Tasty, Trim Tacos Prepared In A Healthy Way

By Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

Many people say tacos are one of their favorite meals. In fact, we’ve devoted an entire weekday to the delicious dish—Taco Tuesday, anyone? Oftentimes, tacos can be loaded with a lot of fat and sodium, but they don’t have to be. There are several ways you and your family can enjoy traditional tacos while ensuring they’re prepared in a healthy way. Here are some tips:

  • Cut the fat significantly by using lean ground turkey instead of ground beef.
  • Stretch the meat and add beneficial nutrients like iron, fiber, and protein by adding in a can of pinto beans or black beans to the meat mixture.
  • Use reduced-fat cheddar cheese instead of the full-fat kind. At the store, look for packages labeled “light”, “reduced-fat” or “made with 2% milk”.
  • Add in grated vegetables—this will boost the nutrition while also helping you use up produce.
  • Be sure to pick whole-wheat or corn tortillas—they contain more beneficial nutrients than tortillas made from white flour.

Enjoy this scrumptious recipe for a slimmed-down version of tacos. We’ve cut the fat and added nutrient-packed veggies to put a healthy twist on an old favorite.

Turkey Tacos

Serves 8, 2 tacos per serving


  • 1 medium carrot, small sweet potato, or zucchini
  • 1/4 medium head lettuce
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 7 ounces low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can low-sodium pinto beans
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chopped or crushed tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 16 taco shells


  1. Rinse, peel, and grate carrot, sweet potato, or zucchini (if using zucchini, grate but do not peel). Squeeze dry with paper towels.
  2. Rinse and shred lettuce. Rinse, core, and chop tomatoes.
  3. Grate cheese.
  4. In a colander, drain and rinse beans.
  5. Coat a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Heat over medium high heat. Add turkey and brown.
  6. Add grated veggies, beans, canned tomatoes, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Stir well.
  7. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until thickened, about 20 minutes.
  8. Add 2 Tablespoons cooked meat mixture to each taco shell. Top each with 1 Tablespoon grated cheese, 1 Tablespoon shredded lettuce, and 1 Tablespoon fresh tomatoes.

Chef’s Notes
Top tacos with any of your favorite veggies, hot sauce, salsa, low-fat sour cream, or low-fat plain yogurt. Use any type of cooked beans you like. For more heat, add minced hot peppers to sauce in step 6.

September 27th, show us your best serve to help us serve meals to others! Teams are forming now for Spiking Out Hunger, the 5th Annual Sand Volleyball Tournament produced by Operation Food Search’s young professionals group, the Associate Board. Co-ed teams are forming now! Register by September 24th for volleyball fun, barbecue and beverages at Wave Taco, 1335 Convention Plaza in St. Louis. $50/player ($25 fan) – must be 21 or over. Teams typically consists of 6 to 8 players. Don’t have a full team?
Join us and make some new friends! For volleyball fun on the best sand in St. Louis, contact Steve.Baer@OperationFoodSearch.org or (314) 726-5355 X 19.