Chipotle isn’t exactly known for being healthy. Delicious? Yes. Home of head-sized burritos? Yes. But good for you? Not quite.
The thing is, because most of their offerings include a decent amount of veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins, Chipotle totally has the potential to be a nutritious option. It’s only when we start throwing on all the high-sodium toppings and extra tortillas that things start to get out of control.
You can absolutely have the occasional Chipotle fix without feeling gross afterward, but first you need to know what to add and what not to add to keep it from becoming a complete gut bomb. So we asked Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D., M.P.H., C.D.N., founder of the New York-based BZ Nutrition, to tell us about the healthy Chipotle options. Turns out, registered dietitians love the chain, too. Her tips keep the flavors you know and love intact and ensure the meal you walk away with actually makes you feel good.
First things first: burrito, taco, bowl, or salad?
Zeitlin never orders a burrito, because she says the tortilla adds a lot of refined carbs and not much else. Ditto tacos. Plus, Chipotle’s burritos can be so freakin’ big sometimes! “When it comes to portion sizes, people tend to finish what is in front of them,” she explains. So even if you do order a burrito and plan to only eat some of it, you still might end up eating all of it. Hey, it happens to the best of us.
As far as healthy Chipotle options go, Zeitlin says a salad is your best bet. She says it’s a great way to get all the flavors you might be craving, but it’s not heavy like a burrito or taco might be. And since the lettuce is has both a high water and fiber content, it will keep you fuller for longer and help prevent any of the bloating that often comes courtesy of the chain’s saltier offerings.
Want something halfway between a burrito and a salad? A burrito bowl is another good option, provided you’re getting it without the tortilla. And it’s a little heartier than a salad since it includes rice. Just be sure to choose brown rice over white since brown has much more fiber.
Black beans or pinto?
Nutritionally, Zeitlin says black and pinto beans are approximately the same—especially since Chipotle prepares them the exact same way. She likes black beans more, but says with this one, it all comes down to preference.
Onto the protein options: chicken, carnitas, steak, chorizo, barbacoa, or sofritos?
“Usually I just make the black beans my protein source to keep my meal totally plant-based,” Zeitlin explains. And since a lot of their protein options are super salty, opting for black beans helps her keep the sodium levels in check.
If you’re dead set on choosing a meatier protein, she suggests going with chicken because it’s the leanest and least salty option. “The carnitas, chorizo, barbacoa, and sofritos have way too much sodium,” she explains—about 330 mg to 850 mg of sodium (keep in mind, the official recommend daily max is 2300 mg). “And the carnitas and chorizo are also a lot higher in saturated fat,” she adds.
Time for toppings!
“I add the fajita veggies, a small scoop of brown rice, and extra shredded romaine lettuce to my salad,” says Zeitlin. All of those choices together add a nice bit of fiber, vitamins, and even a little protein (thanks, brown rice). If she’s in the mood for an extra kick, she’ll throw on a bit of the tomatillo-green chili salsa, too.
Finally, guac or no guac?
“Guac, ALWAYS,” Zeitlin says. “Since avocados are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, adding guac is a good way to get some healthy fats in your meal.” Sure it costs extra, but it’s totally worth it. One thing to keep in mind with the guac at Chipotle: A typical serving is 2 ounces, but they sell it in 4-ounce containers. So consider saving some for later if you’d rather not eat two servings in one go.
You may also like: The 9 Best Healthy Snacks at Costco