For people watching their carb intake or following a low-carb diet like keto, knowing the carb counts of menu items can be important. Taco Bell is a popular fast food restaurant known for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican-inspired foods. While many of their menu items are high in carbs from ingredients like tortillas, rice, and beans, it is possible to enjoy Taco Bell while limiting carbs by customizing orders. One way to lower the carbs is by ordering a taco without the shell. But exactly how many carbs are in a Taco Bell taco when you remove the shell?
Carb Counts in Taco Bell Tacos
The amount of carbs in a Taco Bell taco varies depending on the type of taco and ingredients used. Here are the approximate carb counts for some of their most popular tacos with the standard shell included:
|Taco||Total Carbs (with shell)|
|Crunchy Taco (Seasoned Beef)||13g|
|Soft Taco (Seasoned Beef)||20g|
|Doritos Locos Taco (Seasoned Beef)||16g|
|Crunchy Taco Supreme (Seasoned Beef)||16g|
|Soft Taco Supreme (Seasoned Beef)||26g|
As you can see, carb counts range from 13-26g per taco depending on the type of shell and ingredients used. The main sources of carbs come from the tortilla shells and any additional toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, etc.
So how many carbs are in a taco if you remove the shell? Let’s take a look.
Carbs in Taco Bell Tacos Without the Shell
When you remove the outer shell of a taco, you eliminate most of the carbs right away. A standard Taco Bell tortilla shell contributes around 12-13g of carbs to the taco.
Here are the approximate carb counts for Taco Bell taco fillings without the shell:
|Taco Filling||Total Carbs (without shell)|
As shown in the table, meat fillings like seasoned beef, chicken, and steak contain minimal or no carbs without the shell. The refried beans are highest at 14g carbs for a standard side portion. Cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream add 1-2g of carbs each.
So a basic taco with just seasoned beef, lettuce, and cheese would contain only around 3g net carbs without the shell. Switching the beef for chicken or steak would bring it down to just 1g carb. Adding extra toppings like sour cream, tomatoes, etc. would increase the carbs slightly but the total would still be very low compared to eating the taco with the full shell.
Building a Low-Carb Taco at Taco Bell
Here are some tips for ordering a low-carb taco option when dining at Taco Bell:
– Order any taco with a salad (or bowl) instead of the standard tortilla shell. This lets you avoid the 12-13g of carbs from the shell altogether.
– Stick to protein fillings like seasoned beef, grilled chicken, or steak for the lowest carb options. Avoid beans and rice.
– Load up on lettuce and tomato for added nutrition and bulk.
– Use salsa or pico de gallo for a flavor boost without carbs.
– Add a small amount of shredded cheese like cheddar or nacho cheese.
– Sour cream is relatively low carb and can enhance flavor.
– Hot sauce contains zero carbs and spices things up.
– Guacamole has about 3g net carbs per 2-ounce serving, so use moderately.
– Ask for any special sauces and condiments on the side to control how much you use.
Following these guidelines can help you enjoy Taco Bell while keeping your carb intake low. A salad or bowl with steak, extra lettuce, pico, guacamole, hot sauce, and a bit of cheese could come in at under 5g net carbs for the whole meal!
Other Ways to Reduce Carbs at Taco Bell
In addition to ordering a taco without the shell, here are some other ways to cut carbs when eating at Taco Bell:
– Substitute tortillas with lettuce wraps, taco salads, or bowl options.
– Choose chicken, steak, or fish options instead of beef for lower-carb protein.
– Order any burrito “fresco style” to replace cheese, rice, and sour cream with pico de gallo.
– Opt for sides like guacamole, pinto beans, or black beans instead of refried beans or Mexican rice.
– Build your own meal with a la carte menu items like grilled chicken, veggies, and guac.
– Skip sugary drinks and enjoy water, unsweetened tea, or a Diet/Zero sugar beverage.
Sticking to simple grilled proteins, veggies, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, and cheese are the lowest carb ways to eat at Taco Bell. With some simple substitutions and customizations, you can easily enjoy fast Mexican food while maintaining low carb nutrition goals.
Nutrition Tips for Low-Carb Eating
When following a low-carb diet, here are some general nutrition tips to support your health and performance:
– Focus on getting enough protein – aim for 0.6-0.8g per pound of body weight. Choose lean protein sources like chicken, fish, beef, eggs, etc.
– Incorporate plenty of low-carb vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, etc. They provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
– Choose healthy fats from sources like avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Healthy fats help keep you satisfied between meals.
– Stay well hydrated by drinking water consistently throughout the day. Add lemon, lime, or mint to add flavor.
– Be mindful of portion sizes, even on low-carb foods. Large servings can still add up in calories.
– Limit highly processed low-carb treats and snacks when possible. Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods.
– If including dairy, opt for full-fat versions to keep fat/protein intake up.
– Season foods well with spices, herbs, mustard, hot sauce, etc. to keep meals flavorful and satisfying.
