Food Showdown: Can Quesadillas Be Healthy?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  25 comments   :  62,332 Views

Quesadillas are little more than pan-fried tortillas filled with lots of melted cheese. Can these Mexican specialties ever be a healthy choice? Applebee's Chicken Quesadilla Grande contains chicken, cheese, crisp bacon and pico de gallo. Don Pablo's Mesquite-Grilled Chicken Quesadilla includes chicken, cheese and pico de gallo, with sour cream and tomatoes on the side. Which item is lower in calories and fat?

The Winner (?): Applebee's Chicken Quesadilla Grande

Although Applebee's Chicken Quesadilla Grande is the winner in this showdown, we still probably wouldn't recommend ordering it if you enjoy fitting into your clothes. Weighing in at 1,440 calories, 88 grams of fat, 36 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fats, and an unheard of 3,950 milligrams of sodium, don't let the "appetizer" size of this dish fool you. Don Pablo's Mesquite-Grilled Chicken Quesadilla is even worse, packing in an appalling 1,557 calories and 93 grams of fat (42 grams saturated and 6 grams trans fats).

The bottom line: Usually, no quesadilla is a healthy quesadilla—unless you make it yourself at home with low-fat cheese, a normal-sized whole grain tortilla, and plenty of veggies. Skip the restaurant and get cooking with these better-for-you quesadilla recipes.

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  • 25
    One of my favs I've learned if I do partake to enjoy the taste &onlt eatibg a third (1/3) l save them for another lunch/dinner.❤️ - 10/8/2017   8:08:46 AM
  • 24
    Love a good quesadilla! - 9/30/2017   8:23:23 AM
  • 23
    Sad to say, that's the same with most foods served in restaurants. - 4/14/2017   9:39:16 AM
  • 22
    Goodness! Having worked at Applebee's (what feels like a LIFETIME ago), I'm sure I ate their "quesas" often. Good thing that period in my life ended decades ago!

    I am glad the author here suggests that quesadillas can be healthy if you manage what you put in them and cook them at home using healthier ingredients. They can actually be a pretty well-rounded meal if you think about the fact that each of the food groups is normally represented and if you consider that you can adjust your recipe to include more veggies, less cheese, whole-grain tortillas and less sodium and fat in general. I'm due for another grocery store visit, and am always looking for ideas to liven up my stricter, calorie-limited plan. Think I might make plans this time to pick up some ingredients for healthy, low-sodium, homemade quesadillas! - 12/14/2013   3:42:04 PM
  • 21
    My favorite salad is the quesadilla explosion salad at Chilis. Thing is I've never eaten the quesadillas that come with it. - 8/12/2012   9:07:25 PM
  • 20
    Quesadillas are now off my list of Mexican options... - 7/31/2012   12:11:33 AM
  • 19
    I love these food showdowns, but I have to say, some of them are pretty annoying. Could anyone think that a tortilla filled with cheese and then fried would be low-calorie food choice? These aren't even remotely healthy when eaten as a meal.

    Divided up amongst those at your table and eaten with a healthy meal, sure, these fit in. But that's the trick - eating in moderation and thinking before you put that fork to your mouth. - 7/30/2012   9:56:06 PM
  • 18
    I like the Crabmeat quesadillas at chili's. - 7/30/2012   2:37:41 PM
  • 17
    Lol! Thats funny chica. We love quesadillas. It's all about how you prepare them that makes them fattening. - 7/30/2012   11:47:09 AM
  • 16
    We eat these several times a week. I make them with whole wheat tortillas with about 130 calories and use a string cheese or fat free cheese and chicken and even make a breakfast quesadilla with spinach and egg white and 60 calorie string cheese. Salsa is next to zero. I can add canadian bacon for just a few more calories. I use non stick spray in my pan or miso mister for olive oil if I need the fat. - 7/30/2012   11:36:17 AM
    which one can be healthy to eat? the one that you don't eat.

