Chipotle Mexican Grill has made headlines in recent weeks, and not for the most positive reasons. The food chain’s once-pristine image as a GMO and antibiotic-free choice for fresh produce and humanely raised meats was tarnished by an E.coli outbreak that left 55 people in 11 states sick, and many more wary of the chain’s admittedly delicious burritos.
Last Tuesday, Chipotle closed its doors for an entire day—but it also announced that it would be giving away free burritos to customers who texted “rain check” to its phone line—a move that’s sure to bring back more than a few customers. Many of the restaurant’s most loyal devotees love its purportedly healthy, fresh ingredients, but how healthy is your Chipotle, really?
If you’re watching your waistline, you should know that Chipotle is not exactly a low-calorie choice. The restaurant’s convenient nutrition calculator shows that an average vegetarian meal—say, a sofritas (tofu) burrito with brown rice, black beans, sour cream, cheese, veggies, lettuce and salsa, comes in at a whopping 1,045 calories. Add meat (let’s go with the super-popular carnitas) and you’re up to 1,110 calories. Add guacamole and you’re now at 1,340—way more than an average person needs to consume in a single sitting.
On the other hand, Chipotle’s menu items are, in fact, pretty nutritious. Veggies, protein, fresh avocado, tomato salsa, black beans, brown rice—all of these things, on a surface level, are pretty good for us. So if you’re looking for a quick, easy meal, Chipotle is a pretty good choice for getting a variety of nutrients at a reasonable price.
The company’s commitment to high-quality products is also a selling point. As I mentioned, Chipotle claims to provide non-GMO, high-quality vegetables, humanely raised meat and dairy products and organic, local ingredients whenever possible.
Tips for making your Chipotle meal healthier
Want to get all that nutritional goodness without the high calorie count? There are few easy ways to make your Chipotle meal a little easier on your waistline.
- Get rid of the tortilla. That sofritas burrito I mentioned above (the one that came in at 1,045 calories) is reduced to 745 calories by making it a burrito bowl.
- Stick with brown rice. The calorie difference may be negligible, but brown rice has not had its husk removed and therefore contains more protein and fiber than white rice.
- Load up on the veggies and get rid of dairy. This is a big one. Vegetables are going to give you lots of diverse nutrients—but dairy provides few and is very calorie-dense. In fact, if we remove the sour cream and cheese from the sofritas burrito bowl I’ve been telling you about, we take our calorie count down to just 530 calories—a perfectly healthy, respectable and filling meal with 20 grams of protein and just 2.5 grams of saturated fat.