How to order at Chipotle

We’re not savages; we want the best order at Chipotle, which may not necessarily be the one that nets the most food. Here’s how to do it.

Order a salad. Rice tastes good. I grew up eating jasmine rice almost every night. We had a 50-gallon container in the pantry that dispensed an appropriate amount of rice for our dedicated rice cooker. But rice packs a lot of carbohydrates into a small package. Sure, you may feel better ordering the brown rice, but it’s still carbo-loading. You can do without. And don’t bother with the vinaigrette they’ll offer. That little cup of the stuff is listed at 270 calories on the Chipotle nutrition calculator.

Don’t get rice or beans. Add fajita veggies. Beans also pack a lot of carbs into a small package. For that reason, they’re wildly valuable because there are plenty of places in the world where food, in general, is scarce and therefore people must pack as much energy as possible into every meal. But if you’re eating at Chipotle, odds are you’re not subsisting.

At the same time, you want this meal to feel filling, and the fajita vegetables will help do the trick. The online calculator says one serving is 20 calories.

Choose chicken, steak, or (maybe) sofritas. Your choice of protein depends on what you think tastes best, and what your particular goals are. Calorie-wise, none of them are crazy, but we’re avoiding the carnitas because, compared to other meats, it has a lot of saturated fat and a lot of sodium. (Note that just about every combination you can get will be high in sodium.) Barbacoa is better on saturated fats, with less than chicken, even, but it has even more sodium than the carnitas.

Sofritas — or seasoned tofu that can almost pass for a crumbled sausage — are the lowest-calorie option, but they have the least amount of protein, which you want because protein makes you feel fuller, they have a surprising amount of carbohydrates, and they’re packed with sodium, too. So, it depends on how concerned you are with calories in relation to the other elements of the protein choice.

The chicken and steak are both low in saturated fat, low in sodium, low in calories, and high in protein.

Get the salsa verde. Unless you want some real spice, in which case get no salsa at all. If you’re trying to feel more full, ask for a little bit of pico de gallo. The corn is out because of its carbohydrates. The salsa verde has a unique flavor that not everyone is going to appreciate, but keep in mind that it has way less sodium than either the pico or the hot salsa. So, if you’re going to get the pico, ask them to go easy on it so that you get those tomatoes, but without a massive helping of sodium, too.

The reason why we’re avoiding the hot salsa is because there’s another, more efficient way to add kick to the salad, which we’ll address in a moment.

Get guacamole. Or don’t. Just ignore the cheese and sour cream. If we were trying to be strictly health-conscious, we’d forgo all of these due to the calories (guac) and the saturated fat and cholesterol (cheese and sour cream). But guacamole is one of God’s greatest gifts. Feel free to get it every so often.

Remember how you wanted some kick? Go for the Tabasco sauce. Chipotle offers several types of Tabasco sauces in bottles, usually by the forks. Go get some. You don’t need a lot. The original Tabasco flavor is probably “healthiest” because it has the least amount of sodium, but as long as you’re not drenching your bowl in the stuff, you can add a ton of flavor with the green jalapeno sauce or the darker red smoky chipotle sauce without adding too much sodium.

Lay off the rice and beans a few times, and you’ll stop missing them, because you’ll realize that they’re filler. The meat tastes good. The sauce tasted good. The fajita veggies provide heft, and the salad lettuce cools everything off.

As described (and pictured) above, that salad probably totals about 500–550 calories, going with a high-end estimate. There’s a bit more sodium than I would normally like, but I was being indulgent with the guacamole. Take out the guac, and Chipotle says it’s less than 300 calories. Take out the guac and the pico (perhaps if you’re particularly sodium-conscious), and maybe you’ll want to double up on fajita veggies.

Go forth and enjoy.