In my latest edition of Ask the dietitian, we went to Chipotle to eat. We documented the whole experience before they asked us to shut off the camera (Bummer!), but at least we got to capture some really helpful tips for you. Make sure you watch the full video below
The most common question I get asked all the time is always how can I track nutrition when I am eating out. The reality is that we don’t have any control over what is served on our plates. This doesn’t mean, however, we cannot estimate or approximate.
The best example I could think of was Chipotle since it’s a huge favorite by health-conscious eaters.
But is it really?
Yes of course, but it all comes down to context, personal fitness goals, and preference.
So I decided to write out a guide on how to build a macro-friendly meal at Chipotle but this may also be applied to many other restaurants. Let’s get right down to it.
STEP 1: CHOOSING THE TYPE OF MEAL
The first step you need to take is to determine what meal can fit into your goals considering what’s happened in the day or what will happen later on. If you will be going out for drinks with a friend at night, maybe a carnitas burrito with guac and sour cream may not fit the bill. Context is everything. It’s not about just choosing a “healthy” meal but was is going on the rest of the day or week are important considerations.
I recommend most people to go for a Rice Bowl or Lettuce Bowl to be on the safe side.
STEP 2: ADD FIBER BY CHOOSING COMPLEX CARBS
Most portions at a Chipotle are about 3-4 oz including their rice. The tortillas contain about 50 g of carbohydrates, 9 g of fat and 8 g of protein (~320 kcals) which is probably a lot more than what you were expecting. Brown Rice contains about 36g of carbs, 6 g of fat, and 4 g of protein. Combining the two (rice and tortillas in a burrito for example) and without adding any beans or other carby items, you are already including 86 g of carbohydrates (for some this is great, for others may be too much).
Choosing a bowl and adding brown rice will get you fewer carbs. Add beans that will boost your fiber content by 8-10g per serving regardless if you choose pinto or black beans. Remember fiber is filling and will help you feel full for longer.
STEP 3: CHOOSE A LEAN PROTEIN
Protein is filling, and also we need a good amount of it daily. In a restaurant (particularly Chipotle) the biggest sources of protein will come from meats, beans, or the Sofritas (a spicy Tofu they offer).
Most meats contain about the same amount of protein per ounce, but what they vary in, is their fat content. Beef and Pork will usually contain more fat than chicken (or at least chicken breast). To have better control of fat intake, the chicken will be a better choice. Surprisingly, however, at chipotle, they use a lear sirloin steak which contains less fat than their chicken.
For a great article on protein and the importance of amount and timing, check out the best protein article ever written here
STEP 4: ADD COLOR VIA VEGGIES
The best ways to make a bowl filling and nutritious is by adding more color to it and that will start by selecting options like Fajita Vegetables (Only providing 5 g of carbs), Fresh Tomato Salsa (4 g of carbs) and plenty of romaine lettuce (<1 g carb).
STEP 5: GO EASY ON THE FATS
Your fat sources at Chipotle will come from items like meats.
- Barbacoa (7g/serving)
- Carnitas (12g/serving)
- Steak (6g/serving)
- Chicken (7g/serving)
But mostly from the sour cream, cheese, and guacamole
- Guacamole (22g Fat/Serving)
- Sour Cream (7g Fat/Serving — Though they sometimes add more than one serving)
- Cheese (9g Fat/Serving)
One recommendation I give most of my clients is to order some of these high-fat sides (i.e. guac and sour cream) on the side so they can control exactly how much is added to their meals by themselves instead of the person serving the bowl or burrito.
STEP 6: TRACKING YOUR MEAL ACCURATELY
If you are tracking macronutrients or macros, you are probably wondering how to track all this. In the video above I taught you how but in places like Chipotle where their nutrition facts are displayed in their website you can easily add all your ingredients and take a quick look at the macro breakdown of your meal.
You can check out the Chipotle Nutrition Calculator here.
The bowl I described above contains the following macros (approximated)
Protein: 45 g
Carbohydrates: 67 g
Fat: 14.5 g
Fiber: 13 g
Adding sour cream, guacamole, and cheese
Protein: 56 g
Carbohydrates: 79 g
Fat: 53 g
Fiber: 19 g
That’s almost double!! Yikes!!! Crazy uh?
To log these macros intro macro trackers like MyFitness Pal, you can use their QUICK ADD feature.
“But Andres, are those portions accurate?”
Great question. Not always, but they use utensils that gives you better assurance that what they are adding is very close to the standard amounts presented in their nutrition calculators. The food items they add with their hands like cheese, and some others like sour cream, sometimes portions can be different depending on who is serving them so be aware of that.
That’s why it is very important to put things into context to see how your meal fits into the daily equation so you alternate and choose what will best fit your goals.
I hope this article equipped you with the knowledge you did not have about Chipotle ordering.
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