By Ali Lopez
MRG Contributor

Lately I have been eating tacos like crazy! Breakfast, lunch or dinner. And I am not talking about your average taco here.

I have been putting everything in a taco and have discovered some amazing combinations and really fun meals. Especially for summertime eating, tacos are perfect. They are quick, portable and CAN be really nutritious with a little thought. They are also the perfect runner food. You can pack a whole lot of goodness in a little shell.

Whether you are just feeding yourself and your family, or you’re having friends over for a fun dinner, tacos are perfect.

But where to start? Since it is still summer and the produce is pretty much perfect, start with the vegetables and fruits. A few tips for building the perfect taco:

  1. Pick your vehicle (a.k.a. taco). I prefer a soft corn tortilla, but if you are more of a flour tortilla lover, go for it (but try to make it whole wheat if you can!) Skipping the carbs? You can make a great taco with a sturdy lettuce leaf (romaine, kale, collards).
  2. Go easy on the fillings. Don’t treat a taco like a burrito. Pick a few really delicious fillings that work well together and add them to the taco. Too many fillings and your taco will break. And that is sad.
  3. Make things bite-size. Since the taco is small, you want each bite to have the flavors of all the goodies that you put into the taco.
  4. Think textures and tastes. The best taco has a bit of creamy and crunchy, and also some sweet, sour, salty and spicy.
  5. You always want to warm up and soften corn tortillas. The best way is a few minutes over a gas flame on your stove top. Just pop a tortilla on the flame, heat it on one side 5-10 seconds and then flip with tongs to the other side for another few seconds. Stack them and keep warm in a clean kitchen towel. If you don’t have a gas stove, you can heat them in a low oven, wrapped in stacks in foil for 10-15 minutes.


The first time I had a breakfast taco, it was love at first bite. I was in Austin, Texas and found a food truck early in the morning and ordered one breakfast taco. Silly rookie mistake. The great thing about tacos is that you can’t eat just one, so you can mix and match your fillings in search of the perfect taco.

I love savory for breakfast, so scrambled eggs, sharp cheddar cheese, fresh chopped tomatoes, jalapenos and some creamy guacamole is perfect for me. Sometimes I might toss in some leftover roasted sweet potato. If you like a little meat with your breakfast, some crumbled, crispy bacon is a nice topper. But you can also go sweet with your breakfast and try a taco spread with some maple or honey sweetened whipped cream cheese and filled with delicious fresh fruit, and maybe topped with a sprinkle of crunchy granola.

But some of the best tacos I have been making lately have been completely unplanned, yet totally delicious. It’s 7 p.m. and I just got home from cooking all day, but I am hungry, and don’t want to spend much more time in the kitchen. I’d rather be sitting outside on the deck eating and drinking something yummy. Luckily my fridge has been filled with some awesome veggies, thanks to some awesome local farmers (@lomafarm) and so I have been getting really creative filling my tortillas.

Loma Farm produce at the farmer's market in Traverse City, where Ali finds produce for her culinary creations. Loma Farm is located in nearby Leelanau County.
Loma Farm produce at the farmer’s market in Traverse City, where Ali finds produce for her culinary creations. Loma Farm is located in nearby Leelanau County.

One of my favorites recently has involved spreading creamy goat cheese on a soft corn tortilla, dicing up grilled zucchini, a sprinkling of leftover white beans or lentils, some cooked kale, fresh tomato and a drizzle of sriracha hot sauce. But really any vegetables work in a taco. Vegetable tacos are a great kitchen-sink recipe for when you don’t know what to make but have a bounty of produce.

Another one that was a big hit was a grilled salmon taco that I made with some leftover wild salmon, crunchy cabbage slaw with lots of lime juice, fresh green salsa with tomatillo, jalapeno, cilantro and avocado. Yum, was that awesome! {See photo of this taco at the top of this post}


So instead of a recipe here, I am going to give you a blueprint for an awesome taco party, whether it’s for one person or a party of 25. I catered an awesome taco party this summer and it was a big hit. The great thing about tacos for a crowd is that your guests do half the work. You get all the fixins ready and then they build whatever they like. Tacos are also a great way to get kids to eat more veggies — give them the chance to build their own. Just put out a bunch of bowls filled with yummy veggies and sauces for them to choose from.

Here are some choices to help you create your perfect taco:

Tortillas, soft corn or flour, or lettuce leaves


Roasted Veggies (zucchini, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, greens, broccoli…)


Proteins (beans, lentils, shredded chicken or pork, grilled steak or fish, bacon, eggs)


Grains (quinoa, rice, millet)


Raw veggies (radishes, cabbage, lettuce, greens, carrots, avocado, onion)


Cheese (queso fresco, sharp cheddar, feta, goat, cotija)


Sauces (guacamole, salsas, sour cream, greek yogurt, hot sauce, pesto, squeeze of lime)


You don’t need to put all these things into a taco, but you can build 2 or 3 tacos, each with their own unique flavor combinations.

Why not try a taco party for your Labor Day party this year? I promise you everyone will love it! And let me know if you make some amazing combinations. Post your pics of your best taco creations on Instagram and tag @healthychefali and @michiganrunnergirl with the hashtag #tacolove

Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at heather [at] michiganrunnergirl [dot] com 

Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here »  She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »


Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »

You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »

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