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Food & Cooking Articles   |  Cooking Tips & Techniques

Build a Better Burrito

Make Your Own to Save Calories and Cash

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietician

Are you and your family craving that spicy, south-of-the-border cuisine? Well, skip the local burrito joint. Those "burritos as big as your head" can contain more than 1,000 calories—even more depending on how many fixings you add. Instead, round up the muchachos and throw a build-your-own burrito fiesta! These quick and easy Mexican delights take just minutes to prepare and are sure to please the pickiest of eaters.

The basic building blocks of burritos are tortillas and beans, which provide a healthy amount of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. By applying the following burrito building tips, you can trim the excess calories, fat, and sodium, but keep the flavor. With these healthy and tasty burritos, your family will be singing your praises and shouting "Ole!"

Cut the Calories and Fat

  • Replace ground beef with ground round or ground turkey.
  • Use fat free refried beans or canned beans of your choice (such as pinto, black, navy, or great northern).
  • Avoid beans canned with lard.
  • Use reduced fat cheeses or cheese blends.
  • Select flavorful cheeses, such as sharp cheddar. Since it has a stronger taste than mild cheddar, you can use less and still have a delicious taste.
  • Enjoy a small dollop of guacamole or sour cream.
  • If you don’t want to swap your ground beef for turkey, brown and drain the meat. Then place the beef in a colander and rinse well with hot water. This method reduces both fat and calories.

Season Without Salt

  • Use fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes labeled "no salt added."
  • Try a taco or burrito seasoning, labeled 30% less sodium.
  • Use corn tortillas, which have less sodium, instead of flour tortillas.
  • Select reduced sodium cheeses or use less cheese.
  • Add flavor with cilantro or avocados.
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Increase Fiber

  • Add extra beans for flavor, protein, and fiber.
  • Make your own salsa with fresh tomatoes, beans, corn, avocados, and onions.
  • Instead of tortillas, enjoy 100% whole-wheat pitas.
  • Enjoy a dollop of guacamole. Avocados provide fiber and healthy, monounsaturated fat.

Round out the Meal

  • Add lettuce and tomatoes to your creation—the colors are appetizing, plus they add flavor without all the extra calories.
  • For a side dish, serve red beans and rice or Spanish rice.
  • Make your own tomato or vegetable salsas, using fresh ingredients and adding spices such as chipotle chile pepper.
  • End your meal with a sweet guava, papaya, or mango for dessert.
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