Whole Story

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Make it Natural: Taco Salad

By Kate Rowe, April 8, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Kate Rowe
Kristin, one of our Whole Story readers, sent us her idea for a recipe makeover: Taco Salad The dish my mom makes for every family gathering is taco salad. I've lightened it up a little by using ground turkey (or, sometimes, black beans) instead of beef, low-sodium, all-natural taco seasoning, hormone-free cheese, about three times the tomato she used, plenty of lettuce, organic blue corn chips in place of Doritos, and all-natural roasted red pepper dressing in place of Catalina (WHY does salad dressing have so much sugar???). Although I've been eating hers for most of my life, honestly - I like mine better! Kristin's right: taco salad is definitely a crowd pleaser. But just because it's a "salad" doesn't necessarily make a taco any healthier-certainly not when it consists of a fried tortilla shell piled high with ground beef, sour cream, guacamole and cheese! We love the changes Kristin made in her version to emphasize the "salad" aspect of this recipe. Check out the recipe we developed for Taco Salad using Kristin's changes and adding a few of our own.
  • By using ground turkey instead of ground beef, we saved about 100 calories and 7 grams of fat, half of which are saturated fat. Any time you're looking to lighten up a recipe that calls for ground beef, think about subbing ground turkey or chicken.
  • A 1-ounce serving of blue corn tortilla chips rather than a fried tortilla shell saves 100 calories and 11 grams of fat. Our salad uses just a handful of chips (about 5) per serving to give a satisfying crunch without going overboard on the calories.
  • Tomatoes, corn, red onion, plenty of romaine lettuce and fresh herbs boost nutrition, not to mention flavor and eye appeal. Romaine lettuce is a smart substitution for the typical iceberg lettuce used in taco salads because it has twice the fiber and more calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K and folate.
  • We whisked up a quick homemade dressing of olive oil, lime juice, honey and chili powder. Making the dressing yourself lets you control the sodium and sugar. If you use bottled dressing, read the label carefully to make sure you know what you're getting as far as calories, sodium and sugar. Or, instead of an oil-based dressing, try a topping of fresh salsa.
  • Beware of extra garnishes on a salad like this. Sour cream may be tasty, but it quickly adds on calories. Instead, try plain non-fat thick Greek yogurt for a creamy substitute.
Send us Your Recipe Request! Do you have a recipe you'd like us to make natural? Post it in the comments section below! If we select your recipe for a healthy makeover and publish the improved version on our website, we'll send you a $25 Whole Foods Market gift card.




Kelly Ross says ...
Scalloped Potato Ingredients 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 1 sprig fresh thyme 2 garlic cloves, chopped 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg Butter 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for broiling Directions Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a saucepan, heat up the cream with a sprig of thyme, chopped garlic and nutmeg. While cream is heating up, butter a casserole dish. Place a layer of potato in an overlapping pattern and season with salt and pepper. Remove cream from heat, then pour a little over the potatoes. Top with some grated Parmesan. Make 2 more layers. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Sprinkle some more Parmesan and broil until cheese browns, about 5 minutes
04/08/2009 2:25:22 PM CDT
Laura Lou says ...
Thanks for the tip on the blue corn--yogurt in place of sour cream rox here, too!!
04/08/2009 2:40:55 PM CDT
Shankari says ...
Here is my version Ingredients 1/2 lb - Seitan (vegetarian meat) 1 tsp Chilli Powder 1 T Cumin Powder 2 T lime juice 4 corn tortillas 1 T Canola Oil 12 cups chopped romaine lettuce leaves 1 cup Fresh corn 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes 1/4 cup chopped cilantro 1/2 cup shredded jack or mozzarella cheese 1 tsp Agave Nectar Freshly ground black pepper 2 T Greek Yogurt Hydrate the dried seitan and marinate in cumin, chilli powder and one tablespoon of lime juice for 30 minutes so that the juices get soaked in. In a saute pan, add oil and when the oil is hot saute the marinated seitan for about 5 minutes and set it aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the corn tortilla into think strips and lay them on a baking sheet and spray some vegetable oil and bake for 8-10 minutes until they are crisp. Take a bowl, and whisk the agave nectar, black pepper and the rest of the lime juice together, add the cooked seitan,corn, tomatoes and onions Arrange the lettuce leaves in individual bowls.Top with seitan,baked tortilla chips and garnish with cheese and cilantro. Add a dollop of yogurt and serve. If you like the flavor of cumin you can sprinkle some cumin over the yogurt.