    - 7/30/2012   8:16:06 AM
    We have a quesadilla maker and make them all the time. We use chicken and lots of veggies and just a little cheese. Very yummy! We use homemade salsa for extra veggies and low fat sour cream. - 7/29/2012   8:55:33 PM
  • 13
    These sound delicious. I would like to try them. I know my son used to eat them all the time as take-out food-which he bought. - 7/29/2012   7:21:52 PM
  • 12
    Yes, home made are better! - 7/29/2012   11:50:59 AM
  • 11
    These show-downs are fun!
    It's amazing how restaurants can take a wholesome food and turn it into a calorie bomb! These were a staple in my childhood and when I was raising my kids.

    I eat still eat them a couple times a wheat tortilla, an ounce of cheese, a tablespoon of salsa, folded over and heated til melting on a non-stick skillet. Add a half-cup of beans if you're extra hungry and finish with a piece of fresh fruit. Good and good for you! - 7/29/2012   11:38:02 AM
  • 10
    I love quesadilla's too. I will be making them with Carb-Counter wraps and veggie cheese. I dont eat at restaurants anymore. - 7/29/2012   11:01:00 AM
    Why does anyone eat this stuff? Yikes! - 7/29/2012   10:03:50 AM
  • 8
    I would go a step further - you can use refried or mashed beans (homemade of course) in place of cheese to help the veggies stick inside. Then use a bit of full-fat cheese for flavor (or skip it altogether) and some homemade salsa. (And I love these food showdowns - although it is never a shock how awful the foods are for you - even the winners - when you consider the source. Come on, people, take back your kitchen! - 7/29/2012   7:15:01 AM
  • 7
    I need to make some quesadillas as I bought a machine at a yard sale for $5 and haven't tried it out yet. - 7/29/2012   12:19:22 AM
  • 6
    I love quesadillas. Who knew they were so caloric? I thot they were a healthy choice! - 7/28/2012   8:50:43 PM
    Quesadillas are one of my all time favorite foods. These are a comfort food from my childhood.

    In order to keep eating them, I have changed up my "recipe". I have never fried them, per se...I use a non-stick skillet, whole wheat tortilla, 2% shredded cheese and homemade salsa...this is 190 calories...and it totally satisfies my quesadilla cravings.

    After reading this, I am going to start adding sauted veggies to bulk up the snack into a meal sized portion.

    SparkPeople rules! - 7/28/2012   6:15:37 PM
  • 4
    Quesadillas are usually at two-day meal (to go boxes save the day) but I didn't realize there were that many calories in them. Definitely a make-at-home dish from now on. - 7/28/2012   5:03:14 PM
  • 3
    I love quesadillas. When I lived with my parents, we had a George Foreman grill which worked really well for making homemade ones -- better than frying them! I like loading mine with spinach.

    At most big chains, I only order the quesadillas if we have a large table of people. We don't have a Don Pablos, but the Applebee's one is definitely too much before an entree!

    If you are ever in Astoria, OR, there is a place called T-Paul's Urban Cafe. They make shrimp quesadillas, greek quesadillas (filled with spinach and feta and olives), and all sorts of varieties you wouldn't expect a quesadilla to come in, many of which are probably lighter and healthier than what the big chains serve up. - 7/28/2012   1:28:10 PM
  • 2
    I love them too. I wish they were still available as daily emails! It is SHOCKING that these simple dishes can contain a DAYS worth of calories. And they are billed as appetizers! You snarf this down BEFORE you eat your meal. Ridiculous. - 7/28/2012   11:56:34 AM
  • 1
    I love these food show downs! I am pretty appalled on the calorie and fat counts for these quesadillas, though. In my opinion, everything homemade is going to be better, assuming that you are being health-conscious. There's something nice about someone else cooking and cleaning up the mess, but skipping the restaurant fare is best. - 7/28/2012   11:10:27 AM

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