If had a side order of guacamole for every time someone asked me “Is Chipotle healthy?” I’d probably put the avocado industry out of business.
As a registered dietitian, I understand where this question comes from. Chipotle, as a company, has brought ethical eating and farming to the forefront of quick-service food discussions.
While you can applaud the company for pushing food quality values, it’s important to know that how food is raised or grown doesn’t mean that that food is good for your diet in large amounts.
From a nutrition standpoint, Chipotle is like McDonald’s or Panera or Red Robin or any other restaurant and meal: It’s about choices.
One of Chipotle’s strengths is customization. That customization can allow you to add more lean protein, more high-quality vegetables, and more deliciousness to your meal. Or it can encourage you to stuff yourself with a 1,500-calorie burrito.
For this reason, it’s best to head into Chipotle with a plan.
Other dietitians agree with me. “With so many choices and their build your own approach to meals, it’s fairly easy to make it a healthy meal,” says Brierley Horton, M.S., R.D. “On the other hand, it’s also easy to go heavy on calories … you need to be aware of what you’re getting.”
Let’s say that you order a burrito bowl with extra chicken, rice, beans, queso, pico, corn, cheese, fajita veggies, and sour cream. It doesn’t sound like much, but you’ve just racked up more than 1,000 calories.
Add in chips, guacamole, and a soft drink (or beer) and you’re above 2,000 calories. In other words, when you build your own meal, it’s easy to see how quickly a scoop of this here and a scoop of that there all add up.
So what should you order?
Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness Studios in Virginia Beach VA, advises his clients on how to make smarter, very specific choices when eating at Chipotle. “A healthier option at Chipotle would be a burrito bowl including chicken, white or brown rice, beans of choice, the fajita veggies, and pico, with a bottle of water.” This meal would clock in at around 500 to 600 calories.
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Another great meal option: a veggie bowl with lettuce, fajita vegetables, pico, corn, rice, and beans. This adds up to about 470 calories.
“Both of these meal options are more balanced on caloric intake for a meal size,” White says.
And when in doubt, Chipotle’s kids’ menu offers good ways to cut back on portions, yet still order many of the same options, says Horton.
I opt for the veggie bowl and add protein. I use beans as my base (love me some fiber) and the veggie bowl seems to include more than traditional bowls. I prefer guacamole to cheese and sour cream. Protein. Fiber. Healthy fats. Simple. Easy. Delicious.
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