Nachos, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, April 7, 2010
Pork Nachos
Sandra Lee's Pork Nachos

Every so often I get a big time craving for spicy, cheesy nachos. But when most restaurant orders top 1,500 calories and 100 grams of fat, I know I’d better make them myself. Use these tips to slim down your favorite nacho mix and indulge wisely.

The Base: Chips
Corn tortilla chips are the classic choice for your nacho base. Pass on the flavored “nacho cheese” or “cool ranch” chips and stick to the plain variety — all that extra flavoring usually means a salt overload. Tortilla chips are fried, so pick a brand that uses healthy oils (e.g. canola or sunflower oil) and check the bags for calorie counts. About 100 to 150 calories worth of chips (usually 13 or 14 chips) is a sensible portion.

Choosing baked tortilla chips can save a few grams of fat, but many brands have just as many calories and higher sodium totals. Compare labels carefully or, better still, make your own baked chips at home.

The Next Layer: Cheese
Let’s face it — nachos must have cheese. Stay away from oily “cheese” sauces like you might find on ball park and movie theater nachos. Use the real stuff! Small amounts of really flavorful cheeses such as sharp cheddar, pepper jack or even tangy goat cheese can go a long way. A fourth cup of shredded cheese averages 115 calories, so figure no more than that amount per person.

Toppings Galore
To keep the calories from skyrocketing, pass on heavy chili and meat-topped nachos (make a pot of our lightened up chili another time). Instead, add some protein by tossing on shredded chicken or cooked beans.

Pile on the veggies for flavor — the calories are low, so keep ‘em coming. My favorites include chopped tomatoes, onions, olives, scallions, corn kernels, sweet bell or spicy jalapeno peppers and shredded lettuce. At less than 15 calories per tablespoon, salsa is also a smart topping option.

Creaminess helps to cut through some of the heat from the spicy peppers or salsa, but be careful not to drown your nachos in gobs of fat. Small dollops of light sour cream or non-fat Greek yogurt are fine. You might also try a few teaspoons (per person) of diced avocado or homemade guacamole to balance the spiciness.

TELL US: How do you make your nachos?

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Comments (7)

  1. Ashleigh says:

    Baked tortilla chips, low-fat mexican blend cheese, low sodium black beans spiced with cumin, chili pepper, and cayenne, chicken, fresh tomatoes, onions and avocado chunks.

  2. @MomDarLena says:

    I like to use a can of fat free refried beans (don't need lard thank you) on our tacos so this would also be a great addition for making your own nachos, that plus what Ashleight just mentioned, I also make my own Ranch using skim milk, whip it a little & put it in the fridge & it'll thicken up in no time. (I do use regular mayonnaise though.) thanks for the tips

  3. We use veggie chili and our homegrown peppers and often leave off the cheese. Yes, you can have nachos without cheese!
    http://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/

  4. NoRez says:

    I like to use a package of whole-wheat tortillas, slice them into wedges and bake them in the oven – much less expensive than a bag of processed chips. While the chips are baking I roast fresh vegetables in the oven; broccoli, red peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, onions, etc. Most of it goes in the fridge to use in various ways throughout the week, but some of it gets chopped up for nacho toppings (along with a cooked down can of black beans, scallions and jalapenos.) Instead of sour cream I use non-fat plain yogurt, the only thing I splurge on a little is the cheese – instead of no-fat cheddar or jack, I use the low fat; I find no-fat cheeses are no-TASTE cheeses… I use a good jar salsa but chop fresh tomatoes and extra cilantro into it to add more of a fresh flavor.
    And after typing this I know what I’m making this weekend!

  5. Morgan Wings says:

    Remarkable publish, definitely regret not planning to your USO style dinner. Keep up the fantastic perform!

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