What To Eat For Health – Part 1: At Chipotle

What To Eat For Health – Part 1: At Chipotle

Hello everyone and welcome to a new series of articles that will look at how to survive, and actually thrive, when eating away from home! Now, it is a proven fact that cooking your own meals at home can be the most healthy thing to do for yourself and your family. It is the best way to know exactly what is going into your body.

However, there are times when you want to, or even have to, grab a bite to eat while out. Eating at a restaurant doesn’t have to be a major sin that completely throws off your health and fitness goals. Once in a while, getting something while you are on the go or going out on a date is perfectly fine!

Now that I have tried to reassure you that going out is OK, it’s time to look at what to eat for health when you actually get to your desired location. This article is going to give you some awesome options when you visit our first restaurant: Chipotle!

Chipotle Washington DC

Source: Chipotle Media

How I’m going to structure this is first, I will give a little background to the restaurant itself, as well as take a look at some menu items and ingredients, if the information is available. After that, I will suggest a few meals I think can be healthy options. Lastly, I will highlight things to definitely avoid unless you want all of your calories coming from one meal.

One thing that is helpful about Chipotle’s website is they have a meal building feature, complete with total nutritional information disclosure! With that said, let’s dig in!

Chipotle’s Story – A Commitment To Quality

In looking at Chipotle’s website, one of the ideas they pride themselves on is the mission statement “Food With Integrity”.

According to their site, they are committed to using whole, real foods without any added flavors, colors, or preservatives. They like to source their ingredients from farms instead of big factories because the quality is usually better, even if the price for getting them is higher. They have tried to increase their use of naturally raised meat, organic produce, and dairy that does not contain added hormones.

Steve Ells, Founder of Chipotle (Source: Chipotle Media)

They are also committed to growing close relationships with the farmers and helping farms grow as the company grows. This includes allowing the farmers to rotate their crops to maximize the amount of nutrients in the soil. More nutrients in the soil means healthier food that doesn’t fall prey to disease or pests.

As for the animals, Chipotle claims to “set minimum space requirements” for all animals used for meat or dairy and try to have high standards for their welfare. In an interesting note, the website admitted that if there is a shortage in supplies, and they have to use more conventionally raised meat, they will post notices at the restaurants to where this meat is going. That’s transparency that I really appreciate as a customer!

 

Lastly everything is freshly prepared and to a high standard, which is probably a result of their founder, Steve Ells,
graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York.

Simple Menu… Many Options

Chipotle ingredients

Source: Chipotle Media

At first glance, Chipotle’s menu seems incredibly simple with four different options for food. These include:

  • Burritos (In looking at the website, I saw only the option for a flour tortilla, though I seem to remember being able to select a whole wheat tortilla. It’s worth checking out if you are in the mood for a one)
  • Tacos (both crispy corn tacos and soft flour tacos)
  • Burrito Bowls
  • Salads

However, that’s where the simplicity ends and the ability to customize begins. This is where your meal can either become a well-balanced, reasonably healthy addition to your day, or a complete nutritional mess!

According to the website, it starts with a choice of protein base that includes:

  • Marinated Grilled Steak (Marinated in spicy chipotle pepper adobo)
  • chipotle chicken cooking

    Source: Chipotle Media

    Carnitas (Braised and shredded pork seasoned with salt, pepper, juniper berries, thyme, and bay leaf)

  • Grilled Chicken (Marinated in spicy chipotle pepper adobo)
  • Barbacoa (Braised and shredded beef marinated in spicy chipotle pepper adobo)
  • Chorizo (Pork and chicken sausage seasoned with cumin, chipotle peppers, and three types of paprika)
  • Sofritas (Braised and shredded tofu seasoned with chipotle chilies, roasted poblano peppers, and spices)

After this is a choice to add rice:

  • Cilantro-Lime White Rice (steamed with bay leaf, seasoned with lemon and lime, and garnished with cilantro)
  • Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice (Whole grain rice steamed with bay leaf, seasoned with lemon and lime, and garnished with cilantro)

Next we add a choice of beans:

  • Black Beans (cooked with onions, garlic, and spices)
  • Pinto Beans (cooked with onions, garlic, and spices)

After this you have the option to add Fajita veggies (which are onions and bell peppers seasoned with oregano).

