200-Calorie Vegetarian Taco Salad



That’s the number of calories in a fully loaded chicken taco salad from a popular Mexican chain. It’s also roughly equival to the amount of calories a 125-pound person would burn running at a 10-minute mile pace for 15 miles.

Now I’m not saying that you need to think about exercising off every calorie you eat, but I could think of a lot more fun ways to eat nearly 1,400 calories! (It is ice cream season…)


The main culprits for the high calorie and fat count? The crispy taco shell, greasy meat and creamy dressing. So I hit the kitchen this weekend to add some nutrition and fresh flavors to this dish—all while subtracting 1,190 calories (no joke!) from that tally. After a super-sweaty yoga class, this salad, plus a big bowl of chilled watermelon, was a quick, refreshing and very filling lunch.

It all starts with a sharp knife, which makes a huge difference in “chopping” :) down prep time and keeping your fingertips safe. Cube a small peeled butternut squash, then rinse and chop a small box of baby portobello mushrooms. These two hearty vegetables make the perfect “meaty” stand-ins for ground beef or shredded chicken. Bonus: They also make this taco salad vegetarian-friendly!


Clean and chop the other two pretty vegetables that kicked off this post, saute the goods with homemade taco seasoning, open a bag of salad mix and you’re all set!


Don’t worry…I didn’t forget the crunch factor! Serve with a side of nacho cheese Popchips and top with plenty of salsa as your dressing to spice things up.


200-Calorie Vegetarian Taco Salad

  • 1/2 cup butternut squash, diced
  • 4 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 cups romaine salad mix
  • 1/4-inch slice from a medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 8 nacho cheese Popchips tortilla chips
  1. Over medium heat, warm butternut squash in a small non-stick saute pan for about five minutes or until slightly browned.
  2. Add mushrooms and pepper to the pan, then sprinkle the chili powder, cumin, paprika and garlic powder over the vegetable mixture. Stir and heat until spices are evenly distributed and all vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. (Mushrooms will sizzle quite a bit at first. Let this help you determine the doneness of the vegetables—when they begin quiet down your saute is about ready.)
  3. Plate salad mix, top with onion spicy butternut squash/mushroom mixture. Serve with salsa and chips.

Nutrition information per serving (entire recipe): 200 cal, 3 g fat, 401 mg sodium, 1,422 mg potassium, 40 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 9 g protein, 241% vitamin A, 131% vitamin C, 75% folate

Besides cutting down on calories, fat and sodium, this take on taco salad packs in almost a third of the daily recommended potassium for adults (key for regulating blood pressure, keeping bones healthy and preventing muscle cramps). It also serves up 241% of your vitamin A (which helps to boost your immune system and eyesight).

What is your go-to Mexican restaurant order? And are there any other traditionally calorie-packed meals you’d like to see lightened-up in future posts?

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  1. This looks amazing!!! While I love a meaty taco salad the idea of a more healthful dish is totally appealing!

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