Pairing lean protein sources, healthy fats, and nutrient-dense veggies is key for succeeding with a low-carb eating plan long-term. Paying attention to portions and protein intake helps regulate appetite and energy levels.
Sample Low-Carb Meals and Snacks
Here are some examples of delicious low-carb meals and snacks to enjoy:
– Veggie omelet with cheese, avocado, and salsa
– Low-carb smoothie with almond milk, protein powder, spinach, and nut butter
– Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and avocado
– Keto yogurt with nuts and berries
– Lettuce wrapped burger topped with cheese and avocado
– Tuna salad lettuce wraps with tomato and avocado
– Chicken stir fry with cauliflower rice and ginger sauce
– Zucchini noodle pasta with chicken, pesto, and cherry tomatoes
– Grilled salmon with sautéed kale and roasted broccoli
– Pork chops with roasted Brussels sprouts and mushrooms
– Chicken kebabs with Greek salad
– Steak fajita bowl with salsa, guacamole, peppers and onions
– Celery sticks with nut butter
– Hard boiled eggs
– Berries with whipped cream
– Chia seed pudding made with coconut or almond milk
– Cheese crisps
– Avocado tuna salad
With a little creativity, you can come up with endless tasty low-carb meal ideas to suit your preferences and nutrition goals. Emphasizing lean proteins, healthy fats, and low-glycemic veggies and fruits is the formula for success.
Potential Benefits of Low-Carb Eating
Transitioning to a low-carb diet can provide many health and performance benefits for some people, including:
– Improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation
– Increased satiety and easier appetite control
– More stable energy levels throughout the day
– Enhanced mental focus and concentration
– Increased ketone production and use of fat for fuel
– Better cholesterol markers from increased HDL and lower triglycerides
– Reduced abdominal fat and slimmer waistline
– Lower blood pressure
– Reduced inflammation
Research also shows low-carb diets can be as or more effective for weight loss compared to low-fat diets. People with conditions like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often see significant improvements in health from reducing overall carb intake.
As with any diet change, it’s important to listen to your individual body’s response and adjust accordingly to optimize your personal results.
Potential Drawbacks of Low-Carb Diets
While low-carb diets can clearly be very beneficial for many people, there are some potential drawbacks to keep in mind as well:
– Low energy levels initially as your body adapts to using fat instead of glucose for fuel. This carb flu period usually lasts 1-2 weeks.
– Possible hypoglycemic symptoms like shakiness, headache, irritability if blood sugar drops too low, especially during the adaption phase. Consuming some carbs pre-workout can help counteract this.
– Increased cravings for sweets and carbohydrates due to the resulting changes in hormone regulation and brain neurotransmitters from carb restriction. This usually improves with time.
– Potentially impaired athletic performance for high-intensity exercise. Carbs help fuel bursts of speed and power. Adjustments to carb intake around workouts can help counter this.
– Reduced intake of high-fiber foods may disrupt bowel regularity and gut health. Be sure to still eat plenty of low-carb veggies.
– Very low carb diets can negatively impact women’s hormone balance and menstrual cycles if calorie intake is also too low.
– May increase LDL cholesterol levels for some individuals due to increased saturated fat intake. Aim for healthy unsaturated fats instead.
Being aware of these potential issues can help you make appropriate adjustments to optimize your low-carb diet. Working with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner can also be beneficial.
Sustainability of Low-Carb Diets
For some people, strict low-carb diets may not be realistic to maintain forever. However, there are ways to follow a reduced carb diet in a flexible and sustainable way long-term:
– Find the carb threshold that allows you to meet your goals while still enjoying an occasional treat. 50-100g total carbs or 25-50g net carbs is typically sustainable.
– Incorporate carb refeeds or cyclical carb intake 1-2x per week to boost thyroid function and leptin levels.
– Time carb intake strategically around exercise for athletic performance.
– Focus on carb quality over quantity – emphasize vegetables, some fruits, legumes. Limit processed grains, sweets, junk food.
– Practice mindful, intuitive eating and don’t obsess over tracking macros. Maintain consistency but enjoy flexibility.
– Follow an 80/20 approach – eat low carb 80% of the time and allow higher carbs 20% of the time.
– Transition to a Mediterranean style diet with healthy carbs from fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains in moderation.
Adjusting your carb intake to align with your preferences, lifestyle and health goals is key for long-term adherence. Work with your healthcare provider to fine-tune an approach that is realistic and enjoyable for you.
Ordering a taco without the shell at Taco Bell can significantly reduce the carb content, bringing it down to around 3g of net carbs or less depending on the fillings. Sticking with low-carb proteins, veggies, cheese, salsa, and guacamole are the best options for keeping carbs minimal.
Limiting carbs and following a low-carb diet offers health benefits for many people including weight loss, better blood sugar regulation, increased satiety, and reduced inflammation. However, very low carb intake is not necessarily required. Finding the amount of dietary carbs that allows you to meet your goals in a flexible, sustainable way is key for long-term success.