How Healthy Is Eating at Chipotle?

These tips can help make your next meal at Chipotle more nutritious.

As a nutritionist and dietitian, I've had countless clients ask me if Chipotle is healthy. The truth is, meals from the chain can be incredibly nutrient-rich and balanced—or over-the-top decadent. The key to a healthy Chipotle meal is to customize your order based on the restaurant's most optimal ingredients and your personal nutrition goals.

Here's my take on how to select a good-for-you lunch or dinner at Chipotle.

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Make Bowls and Salads Your Staples

According to Chipotle's handy nutrition calculator, the flour tortilla that wraps a burrito packs 50 grams of carbohydrate with only 3 grams as fiber. That's the equivalent of three slices of white bread. To skirt those refined carbs, opt for a bowl or salad, which also allows you to load up on leafy greens.

Chipotle's salad base has just 1 gram of carbs with 1 gram as fiber, along with 35% and 10% of the daily value for immune-supporting vitamins A and C, respectively.

Go Plant-Based

The wide availability of plant-based meals is a trend that's here to stay, and for good reason. Researchers looked at data of more than 400,000 people in the U.S. over a 16-year period and found that a higher intake of plant protein was associated with a lower risk of death from all causes.

Studies also suggest that replacing animal protein with plant protein may improve several heart disease risk factors. However, due to the complexities of dietary changes, the research is still inconclusive and more studies are needed.

Chipotle makes it easy to craft a plant-based bowl, with three choices for plant protein made with no animal-based additives:

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Sofritas (made from crumbled, seasoned soy)

Build your own bowl by adding brown rice, fajita veggies, salsa, and guacamole. With all three plant protein options, this combo can easily provide 22 grams of protein and an impressive 20 grams of filling fiber. Bonus: A veggie meal includes guac at no extra charge.

Check Out Lifestyle Bowls

Chipotle offers Lifestyle Bowls, which essentially cater to special diets, including Whole30, keto, high protein, and paleo. Each bowl contains pre-selected ingredients that fit the corresponding criteria, but you can also tweak the order based on your preferences.

If I had to choose one based on healthfulness, I'd select the Whole30 chicken salad bowl, made with SuperGreens lettuce blend, chicken, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, and guacamole.

Find Allergen-Friendly Options

Whether you're plant-based or an omnivore, your top concern may be avoiding ingredients that trigger a food allergy or intolerance. Fortunately, Chipotle's website includes a chart to identify sources of dairy, soy, gluten, and sulphites.

Plus, the chain does not use eggs (except at locations that serve breakfast), mustard, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, shellfish, or fish as ingredients; this makes it easy to avoid problematic foods.

And unlike many fast food establishments, common allergens are found in few of Chipotle's items. For example, the only source of soy is the sofritas; and gluten and wheat are only found in the flour tortillas used for burritos and tacos.

Build a Lower-Calorie Meal

A few of Chipotle's offerings are notoriously high in calories, including a side of chips at 810 calories per large bag (1,290 with queso blanco) and a fully loaded burrito, which can easily pack over 1,200 calories. If you're calorie conscious, use the brand's nutrition calculator to view the calorie content of each item you add.

You'll find that it's possible to select meals that clock in at fewer than 500 calories. A salad made with SuperGreens lettuce blend, black beans, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, and guacamole has 390 calories and is nicely balanced with 20 grams of net carbs, 10 grams of protein, and 24 grams of fat.

Chicken tacos can be another good choice. Three made with crispy corn tortillas, chicken, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, and lettuce have 430 calories.

Must-Gets for Good Nutrition

To maximize your meal's nutrient content and health benefits, three essential ingredients to consider including in your order are veggies, beans, and guac. Go for as many veggies as possible, including greens as your base, fajita peppers and onions, and salsa.

Veggies

In addition to the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants veggies provide, they're also good for your mental health. In fact, a 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients found that a higher intake of produce was linked to higher levels of optimism and less psychological distress and depressive symptoms.

Beans

Beans are a true superfood, with benefits that may include a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and microbial infections.

Guacamole

And guac is worth every penny—avocado, its star ingredient, has been shown to reduce inflammation and has the potential to help protect against diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Although, more research is needed. Avocado consumption is also associated with better overall diet quality and nutrient intake.

A Quick Review

Chipotle offers many nutrient-rich, whole food ingredients, as well as heavier, less nutritious choices, so the healthfulness of what's in your bag is really up to you. I like that no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives are used, and I consider Chipotle to be an affordable choice given the nutritional value.

To get the most nutrition bang for your buck, use the chain's tools, including nutrition and allergy info, to customize meals based on your needs and goals.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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