Whether the goal is the most bang for the buck or staying on a specific diet while dining out, consumers are excited about the possibilities offered by the versatile burrito bowls at the Tex-Mex-style Chipotle Mexican Grill fast food chain -- and people are proudly sharing their favorite tricks online.
Maximize Nutrition, Minimize Calories
Yasmin, a weight-loss diary writer at Shape.com, recommends ordering the Chipotle burrito bowl with chicken, fajita veggies, lettuce, tomato salsa, corn salsa and guacamole, for a total of 465 calories and only 4 grams of saturated fat. This means skipping the beans, rice, sour cream and cheese, which would bump the total to 975 calories and 17 grams of saturated fat. Ordering everything wrapped in a tortilla (a traditional burrito) would add another 290 calories and 9 grams of fat, for a total of 1,265 calories and 26 grams of fat -- which is why it's important to order carefully. Chipotle provides an online nutrition calculator where you can enter exact ingredients to check the nutrition and calories in your favorite order.
More worried about filling up for cheap than minimizing the total calories? Typically you get larger portions in a burrito bowl than in a traditional burrito wrapped in a tortilla. However, Quora user James Pan explains how to push the quest for quantity even further: When ordering the burrito bowl, smile at the server (Pan says this is an important first step), then ask for half of one type of meat and half of another (such as half chicken, half steak). Typically half-scoops of meat are closer to three-quarter scoops, so you get a larger meat portion. Also, ask for extra rice (free), both pinto and black beans (free), fajita vegetables (free), medium and hot salsa (free), extra corn (free), lettuce and any other toppings you want (free), salad dressing (free) and a tortilla on the side (free). Pan notes that ordering late at night (about an hour before the place closes) usually results in even larger portions -- enough to feed a small family, or one person for several meals.
Meat, Meat and More Meat
For those following the Paleolithic diet -- grass-produced meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds, and certain oils; to mimic the foods eaten by our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors -- ordering a Chipotle burrito bowl means skipping the rice and beans, and loading up on the meat, fajita veggies, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. However, to save money and maximize the meat, PaleoHacks.com recommends ordering two or three sides of meat, served in a burrito bowl, with a side of guacamole. The sides of meat are usually served in separate cups, but you often get larger portions when it's served in a bowl -- and it makes it easier to mix it with the side of guacamole, which also comes in a cup.
Veggies, Veggies, Veggies
For the standard burrito bowl with meat, there's an extra charge to add guacamole. The nice thing about Chipotle's vegetarian burrito bowl is that guacamole is included for free. Erica at Healthy Tasty Cheap recommends the burrito bowl with cilantro-lime rice, black beans, grilled peppers and onions, red tomatillo salsa, corn, sour cream, guacamole and lettuce (about 615 calories and 29.5 grams of fat). Chipotle now offers sofritas (tofu), which it lists as vegan and vegetarian friendly; however, sofritas are only available in some states, although they should eventually be offered nationwide. And it's important to note that there was an uproar a few years ago when consumers discovered that Chipotle was flavoring its pinto beans with a bit of bacon, without noting that on its menu. Starting in September 2013, Chipotle is phasing out the bacon in its pinto beans. Until the change has been made nationwide, vegetarians and vegans should double-check the pinto beans ingredients at each location.
Folks with a mild sensitivity to gluten can eat just about anything at Chipotle except the flour tortillas, so ordering a bowl instead of a traditional burrito works great, as do the corn tacos and chips. For those with strong gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, Chipotle posts a list of the allergens and gluten in its foods, and says its servers will change gloves on request, to limit cross contamination. However, the company also notes that the "corn may have a small amount of gluten from potentially co-mingling with gluten-containing grains in the field" and that "because our folks work with wheat tortillas all day long, there may be the possibility of cross-contact in our restaurants." So while Chipotle is much more gluten-free-friendly than other fast-food chains, it's still important to choose carefully.
Adding Up the Points
At WeightWatchers.com, one participant reports with delight that it's still possible to eat at Chipotle while following the Weight Watchers points system. Before, her usual burrito order was double rice, pinto beans, chicken, corn, cheese and sour cream all wrapped in a flour tortilla, for a grand total of 27 points -- and eating chips with the burrito added another 15 points. Not a good idea when a typical WW plan allows 20 to 35 points daily, depending on the individual. For a healthier order that works with the Weight Watchers program, this consumer now orders a burrito bowl with one scoop of rice, pinto beans, chicken, corn, tomato, cheese and lettuce, for a total of 13 points. And because portions are so generous, several Weight Watcher members report eating only half of a burrito bowl per meal, cutting the points even further.
Keeping it Low-Carb
Followers of various low-carbohydrate diets report success in ordering a Chipotle burrito bowl by skipping the rice and beans and asking for their choice of meat, fajita veggies, tomato salsa, green tomatillo salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and lettuce, for a total of about 24 grams of carbohydrates. A double order of meat adds only 1 or 2 more grams of carbohydrates, depending on the choice of steak, chicken or pork.
What's great about Chipotle's burrito bowl is its flexibility -- with careful ordering, it can be made to fit the needs of just about anyone.