Chipotle makes you think you are eating healthy

Grabbing a salad or burrito for lunch or dinner is healthy, right? But at Chipotle, millennial favorite quick serve restaurant, innocent ingredient choices can add hundreds of extra calories and sodium if you’re not careful. Eating healthy for many restaurant goers means fresh, tasty and quality ingredients, but does it have to mean rampant calories?

The hidden calories and sodium at Chipotle

Chipotle’s website touts: “food with integrity”, but their ingredients pack a calorie punch. Chipotle’s interactive nutrition calculator determined that their salad with 4 oz of chicken, 4 oz of guacamole, 4 oz of beans, 1 oz of cheese and 2 oz of vinaigrette had nearly 900 calories.

The ingredients may be healthy but their excessive serving sizes load on the calories. You could ask for less, but you need to know where those unsuspected calories lurk. Each ounce of Chipotle’s guac contains 55 calories and their serving is ½ cup. An ounce of their cheese has 110 calories. An ounce of cheese is 2 tbsp – it doesn’t look like much and some might ask for extra.  Their vinaigrette dressing sounds healthy but their two ounce serving delivers 220 calories. You could reduce your servings sizes, but know that they will still charge you for the full serving.

And heaven forbid if you order a burrito with chorizo, cheese, rice, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. You will stuff nearly 1300 calories and 2400 mg of sodium in your mouth. That’s over half the calories recommended for most people and well over a day’s worth of sodium.

The tortilla alone has 320 calories. Ouch. How can something so flat deliver so many calories?

Chipotle's Burrito

You might think that ordering a salad justifies splurging on the chips and guac. Yikes, their large 4 oz serving of chips and guac is another 730 calories. And we still haven’t talked about a drink.

Here’s how you can cut the calories at Chipotle

Do you love Chipotle? No worries, you can still eat there and not break the calorie budget. Skip the chips, cheese and sour cream. Go for the chicken, beans and brown rice and lettuce or fajita veggies in a bowl instead of the tortilla wrap. And have the tomato salsa or tomatillo green-chili salsa instead of the guac.

It’s the toppings that heap on the calories.

Chipotle's Burrito

The tortilla bowl with chicken, brown rice, beans, fajita veggies and tomatillo Green-chili sauce has 565 calories (but still 1125 mg of sodium).

Healthy Burrito Bowl at Chipotle

Healthy Burrito Bowl at Chipotle

Better yet, make your salad or burrito at home.

The advantage of doing this is that you can control the portion, the ingredients and the sodium. You can make your own burrito bowl or salad at home in 10 minutes if you have all the ingredients and have done some prepping.

Barb’s version of Burrito Bowl with chips and guacamole

Do you love guacamole? One cup of cubed avocado has 240 calories. Instead of mayo or sour cream I add salsa and fresh lime juice to mine.  Beware of the sodium content in regular salsa –  go for a low sodium version like Trader Joe’s that has only 120 mg in ½ cup.

A half cup of my guacamole has just about 120 calories and much less sodium.

Non-GMO tortilla chips made with blue corn

This tortilla chip only has 4 ingredients and is made with corn

Buy a whole grain tortilla chip like Shaw’s blue tortilla made with energy dense, non-GMO blue corn and only 3 other healthy ingredients – organic flax, oil and sea salt. Pair one ounce serving of these with my quacamole and you have 2/3 fewer calories and a fraction of the sodium.

Make your own salad with romaine, a half cup of black beans, an ounce of Cabot’s reduced fat sharp cheddar, 4 ounces of chicken (I cook extra chicken and save some for another simple meal) and my lower calorie dressing(see below). Your creation is just as tasty and fresh as Chipotle’s without all the excessive calories(315) and sodium(715 mg). And it has lots of crunch and zesty flavors to satisfy your palette without a lot of time and effort.

Salad dressing recipe: using a reusable glass 16 ounce bottle, add 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 cup rice wine vinegar, juice from a large juicy lime, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper. Reversing the ratio of oil to vinegar cuts way back on calories.

Be Chipotle wise

If you go to Chipotle, know where the calories are hidden. Lettuce, beans, brown rice and chicken are healthy ingredients, but topped with gobs of sour cream, guacamole, and even their vinaigrette, your best intentions will be undermined. All those excessive calories will make you feel bloated and the sodium will having you peeing all night. I think I’ll make my own healthy Mexican meal at home tonight.

Barbara Groth

About Barbara Groth

I’m Barbara. I have always had a passion for helping people to feel good. As a nurse my early years were focused on getting sick people back to baseline. After becoming a diabetes educator and health coach my passion became raising that bar on the baseline – helping my clients to not only feel better but to look better and have a whole new outlook on life.