Healthy Low Calorie Tostada Recipe: Quick Fix

How might you take a GOOD recipe for a healthy tostada and tweak it to be a bit better for a low calorie diet? I’ll show you what I plan to do with a recipe I’ve wanted to try for some time now. Just about any recipe can be tweaked to make it faster to prepare, more nutritious, or lower calorie.

Healthy Tostada Recipe

The recipe I will be tweaking was originally published by Real Simple Magazine. Because the recipe is basically healthy and tasty looking, I won’t be changing it much. But what I do might save from 20-40 calories or so per serving. I’ll also significantly reduce the sodium content. Excess sodium can cause water retention and a long list of other potential health problems.

I’ll tell you why I make each change and hopefully give you more confidence to do the same with the recipes you find online and elsewhere.

Roasted Vegetable and Refried Bean Tostadas

Ingredients (Original Recipe, see my revised below)

10 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed, and quartered (about 2 cups)
2 zucchini (about 1 lb.) thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt
8 corn tortillas
1 15-ounce can refried beans
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup grated)
sour cream, fresh cilantro, and hot sauce, for serving (optional)


10 oz. button mushrooms, trimmed, and quartered (about 2 cups)
2 zucchini (about 1 lb.) thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 corn tortillas
1 15-16 oz. can refried beans (check the nutrition & ingredient label)
4 oz. medium cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup grated)
low fat sour cream, cilantro, or hot sauce, for serving (all optional)

Directions (my version)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss sliced mushrooms, zucchini, and bell peppers with 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Roast till tender about 20-25 minutes.

While the veggies are roasting, place the tortillas on a baking sheet. Brush with the remaining 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Spread each tortilla with some refried beans and 2 tbsp. of grated cheddar cheese. Bake about 5-7 minutes or till cheese is slightly melted.

Top each baked tortilla with the roasted vegetables and optional toppings (low fat sour cream, cilantro, or hot sauce)

What I like

[Summary: Veggies, Protein, Whole Grain, Dairy, and Healthy Fats]

What I like about this recipe is the balance of ingredients. It’s a great way to include lots of veggies. The roasting caramelizes the tiny bit of natural sugar in veggies and gives them a toasted and slightly sweet flavor. Yum! I often recommend roasting up a bunch of veggies early in the week during the colder months of the year for easy incorporation into meals later in the week. In the summer months try grilling in quantity. Or not. It doesn’t take too long if you are starting with fresh vegetables.

(Sweet Bell Peppers: Did you read my article from last week about what’s new with weight loss knowledge in which I shared a potentially important new discovery about sweet bell peppers and weight management?)

In addition to the veggies, this recipe includes a good source of protein with the refried beans, a whole grain with the corn tortillas if you choose them right (look for whole grain corn on the ingredient list or a statement otherwise that the tortilla is made with 100% whole corn), and a little dairy with the cheese. I’m not including the sour cream as an important dairy ingredient because it adds little in the way of nutrition.

So what would I change? Not much.

[Summary: Reduce Olive Oil by 1 Tbsp., Omit the Salt, Light Sour Cream or none instead of the full fat sour cream]

I would suggest reducing the olive from 3 Tbsp. to 2. That should be more than enough. Go with 1 tbsp. for roasting the veggies and 1 for spreading on the corn tortillas before baking.

I would omit the seasoning with salt because some of the ingredients for this recipe already include plenty of sodium. Yeast leavened bread is often a big source of sodium even though research suggests most bread would be fine with far less. Other grain products often have some sodium as well. Cheese is also a common source of sodium.

(Processed foods and restaurant meals are by far the biggest culprits when it comes to sodium. Because most of us eat some processed foods and restaurant meals, limiting the amount you get with home-prepared meals matters.)

Although I personally don’t care for corn tortillas as much as whole-wheat tortillas, when the corn tortillas are baked with a bit of olive oil they can be quite tasty. Also, the whole-wheat tortillas as a general rule seem to have a LOT more sodium.

I initially thought I would change the refried beans to low fat refried beans or vegetarian refried beans. There was a time when switching from the regular refried beans would mean a significant savings in terms of fat and ultimately calories. Not necessarily true any more. Read the labels!

Last but not least I would rethink the full fat sour cream. You can save 20 calories a tbsp. with light sour cream. On the other hand, non-fat sour cream is tasteless so why bother? You would be better off eliminating the sour cream altogether.

I deliberately chose to not change the cheese from full fat to low fat. My logic for this is that a medium cheddar cheese that is full fat will melt better than a low fat cheese or a hard cheddar cheese. Because only a couple of tablespoons go on each tostada the change to a low fat cheese would not yield a big savings in either calories or saturated fat.

Final Result:

Per Tostada

~200 Calories (without sour cream about 220 with 1 tbsp. low fat sour cream)
5 grams of dietary fiber
9 grams of protein
530 mg sodium (this is still quite a bit but better than almost 800 mg sodium in the original recipe from what I could estimate…)

In addition, each tostada will provide you lots of vitamin A and vitamin C and a significant amount of calcium.

By choosing to go with the changes I recommend and omitting the sour cream altogether you can save as much as 40 calories or so and nearly 250 mg of sodium per serving (each tostada).

If you are on a 1500 calorie diet you might have two servings of these healthy low calorie tostadas for a filling meal with 400 calories. On the other hand, if you are on a 1200 calorie diet you might have just one serving and then supplement with some extra lean protein such as some deli turkey or chicken slices or maybe an egg.

Hope this helps.

Wishing you the best,