At this point, there is even more customization with the additional toppings and sauces. These include:

  • Queso Sauce (Mix of aged cheddar cheese, milk, jalapenos, tomatillos, and spices) *There is an extra charge
  • Mild Fresh Tomato Salsa (Pico de Gallo featuring a mix of tomatoes, red onion, jalapenos, cilantro, and spices)
  • Tomatillo green chili salsa

    Source: Chipotle Media

    Medium Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa (Sweet corn, roasted poblano pepper, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lemon, and lime juice)

  • Medium Hot Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa (tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapenos, cumin, oregano, and cilantro)
  • Hot Tomatillo Red-Chili Salsa (Simmered pureed tomatillos and red chilies seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, and Tabasco sauce)
  • Sour Cream
  • Guacamole (Haas avocados, red onion, jalapeno, and cilantro) *There is an extra charge
  • Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

The menu is rounded out by various sides which include chips in combination with various dipping sauces including queso, guacamole, and salsa, as well as beverages. For the sake of this article though, we will be going side-less, as they really aren’t very necessary and put us more toward the “nutritional disaster” we referred to earlier.

Now that we know the options that are available, let’s take a look at some different meals we can put together that aren’t going to be tragic, and can actually be a solid addition to your day.

As a note, nutritional information will be presented in a way that reflects the daily values (DV) for a 2000 and 2500 calorie diet. The first percentage listed will be for a 2000 calorie diet, while the second percentage will be for a 2500 calorie diet. For example:

Calories: 750 (37.5% / 30% DV)

Meal Option #1: Building A Manageable Burrito

steak burrito from chipotle

Source: Chipotle Media

So here goes nothing. It may seem impossible to build a burrito at Chipotle, considering they are the size of small children, but I wanted to give it a shot in case you absolutely MUST have a burrito! So here it goes!

My recommended way to fill your burrito:

  • Grilled Steak
  • Pinto Beans
  • Fajita Vegetables
  • Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa
  • Montery Jack Cheese
  • Romaine Lettuce

You may have noticed that I did not include any rice in this burrito. The simple explanation is that you are getting enough grain-based carbohydrates with the tortilla, so adding rice to that is a bit of overkill.

Nutritional calculation for this burrito:

  • Calories: 750 (37.5% / 30% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 225
  • Total Fat: 24.5g (37.7% / 30.6% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 8g (40% / 32% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 110mg (36.7% / 36.7% DV)
  • Sodium: 1740g (72.5% / 72.5% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 83g (27.7% / 22.1% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 14g (56% / 46.7% DV)
    • Sugar: 5 g
  • Protein: 44g

As you can see, there is some good that can come with a burrito, but there is a glaring amount of sodium, at nearly 3/4 of the recommended daily amount! That is why I can’t honestly recommend choosing a burrito from Chipotle, unless it’s once in a great while. Any regular ordering will be a real hit to your sodium intake.

Let’s see if we can find a more sensible option in:

Meal Option #2: Testing a Taco

crispy tacos from chipotle

Source: Chipotle Media

Still using some form of tortilla, the taco fares a little better in the sodium area. In each order, you get three tacos and once again, because of the carbs, I chose not to put rice on the tacos (who puts rice on a taco anyway?). I also chose to go with the three crispy corn tortillas.

My recommended way to fill your tacos:

  • Barbacoa
  • Black Beans
  • Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa
  • Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Romaine Lettuce

Nutritional Calculation for these tacos:

  • Calories: 630 (31.5% / 25.2% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 230
  • Total Fat: 25.5g (39.2% / 31.9% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 8.5g (42.5% / 34% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 95mg (31.7% / 31.7% DV)
  • Sodium: 1190g (49.6% / 49.6% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 59g (19.7% / 15.7% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 12g (48% / 40% DV)
    • Sugar: 4 g
  • Protein: 41g

Overall, this doesn’t seem like too bad of a hit. The amount of sodium is still high, however it is at least under 50% of the recommended daily value. The thing is, when dining out, sodium amounts are going to be generally higher than if you are cooking at home.

Now, let’s take a look at tortilla-less options! First up is:

Meal Option #3: Put Your Burrito In A Bowl

burrito bowl at chipotle

Source: Chipotle Media

This is my go-to option when I eat at Chipotle. I find it works with what I am trying to accomplish. Therefore, the following will be what I usually get:

My recommended way to make a burrito bowl:

  • Grilled Chicken
  • Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice
  • Black Beans
  • Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa
  • Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Romaine Lettuce

Nutritional Calculation for this burrito bowl:

  • Calories: 650 (32.5% / 26% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 200
  • Total Fat: 22.5g (34.6% / 28.1% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 9g (45% / 36% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 155mg (51.7% / 51.7% DV)
  • Sodium: 1160g (48.3% / 48.3% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 64g (21.3% / 16.1% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 10g (40% / 33.3% DV)
    • Sugar: 4 g
  • Protein: 50g

As you can see from the nutrition breakdown, the burrito bowl is doing OK in the areas of calories, a little higher in fat and cholesterol, but the lowest in sodium so far. It also has the least amount of fiber, but the most protein by 6 grams!

