How to eat Healthy at Chipotle

In lieu of the grand opening of Chipotle in Kendall Square at 2 Cambridge Center (right in the heart of the square by the red line T stop, TechStars/DogPatch Labs and Champions).  This is a fantastic location for the chain and I suspect will be one of their busiest locations in the Boston/Cambridge metro area over time. [Remember, they give away free food on opening day!  Currently projected to be late June, early July]

It’s interesting to observe the 50/50 split in responses I get when I ask if people think Chipotle is healthy.  The right answer is that it can be easily, but it’s going to depend on your view of what good nutrition actually is.  I’m going to outline what to order for most people’s different nutrition philosophies, however, want to know the #1 way to make it better for you?  Don’t order a burrito, order a burrito bowl.  The tortilla is technically the only processed food in their mix and full of worthless carbs, synthetic B-vitamins, and gluten to top it off.  In addition, I won’t be recommending the fajita vegetables because they’re fried in soybean oil (Update: apparently the rice has soybean oil added to it as well.  Update 2: They’re testing “other oils”, but why? What do they think is the problem?  And what fats are they testing? Update 3: They’re testing rice bran oil and sunflower oil, I say use the High Oleic (70%) Sunflower oil if those are the only two choices, a lot less Omega-6 and more Vitamin E).

Lastly, before I go into what to order, I will say one of the best things about Chipotle is the food quality, meaning, they use hormone & antibiotic free meats, hormone free dairy in addition to locally sourced vegetables (does not imply organic at all though).

So here’s the quick answer of what I would order:

Generally Awesome Order:  Burrito Bowl with Chicken, White Rice, Black Beans, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Tomato Salsa, Green Tomatillo Salsa and Lemon (from the condiments counter)

Post Workout:  + extra serving of Steak or Carnitas, Corn Salsa, Cheese    – Sour Cream

Post Workout Bowl at Chipotle
Chipotle's Online Nutrition Calculator (


Here are the bowls I would order for different dietary philosophies:

Paleo (Low Carb) Bowl:

Steak, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Tomato Salsa, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Lemon

Paleo 2.0 (Moderate Carb) / Perfect Health Diet / Primal Bowl:

Steak, White Rice, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Tomato Salsa, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Lemon (Add black or pinto beans if you find them acceptable and want some fiber & antioxidants)

Slow Carb from the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss:

Steak, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Guacamole, Tomato Salsa, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Lemon

Vegetarian Salad Bowl:

Lettuce, White Rice, Beans, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Cheese, Tomato Salsa, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Lemon  (do not use any of their “salad dressings”, stick to extra Tomato salsa)

Vegan Salad Bowl:

Vegetarian Salad Bowl – Sour Cream – Cheese


Guacamole (2X), Tomato Salsa, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Lemon…


Extra Recommendations:

– Some level of fat is always recommended via Guacamole or Sour Cream since that will lower the glycemic index of the meal the most and optimize nutrient absorption and protein digestion

– Lemon is always added since acids (citrus) will lower the glycemic index of the meal, although not as much as fat

– Ordering Carnitas (Pork) is a good idea since it’s actually pastured at Chipotle but mainly because it’s a high source of Selenium which most people don’t get enough of

– When ordering Chicken or Carnitas (Pork), it’s almost always best to get Guacamole as well because the Vitamin E will be protective against the higher percentage of polyunsaturated fats in those two

– I usually skip the lettuce in bowls of any kind because I think it typically waters down the taste.  You want the saltiness from the meat and salsas to really bring out the flavor

Do not Recommend:

– Chipotle’s fajita vegetables:  These are fried in soybean oil which makes them more inflammatory than the Vitamin C and Carotenoids they provide will protect against.  If you still want them though, order Guacamole to get the Vitamin E or eat some almonds with your meal

– Brown Rice:  In the Paleo world, we’ve learned about anti-nutrients such as phytate and lectins.  These can irritate the gut lining and are bound to the minerals present in the bran, thus you don’t absorb the nutrients.  So it’s better to just eat the toxin free white rice (this is the only processed grain that is deemed a “safe starch“) and get your nutrients from meat & vegetables

– Beans:  Same reason as above, beans also have anti-nutrients which can be detrimental to the gut.

– Don’t eat Chicken or Carnitas as often since they contain more polyunsaturated fats, but at least Carnitas have a good dose of Selenium