How Many Calories Do People Really Eat At Chipotle?

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
It turns out guac costs extra — both literally and figuratively. Chipotle, the beloved fast-casual restaurant, is known for being the health- and environmentally-conscious choice among other take-out options. Chipotle's website itself emphasizes its commitment to "food with integrity." But, while the meat is sourced from humane suppliers and the produce is local and organic, it doesn't necessarily mean one of those delicious, warm burritos is healthy. This week, The New York Times raised the question, "How healthy is a normal Chipotle meal?" and the answer is sort of surprising.

"A typical order at Chipotle has about 1,070 calories," The New York Times reported. For reference, an average adult should only eat "between 1,600 and 2,400" calories in a day. The histogram provided in the article shows the distribution of calories in the Chipotle orders polled, with most meals ringing in at 1,000 calories or more — some went over 2,000 calories. Chipotle customers can certainly order meals with fewer than 1,000 calories...but are they?

When a tortilla alone can run you 300 calories, and a dollop of sour cream about 115, staying under 1000 can be challenging (forget about adding chips and guacamole). The Times found that just "25 out of 1,200 burritos" fell below 700 calories.

Tanya Zuckerbrot of F-Factor advises that if you're concerned about calorie consumption, you can "ditch the carb-heavy bowls filled with rice — and especially the carb-heavy burrito — and opt for a salad instead. Also, ditch the cheese and sour cream additions that can pack on the calories, too. A 1/4 cup portion of shredded cheese or a 1/4 cup portion of sour cream adds just over 100 calories each. Lighten your meal by opting for toppings like their peppers-and-onions mix, corn, or low-calorie salsas."

And, remember: Not all calories are created equal. The body breaks down fats, carbs, and proteins differently, so what we put into our body matters. Evaluating the nutritional density of a food —  rather than just blindly choosing the lowest calorie option — is a key factor in choosing balanced, healthy meals. For example, while that guacamole may be calorie-dense, it's also a fantastic source of healthy fats and vitamins

We'd never tell you to give up Chipotle (please — we'd never give up Chipotle). Still, it's best to be aware of what you're eating. 
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