04/08/2009 2:47:50 PM CDT
Q. Hendree says ...
I have a favorite recipe that could use a bit of a healthy make-over. Hot Spinach/Artichoke Dip PREPARATION TIME: 10 Minute(s) COOK TIME: 35 Minute(s) INGREDIENTS 1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened 3/4 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 oz.) 1 package Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix 1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped PREPARATION Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole, then top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 35 minutes or until dip is hot. MAKES 4 cups dip
04/08/2009 3:09:11 PM CDT
Christy says ...
My family and friends love this recipe. I'd love to see a healthier version of it! :) POPPYSEED CHICKEN 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded 2 cans cream of chicken soup 1 c. sour cream 2 c. cooked brown rice 1 c. shredded cheddar 1 ½ T. poppy seeds 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crumbled ¼ c. melted butter Mix shredded chicken, soup, sour cream, rice, cheddar and 1 T. poppy seeds together. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into greased 13x9 inch pan. Stir crumbled crackers, ½ T. poppy seeds, and melted butter together. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, till bubbly and top is golden.
04/08/2009 3:12:56 PM CDT
Elizabeth says ...
Chicken Parmesan! Mmmmm.
04/08/2009 3:25:52 PM CDT
Amy says ...
Love this recipe, and I cannot wait to try it. I also always wondered the same thing about salad dressing and the amount of sugar!! I really enjoy cooking mac 'n cheese from scratch for my family, and tring different cheeses & kinds of pasta, but am always worried about the fat, calories & just how much veggie we get with it. I sure wish I had an idea about how to make it more healthy & keep if family friendly. Thanks!!
04/08/2009 4:06:47 PM CDT
Tina Laterza says ...
Mac & Cheese, please! Our only recipe is the famous "blue box" brand. There's got to be a much healthier way! Thanks so much!!!
04/08/2009 6:42:18 PM CDT
niki lee says ...
Re: Taco Salad receipe by Kristin..i made the taco salad the other day. It was great, everyone like the taste.
04/08/2009 9:56:48 PM CDT
Kellie says ...
Artichoke Dip This is my very favorite bar food of all time, so I experimented a little to make it less bad for you. Roast under a broiler - 2-3 jalapeno peppers, let cool then chop (more or less depending on how spicy you like it) 1 can plain artichoke hearts (in water, not oil) drained and chopped 1/2 c. Veganaise (in place of mayo reduces the fat and sodium) 1/2 c. shredded parmesan Mix all ingredients and sprinkle some of the parmesan on top. Bake for about 10-15 minutes at 400 until golden brown. For about 1/4 cup of this dip: 52 calories 1g fat vs. Costco: 112 4g fat
04/08/2009 10:11:21 PM CDT
Nina & Kyle says ...
One of our favorite Italian dishes is Linguini alla Carbonara - what's not to love? Bacon, pasta, and a cheesy cream sauce! We already use applewood smoked bacon, but how else can we lighten it up?
04/08/2009 11:13:15 PM CDT
Shari says ...
Instead of Catalina dressing, I just use salsa. There are so many interesting salsa choices. It has more flavor, no sugar. I also use a small amount of Trader Joe's chips with flax and soy (sorry WF).
04/09/2009 10:50:11 AM CDT
Gayle Bradshaw says ...
I would love a good low fat/salt version of Macaroni & Cheese
04/10/2009 1:08:30 PM CDT
Judy Jones says ...
My Taco Salads are made using (of course), Romaine lettuce, a can of low sodium garbanzo beans, low sodium Red Kidney or Black Beans, bunches of grape tomatoes, either ground beef or turkey with natural taco seasoning, topped with cheese, and sliced avacado. My husband loves Low Fat, Low sodium Thousand Island dressing - 1 part to 2 parts salsa.
04/12/2009 9:40:48 AM CDT
Kathy K. says ...
Jessica Seinfeld's book, "Deceptively Delicious", has a great mac & cheese recipe that includes squash or cauliflower. Substituting whole grain pasta, soy milk and cheese would increase the nutritional value.
04/12/2009 4:13:13 PM CDT
Pixie says ...
