People pass walk by a Chipotle Restaurant in New York City on Sept. 11, 2015.
People pass walk by a Chipotle Restaurant in New York City on Sept. 11, 2015. Kena Betancur—AFP/Getty Images

How to Eat Healthy at Chipotle

Is it just us, or is Chipotle Mexican Grill getting more and more popular every day? And while there are plenty of smart selections — we love the build-your-own-meal flexibility — there's also some shockingly fattening fare. Read this need-to-know info before your next visit!

Step 1: Choose Your Base

Best Bet!

Salad: While some restaurant salads are calorie bombs on account of "hidden" ingredients, Chipotle's is perfect, since you choose exactly what goes on top. You get a 10-calorie lettuce base, and go from there.

Tacos: The good thing about a three-taco order is that you have options. The soft corn tortillas are super, with 210 fat-free calories before filling -- not a bad start! The crispy corn taco shells have 210 calories and 7.5g fat, and the soft flour tortillas have 255 calories and 7.5g fat. Remember, those numbers are for the empty tortillas/shells.

Burrito Bowl: While there are no base calories here, you can fit a lot into that bowl. And without a bed of lettuce to fill out your meal, it's easy to get into trouble. Still a good choice, but fill it with caution! (By that we mean fill it cautiously. Don't put caution into your burrito bowl.)

Watch Out!

Burrito: OK, it's not super shocking that the burrito is the worst choice, but get this: The huge flour tortilla has 300 calories and a whopping 10g fat before anything goes into it! Even if you play it smart with the filling, that's not exactly an ideal calorie/fat count to start with.

Step 2: Fill 'Er Up

Check out your choices; then read our wrap-up below...

4 oz.: 180 calories, 7g fat, 310mg sodium, 0g carbs, 0.5g fiber, 0g sugars, 32g protein

4 oz.: 190 calories, 6.5g fat, 320mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 1g sugars, 30g protein

Sofritas (Tofu)
4 oz.: 145 calories, 10g fat, 555mg sodium, 9g carbs, 3.5g fiber, 4.5g sugars, 8g protein

Barbacoa (Shredded Beef)
4 oz.: 165 calories, 7g fat, 530mg sodium, 2g carbs, 1g fiber, 0g sugars, 24g protein

Carnitas (Shredded Pork)
4 oz.: 220 calories, 13g fat, 500mg sodium, 0.5g carbs, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 26g protein

Wrap-Up! These protein fillings score fairly equally, except the Carnitas. Skip the pork (make our carnitas taco swap instead!), and proceed carefully into the toppings...

Step 3: Top It Off

Green Light!

The veggies: The fajita vegetables are awesome and add just 20 calories and 0.5g fat. And obviously lettuce is a good choice; only 5 calories, and it really helps fill out your meal.

The salsas: When it comes to adding guilt-free flavor, you can depend on these condiments. The Fresh Tomato and Tomatillo salsas add only 20 - 25 calories -- the Tomatillo comes in both red and green. (Sodium counters: The Green Tomatillo option has 50 percent less salt than the others.) The Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa is a bit steeper, but still acceptable, with 80 calories and 1.5g fat.

Yellow Light!

The beans: Beans are a nutritious choice, but the calories can add up quickly at Chipotle, especially when you order a burrito or tacos. A serving of the pinto beans has 115 calories and 1g fat, and the black beans have 120 calories and 1g fat. Great for salads, no question!

The rice: Chipotle likes to add oil to its rice, more so with the brown kind — a 4-oz. serving of brown rice has 200 calories and 7g fat, while the same amount of the white stuff has 185 calories and 4g fat. The brown rice does have more fiber (2.5 grams as opposed to 1), so there are pros and cons to both. If you're starting with a carby base, consider skipping the rice, or request a half-sized portion. Our vote: Avoid it altogether, and get more veggies. More bang for your calorie buck!

Red Light!

The heavy stuff: Cheese will add 100 calories and 7.5g fat to your meal; sour cream tacks on 115 calories and 9.5g fat, and guacamole contributes 200 calories and 19g fat. Get all three? You just topped your meal with 415 calories and 36g fat. Ouch!


Vinaigrette: Don't ruin a perfectly good salad by drowning it in 270 calories and 25 grams of fat! (And those numbers are for just 2 oz.!) Stick with salsa for flavor, or get this on the side, and use very sparingly.

All-Star Orders

We've done the math...

Salad + Chicken + Fajita Veggies + Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa + Black Beans
1 order: 350 calories, 8.5g fat, 995mg sodium, 32g carbs, 15.5g fiber, 6g sugars, 41.5g protein

Soft Corn Tacos + Sofritas + Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa + Lettuce
One 3-taco order: 380 calories, 10g fat, 835mg sodium, 59g carbs, 11.5g fiber, 6.5g sugars, 11.5g protein

Burrito Bowl + Steak + Double Fajita Veggies + Pinto Beans
1 order: 345 calories, 8.5g fat, 960mg sodium, 31g carbs, 12g fiber, 6g sugars, 38g protein

3 More Tips

1. Don't add chips! Chipotle loves to ask if you want to add chips and salsa or guacamole to your meal. Resist! The bag of chips alone has 570 calories and 27g fat.

2. Take advantage of the online Nutrition Calculator. While it's great that calorie counts are provided on the in-store menu boards, those numbers are presented as (very wide) calorie ranges, making it really hard to estimate the stats of your order. So make use of the rockin' Nutrition Calculator on Chipotle's website. Bonus: It's mobile friendly.

3. Don't assume healthy ingredients equal a diet-friendly meal. Even seemingly smart choices can add up to diet disaster. Case in point? An order of soft flour tacos with sofritas, black beans, chili-corn salsa, and guacamole (avocados are healthy, right?) adds up to 800 calories and 39g fat. Ack! Aren't you glad you have this guide?

This article originally appeared on Hungry Girl

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