Chipotle is Not Unhealthy

Chipotle
One of my pet peeves is the misconception that Chipotle is unhealthy for you. Nearly everyone I talk to about Chipotle believes that Chipotle is as bad for them as is McDonald. By the way, Chipotle is not owned by McDonald and does not source its ingredients like McDonald does. One would believe that Chipotle’s perpetual advertising of its dedication to locally sourcing organic foods would dispel such false beliefs, but evidently, that is not the case.

When talking about the nutritional value of Chipotle, it is important to realize that, yes, Chipotle can be unhealthy, but more often than not, Chipotle is not unhealthy.

Those who believe Chipotle is a burrito-shaped missile that will harm a healthy lifestyle argue that Chipotle burritos have so much calories. However, whenever I eat Chipotle, I manage to eat less than 500 calories, which is a reasonable amount of calories for a meal. The only reason Chipotle racks up calories is because of the flour tortillas, sour cream, and cheese. Avoiding those three ingredients will make it nearly impossible to eat too much when ordering an item at Chipotle.Flour tortillas contain 270 calories each, while sour cream and cheese contain 120 and 100 calories each, per serving, respectively.

My Average Burrito Bowl

My usual choice at Chipotle is a burrito bowl with rice, fajita vegetables, chicken, tomato, corn, red-hot salsa, and lettuce. Such burrito bowl keeps me full and satisfied for at least three hours—oftentimes one or two hours more. The total calorie count for such fulfilling, refreshing, and delicious burrito bowl? 485 calories. Not only is the calorie count so low, but there are 41 grams of protein in my burrito bowl. Since I weigh 125 pounds, 41 grams of protein is more than half my daily recommended allowance of protein.

Now, let’s consider what happens if I put the three calorie-heavy ingredients into my burrito bowl—turning the bowl into a real burrito. My burrito would now pack a whopping 995 calories—nearly half the daily recommended allowance of calories for the average male adult. Clearly, my burrito is now considered unhealthy because of the huge amount of calories.

However, even that argument is not truly correct. Why? Because my average meal is not the size of a 995 calorie burrito. Rather, I would normally eat a little over half the size of that burrito. So if I eat the same mass of food through a Chipotle burrito as I eat during a normal meal, my calorie consumption drastically decreases compared to if I were to eat the whole burrito. The bottom line is, you can’t blame Chipotle for being unhealthy simply because it provides a lot of food. If you have a lot of any food, you will be looking at high calorie counts.

After sifting through all the misinformation on why Chipotle is unhealthy, one should break down a burrito down into its individual parts. Deconstructing a burrito will yield a long list of healthy foods such as a ripe juicy tomato, an ear of corn, a skinless, grilled chicken breast, a handful of peppers, a stalk of romaine lettuce, and maybe some beans.

Ironically, the aforementioned ingredients can be used to create a salad; only the ratio of lettuce to other ingredients vary when determining whether a mix of the ingredients is a salad or burrito bowl.

Chipotle with Lettuce on Top

The one flaw of Chipotle is that its foods contain a lot of sodium. Although sodium will not make you fat, sodium can cause other health problems if taken in excess. Thus, if Chipotle could reduce the sodium in its foods in half, I don’t see why I could not live off Chipotle for the rest of my life.

The takeaway message for this article is to order smart at Chipotle and to stop spreading misinformation about Chipotle. Skip the tortilla, sour cream, and cheese, but pass along the good news.

About Earl

Hi, my name is Earl. I am a student who loves to analyze food and eat healthy. My careful eye for food has caused me to become interested in the science behind food and cooking, and I write about my explorations into food on my website Toastable.com. While I believe in sticking to whole, natural foods, I'm not afraid to work with avant-garde ingredients and equipment such as constant temperature water baths and sodium alginate. I also love photography, technology, and journalism.

18. July 2010 von Earl
Categories: Favorites, Health | Tags: , | 19 comments

  • http://cookielynn.com Cody

    Thanks for this. I saw a bit on that Eat This, Not That morning program awhile back, claiming that some Taco Bell burrito with hardly any real vegetables was "better for you" than a fully loaded Chipotle burrito… going off calories alone. Crazy.

