RD Fast Food Orders: Chipotle Edition
Welcome to my third edition of #fastfoodorders, where I share what a dietitian would order at a popular fast food chain, highlighting that all foods fit in a healthy lifestyle.
Life is hard enough without trying to eat "perfectly" (spoiler alert - perfect eating doesn't exist). Sometimes I don't have the time, energy, or mental capacity to whip up a meal, and damnit I want something comforting. Yes, even dietitians want fast food.
This week, it's all about CHIPOTLE!
Because of Chipotle’s customizable model, it has the potential to be a nutritious option for anyone on the go, or looking for a meal that satisfies dietary needs. They offer a range of vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains which are components to a balanced meal. Be cautious of the add-ons that can make your meal a more than you bargained for. In all honesty, as a dietitian, Chipotle tops my go-to list for quick and easy meals in a pinch.
I typically recommend choosing a burrito bowl or salad instead of a wrapped burrito, which can be a hidden source of sodium and refined carbohydrates.
Weight loss goal
If weight loss is your goal, there are plenty of options for you – my pick? Salad bowl with romaine lettuce, black beans, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa and guacamole. Hold off on the dressing and let the guacamole and salsa spice up your salad. Feel free to add in a serving of chicken for an extra bit of protein. While high in calories, guacamole is full of monounsaturated (heart healthy) fats that make you feel fuller longer. Fat is not the enemy!
This salad order packs satiating protein and is a good source fiber to keep your goals on track.
41 g carbs
Fat 23.5 g
12 g protein
Muscle gain goal
Because every body is different and needs different things, here’s a general idea. First off, you need to be consuming enough calories – if you don’t fuel your body enough, it can actually cause muscle loss. Secondly, protein is a big factor in muscle gain, the amino acids found in proteins help to build and repair muscle tissue. This doesn’t mean you need to be guzzling back protein shakes, the right amount can absolutely be consumed through food. I would suggest eating a high protein meal 2-3 hours before, or up to 2 hours after your workout. Keep in mind, that it is best to spread out your protein intake evenly throughout the day to maximize benefits (so no, you probably don’t need the extra serving of protein in your burrito).
In addition to protein, carbohydrates play a role as well! Eating both carbohydrates and protein are important for your goal, opt for brown rice to increase the fiber
My pick? Burrito bowl with brown rice, steak, black beans, fajita vegetables, tomato salsa, and romaine lettuce (feel free to add guacamole if you like)
13.5 g fat
Those who participate in endurance sports require very specific nutrient recommendations based on activity, sweat, size and gender. It’s hard to pin point what they might need, but generally, they would require more carbohydrates than the typical person, and I would suggest they go for a burrito bowl, similar to that on the muscle-gaining individual.
If you follow a high fat low carb diet, you would want to avoid any of the items that contribute carbohydrates to your meal, sticking with proteins, vegetables and higher fat options, passing on tortillas, rice and beans.
All of the meats are carb-free (except the barbacoa which has 1g per serving), the fajita veggies and lettuce are low carb options, as are the queso, sour cream, and cheese. Many of the salsas are also low carb.
My pick? Salad bowl with steak, fajita vegetables, tomatillo green salsa, cheese, and guacamole.
Make sure you add in some vegetables for a meal that is still low in carbohydrates, they offer micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and fiber that are an important part of your diet.
21 g carbs (net carbs = 12g)
9 g fiber
Not a meat-eater? Luckily, Chipotle is a great choice for you, compared to other fast-food outlets! They offer decent protein alternatives catering to vegans/vegetarians, and have even started offering tofu-based “sofritas” as well – think shredded tofu braised in a chipotle/chili sauce. Both pinto and black bean options are vegan as well!
My pick? Burrito bowl with brown rice, or salad with tofu sofritas or beans, tomato salsa and optional guacamole.
(For the burrito bowl with tofu)
While I’m sure cavemen didn’t frequent Chipotle, nor did they shell out “extra for guac”, if you follow that diet, skip the tortilla, rice and beans, similar to those following a keto diet. See the keto order for a paleo-friendly Chipotle meal.
If you are looking for a pre-workout snack, you may be better off saving your trip to Chipotle until after you’ve hit the gym. Chipotle doesn’t offer much in the way of snacks, and their meals are a little heavy to be eaten too close to your workout. Try to get your Chipotle fix 2-3 hours prior to exercising to avoid discomfort.
While Chipotle can be a decent option on the go, try not to make it a habit. While you can customize many parts of your meal, you can’t change the sodium (salt) level and cooking oils in the components. These facts and figures are based on suggested servings, but an extra scoop of your toppings here and there can add up and interfere with your goals. My tip? Invite friends over to have a build your own taco bowl bar – have everyone make and bring their favourite topping and enjoy time spent together!
At the end of the day, the occasional fast-food meal won't derail your otherwise nutritious lifestyle, but don't make it a habit. Make sure that the rest of your day is filled with lean proteins, lots of vegetables and whole grains.
Lastly, make an effort to eat your fast-food sitting down at a table instead of in the car or while on the go - take the time to eat mindfully without distractions, chew properly and enjoy your meal.