Healthy Options at Taco Time

September 12, 2011 1:49 pm
Posted in: Menu Mondays
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Healthy options at Taco Time

Awhile back, reader Christy wrote in to ask me to offer up some healthy options at Taco Time.  A couple of weeks ago, we were in Seattle for a quick weekend getaway, and I noticed quite a few of them around town. We didn’t stop in, though, since there are just so many cheat-worthy, creativeculinary experiences in Seattle, that a fast food chain just wasn’t on our to-do list.

Anyway, Taco Time has over 350 locations in the United States, Canada, Curaçao, and Kuwait (huh?) — but still none in California, so it may be awhile before I actually try their food. Even so, with a quick glance at their website and nutritional information, it’s pretty easy to figure out the “better” and worst options on their menu.

[Update 9/14/11 - Apparently the Taco Time Northwest locations are quite different than the rest of the Taco Time chain, which of course I didn't realize because I didn't actually go in.  This post is about the rest of the locations.  See Angela's comment below.]

One word of warning: If you’re watching your sodium intake, you might do better to avoid this place completely. Most of their burritos are reasonable in terms of calories, but the sodium numbers are through the roof!  All of the burritos — except for the ones that have been deep fried – have sodium numbers in the four digits.  Many of them are 2,300mg or above — which is a full day’s allotment of sodium.

They do offer a Whole Wheat Tortilla for their “Super Soft” tacos (all of which ended up in the “worst” category due to sodium) — which adds 4 grams of fiber, so it probably has a fair amount of whole grains. Perhaps they can use that for a burrito instead?

Even though they’re deep-fried, the “Crisp” burritos seem to be a bit better than the other options — since they’re lower in calories and sodium. But if you look closely, you’ll see that they’re also significantly smaller than the other burritos — so one might not be enough to keep you satisfied. As with most choices at chain restaurants, it seems there’s a trade-off here. I’ll have to leave that for you to decide what’s more important for you.

Burritos – Better Choices

Soft Pork Burrito
460 cal, 690mg sodium, 6g fiber
This is the only burrito on the menu that is reasonable for both calories and sodium, and has not been deep fried. 

Soft Ground Beef Burrito
430 cal, 1,090mg sodium, 8g fiber
Far too much sodium, but it’s better than most of the other burrito options.

Chicken & Black Bean Burrito
490 cal, 1,270mg sodium, 9g fiber
Far too much sodium, but it’s better than most of the other burrito options.

Burritos – Worst Choices

Any Big Juan Burrito (Chicken, Ground Beef, or Pork) X X
580-650 cal, 2,380-2,710 mg sodium, 11-13g fiber

Any Casita Burrito (Chicken, Ground Beef, or Pork) X
490-550 cal, 1,900 to 2,570 mg sodium , 5-6g fiber

Beef, Bean & Cheese Burrito
490 cal, 2,310 mg sodium, 11g fiber

Soft Veggie Burrito
520 cal, 2,530mg sodium, 12g fiber
I hate to put the veggie burrito in the “Worst” category, but with that much sodium, there’s no other place for it.

Soft Pinto Bean Burrito
370 cal, 2,100mg sodium, 10g fiber
I hate to put a bean burrito in the “Worst” category, but with that much sodium, there’s no other place for it.

Crisp Chicken Burrito
380 cal, 540mg sodium, 2g fiber
See my note above about the Crisp burritos…they’re small and deep fried.

Crisp Ground Beef Burrito
430 cal, 830mg sodium, 4g fiber
See my note above about the Crisp burritos…they’re small and deep fried. 

Chicken B.L.T. Burrito
490 cal, 1,600mg sodium, 9g fiber

Tacos – Better Choices

They offer four types of tacos — “Crisp,” which has a hard shell and only comes with ground beef (You can add sour cream, but please don’t); “Soft,” which is a soft flour tortilla and looks more like a burrito; Super Soft,” which looks to be like the soft tacos, just bigger; and “Street,” (I can’t find any online information on those other than the nutrition numbers).  So, I’ll just do this by the numbers.

