Healthy nachos will satisfy a craving for the loaded version you’re used to. Bell peppers can serve as a healthy stand-in for chips. Salsa is very low calorie and you can use less cheese and still maintain the flavor. These bell pepper nachos can be eaten without guilt.
Nachos uphold all the rules of the most beloved comfort foods: They’re carb-based, fried, cheese plays a central role, and you can top them with just about anything. Unfortunately, those same qualities tend to make them a nutritional nightmare.
Ideas for Healthy Nachos
Still, the premise behind this finger food makes them too appealing to avoid entirely. Being easy to make with whatever is on hand is reportedly how the dish was originally invented, according to an October 2020 article in The New York Times. Their creator, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not even a chef, but he had a burst of creativity when a group of women stopped by the hotel in northern Mexico where he worked for a late-night snack after the kitchen had closed.
While restaurants often market nachos as an appetizer, an order frequently packs an entrée-size amount of calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
The Neighborhood Nachos with beef at Applebee’s, for instance, will run you almost 2,000 calories, 55g of artery-clogging saturated fat, and a whopping 4,400 mg of sodium — almost double the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit.
Drive-thru options aren’t much better: Nachos BellGrande from Taco Bell has more than 700 calories, 6 g of saturated fat, and more than 1,100 mg of sodium.
Still, one of the advantages of nachos is their versatility. If you make them yourself, you can control the toppings and therefore the nutritional quality. And nacho toppings can be a great way to sneak in servings of vegetables, plant-based protein, and other good-for-you nutrients, while satisfying your craving for crunchy, gooey snack food.
Healthy Bell Pepper Nachos
Ingredients (serves 8)
• 4 bell peppers
• 1 cup salsa
• 2 teaspoons seasoning (try a mixture-chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, pepper)
• 2 cups cooked meat (chopped or shredded), beans or tofu
• 1 cup reduced fat shredded cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.
2. Wash bell peppers, remove seeds and cut into bite-sized pieces. Arrange pieces close together in a single layer on a large foil-lined baking sheet.
3. In a medium bowl, combine salsa, seasonings and meat, beans or tofu. Spoon the mixture evenly over pepper pieces then top with cheese.
4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until peppers are heated through and cheese is melted. Serve warm.
5. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.
• For added flavor, top with chopped cilantro, green onions or black olives!
Nutrition (per 1 cup serving)
Click here to get this recipe for healthy nachos.