    I'm a vegetarian, and was vegan when I first started getting Chipotle… and I've just never bothered to put the cheese and sour cream in. My black bean, rice, corn salsa, guacamole, and lettuce tacos probably aren't the best for me, but I'm willing to bet they beat out anything I would usually order at Taco Bell.

    • http://toastable.com earl lee

      Hey Cody,

      Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you liked my article, and I do agree with you on the Eat This, Not That note. Their books are insightful for those new to calorie counting, but they can easily skew data to create prejudices towards certain brands.

      Also, your vegetarian tacos seem to be fine. I don't see why they "aren't the best for" you. All the ingredients are healthy and wholesome. If you put the same ingredients in a flour tortilla, your food might not be as healthy, but that is not the case. You should feel guilt-free eating at Chipotle. :)

      -Earl Lee

  • handson

    ahhhh

    october is coming

    time for my annual dose of chipotle

    but i just can't resist that tortilla and sour cream :(

    cheese i can do without

    • http://toastable.com earl lee

      Haha, wait. October + Annual dose of Chipotle?

      That must mean you get free Chipotle on Halloween while dressed as a burrito!

      I've never done that before but maybe I should…

  • Kat

    This was very insightful considering the amount of people who get on the rideonbus after every exam just to go to fallsgrove and get Chipotle! I just had chipotle with my friend Sam Pang yesterday! And I love the new update on the sight! Kudos to the cow and the clouds! It's a deep blue that really makes me feel at home!

    • http://toastable.com earl lee

      Thanks! I'm happy with how the site turned out also.

  • Cynthia

    Hi :O

    I decided to come check out your site, ahaha. It's really awesome *__* I'm really enjoying the nice food photos and the cute web design. And I saw "Chipotle" in the sidebar so I just had to read this article :p

    I always felt that Chipotle was really different from McDonalds and those other fast food restaurants, considering that it tasted like real food

    so I'm glad you wrote this article x) Didn't know about the sodium part though, that was informative.

    Are you really pro at this or what :D

    uhhh so yeah Food ftw!

    • http://toastable.com earl lee

      Cynthia,

      Thanks! I'm glad you like my website. The stigma that surrounds Chipotle is very annoying, so of course, I had to make and attempt to dispel the negative myths surrounding Chipotle.

  • Akira Horiguchi

    Hmmm, maybe I'll be eating at Chipotle more often now

    • http://toastable.com earl lee

      Yes! Especially since, tonight, Chipotle is selling $2 burritos for those who where a costume of a processed food!

  • secretposter

    Ive been eating chipotle for years and i do keep hearing that they are owned by McD’s. but i was in line the other day i picked up the intsore nutritional pamphlets they have now and a flour torillla has almost 670 g of sodium! and their new vinegreete has 700mg! :O

  • secretposter

    * 600 mg of sodium

  • Day

    So would it be okay to eat at chipotle once a week? I get the burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, steak, mild sauce, and lettuce. Of course, when I plan on getting chipotle I make sure my breakfast and lunch are low in calories (200-300) to balance it.

    • http://toastable.com earl lee

      Yep. It’s all about balance. Chipotle is a bit high on sodium, but in terms of macronutrients and ingredients, it has a pretty healthy makeup.

  • VAR

    I eat a bowl with no rice, half black beans, chicken, tomato salsa, lettace, a small amount of cheese, and a small amount of sour cream. It equals around 395 calories. I just wish there wasn’t as much sodium.

    • Earl

      Yes. Sodium is pretty high in Chipotle, but there have been studies that the sodium scare is largely overblown. I personally will try to limit sodium if possible but if a great food has extra sodium, I won’t forgo it. Instead, I’ll just limit my sodium for the rest of the day.

  • Luis

    When You choose the healthy side of their menu and don’t put the usual toppings that everyone gets, doesn’t mean the place is healthy. It’s like you saying McDonalds is healthy because you can get a salad there.

    • Earl

      Great point. It would have been more correct to say that you can eat healthy at Chipotle. I made the original statement because people generalize Chipotle as unhealthy, since they believe practically all menu items have too many calories.

  • [email protected]

    Salt!!