Are Tamales Good for Weight Loss?

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links at no extra cost to you. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Tamales on wooden cutting board. (Are Tamales Good for Weight Loss?)

Yes, tamales can be good for weight loss as long as you eat them in moderation and use healthy ingredients to make them.

As a nutritionist, I have comforted many of my clients who were concerned that they would have to stop eating tamales.

In short, the reason tamales are okay for weight loss is that they are a decent source of fiber and lean protein.

The fiber helps to keep you feeling satisfied for longer, and the protein supports muscle growth and metabolism, aiding in weight loss. But that’s not the whole story!

In this article, I will be doing a deep dive into the nutritional makeup of tamales, the benefits they offer for weight, and how you can enjoy them in the healthiest way possible.

Nutritional Value Of Tamales

As per USDA, a typical tamale of 140 g contains the following nutrients.

Serving size: 1 pork tamale (140 g)

  • Calories: 244

  • Protein: 10.3 g

  • Fat: 12.7 g

  • Carbs: 22 g

  • Fiber: 3.3 g

Potential Benefits of Tamales for Weight Loss

Losing weight doesn’t mean giving up all your favorite foods! With the right balance, tamales could actually aid your weight loss journey.

It Has a Good Amount of Fiber

A stylized illustration of a plate of tamales with a "High in Fiber" emblem above, surrounded by circuit-like decorative elements and icons symbolizing health and nutrition

One of the reasons why tamales can be good for weight loss is due to their high fiber content, which can help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods.

The masa, or corn dough used in making tamales, contains soluble fiber that swells up in your stomach when eaten with water.

This means that you will tend to eat less since you would have already reached a level of satisfaction while consuming fewer calories.’

Adding fillings like beans or vegetables further increases the fiber content of tamales.

It Has a Good Amount of Protein

A photo-realistic image of tamales on a colorful plate with a "High in Protein" label, suggesting the meal is rich in protein. The plate is decorated with traditional patterns and surrounded by ingredients like salsa and herbs.

Protein is usually popular among people who want to build muscles.

But actually, it is equally as important while trying to lose weight as well.

Why? Because studies show that protein-rich foods are known to induce feelings of satiety.

As in they trigger satiety hormones in your digestive tract better than carbs or fat does.

Plus they have a high thermic effect. This means your body has to burn more calories just so it can digest and absorb protein!

I know it sounds complicated, but I didn’t make it up it’s just straight-up science.

If you are interested, you can read more on this here.

Also Read: Are Pork Chops Good for Weight Loss?

Low In Saturated Fat Content When You Fill it With Chicken Meat

 A woman smiling joyfully, giving a thumbs-up while holding a tamale, suggesting her enjoyment and approval of the food.

If you are a lover of traditional tamales, I have bad news for you. It is indeed high in saturated fat because it is made with pork butt.

However, if you switch it with chicken turkey, or salmon. You can easily avoid this.

As you may already know saturated fats are known to raise cholesterol levels in the body, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

I know this doesnt directly benefit you in your weight loss journey. But wouldn’t you wanna put something in your body that doesnt clog your arteries in the long run?

If you keep your arteries clean and your heart healthy you can keep at it with your mission to lose weight without any potential cardiovascular issues to bother you.

Also Read: Are Chicken and Rice Good for Weight Loss?

Downsides Of Eating Tamales For Weight Loss

While tamales offer several nutritional benefits, it’s crucial to be mindful of some potential drawbacks.

It Can Have a High Sodium Content

a bottle of salt on a light brown surface

While tamales can be a nutritious and satisfying meal option, it’s important to note that they often contain high levels of sodium.

Many store-bought varieties are packed with added salt to enhance flavor and extend shelf life.

In fact, some tamales can contain up to 800mg of sodium per serving. This is more than one-third of the recommended daily limit for most adults. Yikes!

The problem with eating a lot of sodium is that it can hold onto water.

This water retention can make you feel bloated and may cause the scale to show a higher number because of the added water weight, not necessarily fat.

It can also make you feel thirsty, some people may reach out to drinking a high-calorie drink like soda or fruit juice to quench this thirst.

It Has a High Carbohydrate Content

the text carbs written on a wooden board

Tamales are high in carbohydrates due to the masa or corn flour used in their preparation.

Although the carbohydrates found in tamales come from corn, which is a complex carbohydrate, it’s still a carb, meaning you have to use it or store it as fat in the body.

So if you eat too much of it, all those carbs will get stored as glycogen and maybe also as fat depending on how much you eat.

But as long as you moderate your intake, you should be fine.

Processed Ingredients In Store-Bought Tamales

different ingredients laying on a wooden surface

Not all tamales are created equal. Store-bought tamales often contain processed ingredients, such as preservatives and high levels of sodium.

These additives can be harmful to your health and may contribute to weight gain if consumed regularly.

I have seen that store-bought tamales also tend to have a higher fat content due to the use of lard in the masa dough.

To make your own tamales healthier, it’s best to opt for homemade or freshly made tamales with natural ingredients and leaner proteins like chicken or black beans.

Not A Magic Solution For Weight Loss

Not to state the obvious but eating tamales alone won’t get you to lose weight.

These foods can be part of your diet while trying to lose weight but no food no matter how healthy or ‘weight loss friendly’ it is can magically take your fat stores away.

