Whether you’re cheering for your alma mater on game day, hosting a fiesta, attending a potluck, or grabbing dinner at the airport, nachos are bound to make it into your life at one point or another. Depending on the toppings, they can either leave you feeling comfortably satiated or awfully sluggish after going entirely overboard on the chips and liquid cheese.
As a dietitian, I fully support nachos when they’re done the healthy way. This means keeping the chips in check (aim for around 15-20), swapping out a few traditional ingredients with delicious alternatives, and adding some new toppings that contributes to nachos’ nutrition and flavor profile.
Use Greek Yogurt Instead of Sour Cream
Greek yogurt contains probiotics, the good for your gut bacteria, and about five times the amount of protein than sour cream. Nutritionally, Greek yogurt is a bigger bang for your buck, yet tastes almost identical atop nachos.
Have Your Healthy Fats
Avocado, olives, and spiced nuts are all food sources of healthful fats, as well as fiber and other beneficial nutrients. Not to mention they’re jam-packed with incredible flavor! The type of olive or nut depends all on the nacho theme – kalamata olives are a go-to for Greek nachos, while curry spiced cashews are a necessity for Thai nachos. Just remember that although food sources of healthy fats are nutrient dense, they also tend to be high in calories. Stick to around a quarter of a medium avocado and a small handful of olives and nuts.
The world of greens is so much more diverse than just shredded iceberg lettuce. Arugula and watercress provide an awesome peppery zing, while frisee adds a bitter crunch that pairs well with creamy avocado. Don’t forget the green herbs! Fresh cilantro is probably a given, but parsley, mint, and basil deserve a try, as well.
Legume It Up
Legumes are incredibly nutritious and beans (a subgroup of legumes) are identified as one of the common denominators in the diets of the Blue Zones region – areas in the world where people live the longest. Black beans are usually associated with nachos, but pinto beans, lima beans, and lentils are all worthy toppers.
Use Animal Protein for Flavor
Meatless nachos are just as scrumptious, but if you want to include an animal protein, think of it more as a flavor addition than anything. Go for small portions (~2 ounces or less) of leaner meats, such as flank steak or chicken breast, and don’t forget that seafood is a nutritious option to consider, as well.
Say NO to Store Bought Cheese Sauce
This is the only hard “NO” I take with nachos. Most, if not all, store bought nacho cheese sauces include a whole host of undesirable ingredients. Instead, go for the real stuff – in moderation. Sprinkle no more than a quarter cup of cheese over your healthy nacho creation and enjoy.
TIP: Don’t forget that you can always ask to add or substitute these items on your nachos at restaurants!
Have a healthy and unique nacho topper that we didn’t mention? Share your substitutions with us in the comments!
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