Street Taco (Pork)
300 cal, 240mg sodium, 5g fiber

Street Taco (Chicken)
220 cal, 680mg sodium, 5g fiber

Soft (Pork)
460 cal, 690mg sodium, 6g fiber

Soft (Junior)
310 cal, 800mg sodium, 6g fiber

Soft (Chicken)
360 cal, 860mg sodium, 7g fiber

Tacos – Worst Choices

The Crisp Ground Beef taco is only 4 ounces, while the Soft and Street tacos are 7 ounces.  Size matters.  I’m guessing most folks will order two of the Crisp tacos — and once the numbers are doubled, they’re not looking quite as good.

Crisp Ground Beef Taco
260 cal, 460mg sodium, 2g fiber

Crisp Ground Beef Taco, with Sour Cream
290 cal, 470mg sodium, 2g fiber

Super Soft Tacos (All kinds) X
530-580 cal, 1,850-2410mg sodium, 2-6g fiber

“Other Favorites” and Salads – Better Choices

Enchilada (Chicken)
230 cal, 610mg sodium, 1g fiber

Enchilada (Ground Beef)
290 cal, 830mg sodium, 3g fiber

Cheddar Melt
250 cal, 470mg sodium, 4g fiber
I found this on the kids’ menu and it’s the only vegetarian option that’s acceptable on both calories and sodium, so I’m going to put it in the “better” category, even though it’s just melted cheese in a flour tortilla.

Taco Salad, Regular (Chicken)
310 cal, 680mg sodium, 2g fiber
This is a small salad in a friend tortilla bowl. Don’t eat the tortilla shell and this becomes a pretty good option.

Taco Salad, Regular (Ground Beef)
370 cal, 810mg sodium, 4g fiber
This is a small salad in a friend tortilla bowl. Don’t eat the tortilla shell and this becomes a pretty good option. 

“Other Favorites” and Salads – Worst Choices

Chimichanga (Chicken or Beef) X X
610-650 cal, 2,520-2,620mg sodium, 10-11g fiber

Nachos (Grande) X X X
930 cal, 3,580mg sodium (!), 10g fiber

Tostada, Regular (Bean)
230 cal, 1,320mg sodium, 3g fiber

Tostada, Regular (Chicken or Beef) 
320-380 cal, 1,600-1,830mg sodium, 5g fiber

Tostada Delight (Chicken or Beef) X
450-490 cal, 1,970-2,050mg sodium, 4-6g fiber

Breakfast – Better Options

The website doesn’t have any information on the breakfast items, but they do publish the breakfast nutritional information (PDF)… so I’ll make these recommendations based on the numbers and my best guesses as to what the options might actually be like. (If you have any insights, please share in the comments!)  

I’m also pretty sure you’ll be better off making/eating breakfast at home.  (Just sayin’).

Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito
370 cal, 580mg sodium, 7g fiber

Cheese Omelet
490 cal, 795mg sodium, no fiber

Chicken and Cheese Omelet
480 cal, 800mg sodium, 1g fiber

Breakfast – Worst Options

Egg and Taters Burrito
430 cal, 760mg sodium, 8g fiber
Adding deep fried potatoes rules this one out, sorry.

Egg and Bacon, Egg and Sausage Burritos
510-520 cal, 1,010-1,110mg sodium, 8g fiber

Country Breakfast X
700 cal, 1,320mg sodium, 8g fiber

Ultimate Breakfast X X
860 cal, 1,620mg sodium, 8g fiber
“Ultimate” is on my list of Objectionable Food Adjectives, for good reason.

Breakfast Platter X X
810 cal, 1,930mg sodium, 4g fiber

French Toast Sticks (Small)
460 cal, 410mg sodium, 1g fiber
Lower in sodium because they’re higher in sugar!

Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.

indicates the “best-of-the-better,” and X indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.

Taco Time Nutrition Information (PDF)

Photo by scaredy_kat.

7 Comments on "Healthy Options at Taco Time"
  1. Comment left on:
    September 14, 2011 at 7:51 am
    Angela says:

    I hope you enjoyed Seattle!

    Taco Time is one of those places that advertises about how “healhty” they are, but everything is packed with sodium, which is so frustrating. But, I wanted to point out one bizarre twist about Taco Time.

