If you're craving Mexican food, very often the first thing that pops into one's head is a big plate of nachos or tacos or a multi pound burrito. Nevertheless, calling those foods authentic Mexican cuisine is a bit of a stretch, especially if they have been given the American treatment of deep fry or cheese.

Very few illusions exist about fast food. Practically everyone knows that fast food is bad for you because it's packed with fat, calories, sodium and carbohydrates. However, how bad is Mexican fast food for you? Sure, it's probably not healthy but everything in moderation, right?

Wrong. Most on the go or fast food Mexican restaurants are some of the fast food industry's worst offenders. For instance, Chipotle, while plenty boastful of its practices of sustainable and organic agriculture, is a bit bashful about the caloric content of its food. Independent analysis of the calorie content of a Chipotle vegetarian burrito found that it contained more calories than a Quarter Pounder with fries and a soda from McDonald's. And that's supposed to be the healthy alternative at Chipotle.

Furthermore, Baja Fresh, while not as widespread, is even more in the red zone than Chipotle. A quesadilla, no sides or beverage, from a Baja Fresh pushes the 1,200 calorie mark and is laced with over two days worth of saturated fat, a leading cause of heart disease. Essentially, if you had McDonald's or Burger King for every meal of a day you'd begin to approach these levels of fat and caloric content.

Picking some nachos from Baja Fresh is equally unsavory. Consuming just one order of nachos, made with cheese and chicken or steak, is the equivalent of eating your entire day's worth of food. Weighing in at 2,000 calories and contained a day's worth of sodium and multiple days worth of fat, Baja Fresh nachos represent Mexican-American cuisine taken to the darkest depths.

Even Taco Bell, looking moderately humble at this point, is a blatant offender with its thoroughly American spin on Mexican cuisine, by producing such aberrations like gorditas, chalupas and umpteen varieties of burritos.

So, what can you do to get your Mexican fix without snapping the button off your pants? Take control of what you eat and what you order. Small substitutions can save you tons of calories in the long run. Most of these fixes are pretty simple too.

Picking corn over flour tortillas is a good place to start. Corn tortillas only have a fraction of the carbs and calories flour ones do. Although it may not seem like much, if you're having several tacos, getting corn tortillas can save you hundreds of calories. Furthermore, ask for many condiments on the side. A big glob of sour cream smack in the middle of your burrito can feel like an anchor after you've finished putting that burrito away. However, asking for it on the side lets you be in control on how much you consume. Do not let your diet be dictated by franchise food.

How Bad Is That Burrito For You Really? by Pang Wu