So far this is the winner for me, but we have a couple more options left. The first is:

Meal Option #4: I’ll Just Have The Salad

salad at chipotle

Source: Chipotle Media

For those looking to put a little more green in their bowl, a salad could be a great option.

My recommended way to build a salad:

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Brown Rice
  • Black Beans
  • Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa
  • Monterey Jack Cheese

Nutritional Calculation for this burrito bowl:

  • Calories: 655 (32.8% / 26.2% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 200
  • Total Fat: 22.5g (34.6% / 28.1% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 9g (45% / 36% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 155mg (51.7% / 51.7% DV)
  • Sodium: 1165g (48.5% / 48.5% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 65g (21.7% / 17.3% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 10g (40% / 33.3% DV)
    • Sugar: 5 g
  • Protein: 51g

What you will see here though, is that contrary to what seems logical, a salad is not always any more or less healthy than the regular options. In fact, it is very comparable to the burrito bowl! I would say that if you are looking for the best options involving meat, then either the bowl or salad would be the way to go.

However, I did not forget about the meatless crew!

Option #5: Can No Meat Be Beat?

Sofritas burrito

Sofritas shown in burrito form (Source: Chipotle Media)

Chipotle also offers a meatless option.

My recommendation for filling a meatless burrito bowl:

  • Sofritas
  • Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice
  • Pinto Beans
  • Fajita Vegetables
  • Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa
  • Romaine Lettuce

Nutritional Calculation for this burrito bowl:

  • Calories: 530 (26.5% / 21.2% DV)
  • Calories from fat: 145
  • Total Fat: 17.5g (26.9% / 21.9% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 2.5g (12.5% / 10% DV)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg (0% / 0% DV)
  • Sodium: 1370g (57.1% / 57.1% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 76g (25.3% / 20.2% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 15g (60% / 50% DV)
    • Sugar: 10g
  • Protein: 21g

Meatless lovers rejoice! There is a decent option for you at Chipotle. It is certainly the lowest in calories, fat, and cholesterol while being the highest in fiber. The only concerns are that it is somewhat high in sodium, containing nearly 60% of the daily value for a 2,000 calorie diet, and on the lower end of the protein spectrum (though by no means terrible!)

What To Avoid – Why Guacamole!? WHY!?

avocados being scooped

Source: Chipotle Media

I have already talked about how I can’t really recommend the burritos as a staple when going to Chipotle. As far as the meats are concerned, the only one I would stay far away from (as delicious as it may be) is the chorizo sausage. Sausage by nature is going to be a lot more calories, fat and sodium than the other meats on the menu.

The second thing I avoid is white rice, as it is basically an empty carb without the nutritional profile of whole grain brown rice.

As far as the other toppings, I avoid the queso and sour cream for the obvious reasons of fat and sodium content. Additionally, you may have noticed I only used the tomatillo-green chili salsa. This is for a good reason. I was surprised to see that the other salsa options are loaded with a ton more salt, which could have put those numbers two high on more than one of the meal options presented.

Lastly, and painfully, I had to leave off the guacamole. I love guacamole and understand that it is loaded with good fats. However, the problem came because when it was combined with all the other ingredients, the level of sodium was just way too high (Holy guacamole, indeed).

So Which Option Is For You?

Hopefully this article has given you some insight going into your next Chipotle order. It is totally possible for you to eat here and not completely bust your fitness goals. It certainly wouldn’t be a place I would eat every day, but it’s by no means off limits.

One option, especially for the burritos or tacos, would be to eat only half of what you are served (especially the burrito…good gosh, it’s as big as a baby!). This could significantly cut down on the bad aspects of eating here.

Let me know your thoughts on this! What do you think? What’s your experience with Chipotle and what is your go-to meal? Were your surprised by any of the information presented? Will you be checking out their nutrition calculator before you go next time? Let me know in the comments below and feel free to share on your social media!

LASTLY! Do you have a restaurant you would like me to write about in an upcoming article? Feel free to suggest it in the comments and check back to see if it gets picked! Get involved in what kind of topics are discussed on this site! Thanks!

Be healthy and enjoy!

chipotle interior counter

Source: Chipotle Media