of burritos, bowls, tacos, salads, quesadillas, and chips and guac, and its product is high-quality, with fresh-made ingredients. But like Chipotle and other burrito chains, entrées can climb over the 1,000 calorie mark if you’re not careful, and Pancheros has one add-on that’s unhealthier than anything Chipotle offers: queso sauce, which contains 370 calories per 4.6-ounce serving.
Taco Bell has actually been making a real effort to improve the quality of its food in recent years, like reducing sodium, removing artificial colors and flavors, and removing trans fat and high fructose corn syrup from its menus. That said, the bulk of the menu is still very high in calories. Most breakfast items contain more than 600 calories; the XXL Grilled Stuft Burritos contain more than 800 calories, the signature Nachos BellGrande contains 760 calories, and many dishes are covered in cheese sauce.
Taco Bueno makes little to no effort to serve low-calorie foods. Only a couple salads are on offer, and these are a 159-calorie nacho salad and a 1,043-calorie taco salad. The popular Big Ol’ Burrito (filled with ground beef and chili) contains nearly 800 calories, and nearly all platters top out at more than 1,000 calories. Meats are fresh and salsas are made from scratch, so that’s a plus, however.
Green Burrito and Red Burrito have partnered with Carl’s, Jr. and Hardee’s, respectively, and many locations share a space. The menu is rather limited but still has that Hallmark zany quality of its partner chain, with plenty of high-calorie menu items to boot. Burritos top out at over 700 calories, nachos contain 900 or more calories, and taco salads range from 770 to 850 calories.
Del Taco has a pretty wide-ranging menu of tacos, burritos, bowls, quesadillas, and nachos, as well as American fast-food standards like burgers and fries. While the Fresca Bowls aren’t too bad, averaging 570 calories, burritos top out at 1,160 calories (the Epic Chicken Chipotle Ranch Burrito), the double cheeseburger contains 720 calories, nachos average 950 calories, and combos can top out at nearly 1,200 calories.
Taco John’s takes a slightly more fast food-centric approach than its competition, with some spectacularly unhealthy menu items. It offers a “Walking Taco” (with chips, ground beef, cheese, and other toppings) that contains more than 500 calories; an order of Potato Oles (similar to tater tots) contains 1,090 calories; a five-ounce order of wings (the smallest available) contains more than 400 calories; and if you want to scramble up some of those Potato Oles with eggs, sausage, and cheese for breakfast, they’ll set you back 1,190 calories.
Yelp/ Hena K.
On the Border may have more menu items that top 1,000 calories than any chain out there. Their Border Sampler (pictured) contains 1,940 calories, brisket quesadillas contain 1,310, their stacked nachos with steak contain an insane 1,740, enchiladas range from 810 to 1,560 calories, and an order of three Dos XX Fish Tacos contains an unconscionable 2,030 calories. If you're thinking about finishing your plate, we suggest you reconsider.