Unfortunately, you have to combine healthy foods with an active lifestyle that includes some form of sport or exercise every other day.

To top it off you gotta manage your sleep and your stress levels like its a priority.

You do all that, you will lose weight indeed and not just by eating tamales.

Also read: Best Energy Drink for Weight Loss

Tips For Incorporating Tamales Into A Weight Loss Diet

Here are some practical tips on how to enjoy tamales while keeping your calories in check.

Portion Control

 A minimalist image showing two tamales on a plate, depicting portion control with plenty of empty space on the plate, accompanied by a fork and knife.

One of the key ways to incorporate tamales into a weight-loss diet is through portion control. While these savory treats are delicious, they are also high in calories and carbs.

So, it’s important to keep your serving sizes in check. Instead of gobbling down two or three tamales, stick to one tamale per meal and supplement with a side salad or veggies.

This will help you feel full while keeping your calorie intake under control.

Choose Healthier Filling Options

A plate of tamales cut open to reveal a hearty chicken filling, decorated with herbs and placed on an ornate plate, suggesting a nutritious and appealing meal option.

As I said above, traditional pork fillings may not be the best choice because they are high in saturated fat and calories, which can hinder your weight loss efforts.

Instead, go for lean meats like chicken or turkey. For a variation, consider sweet tamales filled with fresh or dried fruit

Additionally, adding vegetables to your filling can help boost overall nutrition while decreasing calorie intake.

Try adding diced peppers, onions, or spinach to your fillings for added flavor and nutrition.

Limit High-Calorie Toppings

A hand pouring sour cream over a plate of tamales, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar around the plate, showcasing a high-calorie topping being added to the dish.

Toppings can make or break a dish, and tamales are no exception.

While cheese, sour cream, and guacamole may taste fantastic on top of your tamale, these high-calorie toppings can quickly add up and derail your weight loss goals.

I am not saying that you have to avoid the toppings completely, just use them in moderation or opt for low-calorie dips such as yogurt or salsa.

Pair With Vegetables Or A Salad

A plate of tamales served with a fresh mixed salad on the side, including sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumber, for a balanced meal presentation.

Pairing tamales with vegetables or a salad is an excellent way to add more nutrients and fiber to your meal.

You can easily make a side of roasted vegetables or a salad with fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado to complement the tamale’s flavor.

Adding these veggies increases the volume of your plate while keeping it low in calories.

Also read: Is Pasta Salad Good for Weight Loss?

Alternatives to Tamales For Weight Loss

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Quinoa is a super grain loaded with protein and fiber – both of which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied.

When you stuff bell peppers with quinoa and a mix of veggies, you’re creating a dish that’s high in nutrients, low in calories, and rich in taste.

Foods high in fiber take longer to digest, so they keep you full for longer, reducing the temptation to snack and potentially helping you to consume fewer calories overall.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Brown Rice

A vegetable stir fry can be an excellent lower-calorie option.

By focusing on an array of colorful veggies, you can ensure you’re getting a broad range of nutrients, while also keeping the calorie count low.

Serving it with brown rice adds a whole-grain element that can help keep you full.

Whole grains like brown rice also have a lower glycemic index than many refined grains, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent spikes and crashes that can lead to overeating.

Soup Meals

Research has shown that starting a meal with a low-calorie soup can lead to less calorie intake overall.

Opt for broth-based soups loaded with veggies and lean protein rather than cream-based ones to keep the calorie count low.

The high water content in soups also helps you feel satiated, contributing to reduced calorie intake.


You can keep enjoying your tamales and still reach your weight loss goals as long as you eat in moderation and with healthier ingredients.

As I always say to many of my clients. Consider making tamales at home to have better control over the ingredients.

By doing so, you can select healthier options, cut down on sodium, and ensure you’re not consuming excessive calories, compared to restaurant servings.

Also Read: Are Protein Pancakes Good for Weight Loss?


How many tamales should you eat a day?

The number of tamales one should eat a day varies depending on individual dietary needs and the tamale’s nutritional content. On average, for a balanced diet, one to two tamales would be a reasonable portion.

Are tamales considered junk food?

No, tamales are not considered junk food. They are traditional Mexican food often made from cornmeal, meat, cheese, and various other ingredients, which can be nutritious. However, they can be high in fats and calories depending on preparation methods.

Can you eat too many tamales?

Yes, you can eat too many tamales. While tamales can be part of a healthy diet, consuming too many can lead to an excess of calories, sodium, and fat, which may not be beneficial for overall health.

Are tamales fat-free?

No, tamales are not typically fat-free. They often contain fats from the ingredients used, such as meat, cheese, and sometimes the masa (dough) is prepared with lard or oil.

Are tamales healthy?

Tamales can be healthy depending on their ingredients and preparation methods. They are often made with nutritious ingredients like lean proteins, vegetables, and cornmeal. However, they can also be high in fat and sodium, especially if they’re prepared with lard or excessive salt. It’s also important to consider portion sizes as tamales can be quite filling and high in calories. As with any food, they should be consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Are tamales bad for weight loss?

No, tamales are not inherently bad for weight loss, but they can be high in calories and fats, so it’s best to consume them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links at no extra cost to you. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Rahul is a professional nutritionist certified by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and a personal trainer certified through the American Council of Exercise (ACE). He has a special interest in the science of nutrition and how it can impact the body.

Sharing is caring!