Enchiladas are traditionally made with small corn tortillas filled with beans and/or meat and then topped with cheese and chili pepper sauce. Additional fillings can include vegetables, seafood, potatoes or combinations. Making enchiladas at home can offer you the choice of choosing corn tortillas, whole beans vs. refried, limiting cheese, increasing vegetables and ability to choose salsas/ sauces. Try to do this whenever possible because fast food or commercially prepared enchiladas can be calorically dense, high sodium, high in saturated fat and limited in vitamins and minerals. Often when you eat out at a restaurant a plate of meat-filled enchiladas, heavily topped with cheese with sides of refried beans, white rice and chips can add up to a 1000+ calorie meal! Enchiladas can be a very nutritious meal when made at home or eaten in moderation without unnecessary side dishes.
Nutritional Value of Enchiladas
A single enchilada with beans can be ~178 calories, but for most people they are consuming commercially prepared meat-filled choices.
1 commercially prepared cheese and beef enchilada
Fat: 18g / 27% DV
Saturated Fat: 9g / 45% DV
Carbohydrates: 30g / 10% DV
Protein: 12g / 24% DV
Sodium: 1319mg / 55% DV
Riboflavin: 0.4mg / 24% DV
Calcium: 228mg / 23% DV
Vitamin A: 1135IU / 23% DV
Copper: 0.5mg / 26% DV
Manganese: 0.6mg / 29% DV
Health Benefits of Enchiladas
- Enchiladas actually are high source of 7 vitamins and minerals and a good source of another 10! (high source: 20% or more of Daily Value (DV) and good source: 10-19% of DV)
- One of the most nutritious parts of enchiladas are their calcium content, 1/5 of all the calcium you need in a day is in one serving. Calcium is known for its role in building and maintaining healthy bones by lengthening, strengthening and slowing age related losses. Additionally calcium is used to help the muscles in your body contract, including your heart beat! Smaller amounts of calcium also play a role in blood clotting and nerve function.
- Manganese is also found in large amounts in enchiladas. This mineral is used by your body as part of enzymatic functions, bone formation and making energy from food.
- Enchiladas are also a high source of copper. Copper is a trace mineral that helps your body make hemoglobin as well as also serving as a part of many body enzymes. Copper helps your body produce energy in cells and helps develop connective tissue.
- Riboflavin is used by your body to help produce energy and it also helps change amino acids into niacin. Niacin is important for preventing the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and enabling your body to use insulin efficiently. This helps to control blood sugar levels.
Considerations of Enchiladas
- Enchiladas commercially prepared are a calorically dense food and more than one can quickly add up. Aim for enchiladas with whole yellow corn tortillas, less oil, limited high calories meats and reduced cheese for fewer calories.
- Enchiladas, especially those you buy at fast food restaurants or frozen, can have lots of sodium. If you are a person who is salt-sensitive, reduce your intake or prepare at home.
- Although there is some contention, some due to the cheese and meats in enchiladas, they are high in saturated fats. Nutrition experts like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, still recommend keeping your saturated fat intake to a minimum for optimal health.
Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.