    They have two separate identities. On the West side of the Cascade Mountains, (e.g., Seattle), their menu is completely different from all their other locations. It’s at http://tacotimenw.com/. I don’t know why this is – but, it is. So, Seattle folks don’t get the same menu as, say, Spokane folks. They do have a few options on their “NW” menu that are a little better options, like some of their “Fit Hit” bowls (though they are still high in sodium).

    Just thought I’d toss that out there because it is a strange nuance of the ‘Time.

    • Comment left on:
      September 14, 2011 at 8:20 am
      Andrew says:

      Seattle was fantastic! I’m now convinced that the lousy weather is just a myth, propagated to keep people from moving there.

      I completely missed the different menu (and very different aesthetic, interestingly) of Taco Time Northwest! The NW menu definitely has many other options (fish tacos!). A quick glance at the nutrition information shows the sodium to be quite a bit lower, too. (Still too high, but with a little more time I bet I can find some better options than their Midwest Menu).

      This is absolutely fascinating. Obviously Taco Time is catering to two entirely different food cultures. As does any business, they’re responding to demand, of course. It reiterates that we vote with our forks and our wallets!

      I wonder which version of the restaurant they have in Kuwait? :)

      Thanks so much for sharing.

      • Comment left on:
        September 14, 2011 at 10:40 am
        Angela says:

        It sounds to me like you got lucky with the weather. No, really, you came here the best time of year. August and September are phenomenal in Seattle.

        You are so right in that TT is catering to different audiences. I think the Seattle branches were the “originals,” as this is where their corporate office is. This may call for a Taco Time Part 2 post!

  2. Comment left on:
    February 27, 2013 at 12:50 am
    Melissa says:

    Weird that Taco Time NW is only in WA and not in OR, since that’s what is considered the NW.

  3. Comment left on:
    September 28, 2013 at 11:34 am
    Dlana says:

    This is the menu for Ames, IA Taco Time

    http://www.singlepage.com/taco-time-19/menu?ref=yahoo

  4. Comment left on:
    April 25, 2014 at 7:07 pm
    Yousif says:

    Hello there,

    I live in Seattle and really enjoy Taco Time. At some point I learned the following:

    1. There are two different chains which operate with the name Taco Time: The Taco Timr we have in Washington (aka Taco Time NW), is based in Renton, WA and the food tastes really good, is mainly sourced from WA state, and they are big on composting all the packaging and items on the tray. These guys are higher quality than traditional fast food, and I believe they are healthier (they also have a green menu -I don’t know if that’s organic, low fat or what). It’s really premium fast food. The other Taco Time which exists in Oregon (I’ve also seen it in Nevada) is based in Flagstaff, AZ. Their menus are very different, and it doesn’t promote itself as a Northwest regional chain.

    2. If you look closely at the logos, indeed, theyl font and cactus they use is different between the two chains. (One exception I saw to this is the AZ based Taco Time in The Dalles, OR. They are using the Taco Time NW font and logo (you can verify this using Goigle street view).

    3. I only tried the AZ based Taco Tome once, and that was in a Shell station in Nevada. The WA Taco Time does not operate out of gas stations, and the guy behind the counter gave me something other than what I ordered, so though I didn’t compare apples to apples, I didn’t much like the whole AZ based Taco Time experience.

    4. One time a coworker from Oregon and I were discussing this, and by researching on the web pages of the two chains, it looked like they may have been started by one family, and one brother ran the ones up here, and another brother ran the ones in Oregon, then sold them off to another company.

    5. The WA based Taco Time is pretty good quality, and reminds me of ‘Burgerville’, a Vancouver, WA based premium fast food chain which has stores mostly in OR.

    I hope this helps. -Yousif.

  5. Comment left on:
    May 13, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    After eating at Taco Time NW A LOT in the past three years of my clean eating LiveIt, I finally actually looked at the nutritional info and it made me absolutely sick to find out I’ve been consuming so much sodium.

    Never again will I ever set foot into a Taco Time – NW or otherwise. It is not worthy of a cheat meal.

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