Taco salad twist: In blender: mix 1 avocado ½ cup of RAW corn kernels 4 cherry tomatoes ½ teaspoon fresh squeezed lime juice 1/4 teaspon The Spice Hunter brand Fajita Seasoning Spoon onto "Taco shells" romaine lettuce leaves Top with alfalfa sprouts Enjoy
04/12/2009 10:11:05 PM CDT
Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano says ...
Noticing some requests for recipe makeovers... here are some o my sandard substitutions for cream or heavy cream: fat free evaporated milk for sour cream: fat free Greek style plain yogurt Susbtitutions for cheese are trickier as All Too Often fat free cheeses are tasteless and they don't melt well. So what I do is use a stronger flavored cheese but only 1/3 to 1/2 of what the recipe calls for. So for instance with cheddar, I would used the extra sharp cheddar or Kerrygold Dubliner and use much less. for cream of something soup: I make a white sauce with canola, whole wheat pastry flour and fat free milk or broth. I daresayone could also use fat free soy milk. If it is to be cream of mushroom, I saute the mushrooms first in the oil, then add the flour and liquid. Ditto for cream of celery. For cream of chicken, I make the sauce with fat free, sodium reduced chicken broth. for a sleeve of Ritz Crackers, I would use somthing low fat and soduim reduce, maybe poppy seed flat bread, or a baked whoe grain cracker. for any Taco Salad always use salsa Hope this helps.
04/13/2009 3:29:11 PM CDT
Elizabeth says ...
Here's my version of lightened spinach artichoke dip: 1 10 oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed dry 4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese 2 T mayo 2 T fat free greek yogurt 1/2 tsp Tabasco 1/8 tsp granulated garlic or 1 garlic clove, minced juice of 1/2 lemon 3 T grated Parmesan Combine all but spinach in microwave-safe dish & microwave on high until hot (about 2 min). Stir to blend. Add spinach. Refrigerate until ready to serve (garlic powder needs time to rehydrate). Reheat in microwave until hot & bubbly. Can bake @ 350 until hot & bubbly if desired. * For Spinach-Artichoke Dip* Double all ingredients except spinach. Add 1 frozen pkg artichoke hearts, thawed and coarsely chopped.
04/15/2009 5:47:25 PM CDT
Jan says ...
I just returned from Costa Rica, and they make some delicious coffee milkshakes there, full of ice cream and other naughty delights, some including coffee liqueurs. One recipe I was given included ice cream, powdered cocoa, milk, stong coffee or espresso. I'd love to see a healthier redo of one of these, with liqueur or not, including something to give it thickness without the fat and sugar of the ice cream.
04/19/2009 3:16:42 PM CDT
Jeanette says ...
Hi Everyone! I love to share GF ( gluten free ) summer recipes. I had many happy comments ( and sales) from customers with this recipe. An ez substitute for any wheat pasta in a salad is using good 'ol rice. Brown of course, for more nutrition and fiber. Also, brown rice and corn pastas work well too. Us GF folks will adore finding more GF deli case offerings when out shopping for ready made to go products. One of my creations was Quinoa Tabouli. Take your favorite Tabouli recipe and substitute the bulgar with quinoa. Slight change..the quinoa needs to be cooked and chilled before combining with the remaining ingredients. *************OUINOA SUMMER TABOULI*************** 3 cups quinoa ( blond or red) precooked and chilled 1 cucumber, peeled and diced 3 small( palm size) tomatoes, chopped 1 bunch green onions, (6)trimmed and finely sliced 1/4 cup fresh chopped mint (optional) 2 cups fresh chopped parsley (curly is nice) 1 large clove peeled garlic, minced for an extra nice flavor ..roasted garlic is so yum Dressing: 1/2-3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (use less to start) 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon of white pepper 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste Tiny pinch of mild cayene pepper Premix dressing ingredients first..set aside. Prep the parsley, tomatoes, onions, garlic, mint(if using it) Mix all together then gently fold a few times into the chilled quinoa. Evenly distribute and fold again the mixed dressing into quinoa. To enjoy the best flavor of this dish, chill for several hours then remove and let the salad warm almost to room temperature Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and pine nuts (optional) DEEEEEEEEEEEELICIOUS, NUTRITIOUS and HEALTHY!
05/27/2009 6:51:39 PM CDT
Linda Nixon says ...
I would like your recipe for taco salad.
05/13/2013 9:16:50 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LINDA - It appears that the link above did not link to the right recipe. You can find the recipe at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/taco-salad.
05/13/2013 4:52:56 PM CDT