Keto at Chipotle

Keto at Chipotle
Daniel Thompson

on April 19, 2019

This year, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced the addition of several new “Lifestyle Bowls” designed to help customers keep their New Year’s resolutions of eating healthier.

Chipotle crafted these new menu items with several of the hottest diet trends in mind. Lovers of the Colorado-based burrito chain now have the ability to stick to their Whole30, Ketogenic, or Paleo lifestyles thanks to these new, customizable salad bowl options.

This move could be expected, really; Chipotle is just the latest eatery following the recent trend toward health-consciousness in the hopes of attracting a new wave of customers.

For many people, especially followers of the keto lifestyle, Chipotle brings to mind calorie-dense burritos, bursting with high-carb additions like tortillas, beans, and rice.

How has Chipotle rearranged their carbo-loaded menu into a keto-friendly one? We’re here to walk you through it.

Why Chipotle?

Why is Chipotle suddenly so interested in accommodating all of these different dietary preferences? One could argue this move is a natural next step for a company like Chipotle, which has always valued fresh food, sustainability, and customizable meal options.

Chipotle has defined its own version of the word healthy many times before. After dealing with a series of foodbourne illness scares in 2015 and 2018, Chipotle had to put several serious concerns about its products and procedures to rest.

By retraining staff, revamping its menu and ramping up marketing efforts, Chipotle is hoping to turn over a new leaf with these latest menu additions, and many of their customers are hoping to do the same with their new year’s resolutions.

Gracing the nutrition page of Chipotle’s website, a new, user-friendly nutritional guide walks customers through the menu and lets them add up the nutrition facts using different menu item filters.

As far as the ketogenic lifestyle is concerned, Chipotle was already at the top of the list as far as fast food goes. Several low-carb protein options and easy customization make this fast-casual Mexican grill an ideal choice for keto-ers, who are used to the unappealing practice of peeling the buns off of a typical drive-thru hamburger.

New Keto-Friendly Chipotle Products

As mentioned above, Chipotle unveiled a new salad bowl that is specifically for those following the keto lifestyle. It starts with a bed of romaine lettuce which gets topped with carnitas, cheese, red salsa, and guacamole.

This diet regimen-inspired salad bowl packs a lot of keto-friendly fats —  42 grams to be precise. According to the restaurant’s website, the bowl delivers an additional 32 grams of protein while limiting the carbohydrates to 15 grams. Not absolutely terrible for an off the shelf fast food keto option.

As of now, the new keto salad bowl remains the only “on-menu” item that is specifically keto-friendly. It’s also important to note that the keto bowl, along with the other three diet-inspired lifestyle bowls, are only available when you order online.

Tips for Eating Keto with Chipotle’s Regular Menu

As many on the keto lifestyle already know, it’s easy to craft your own keto meal from the regular menu at Chipotle. Because Chipotle is a build-your-own type of restaurant, it’s a good idea to have a gameplan ahead of time, so you don’t accidentally end up with a plate full of carbs.  For those who find themselves out of the loop on keto’s key rules, here’s a little refresher.

Rule 1: Fat is Your Friend

On the ketogenic diet, fat should be your number one source of calories throughout the day. For most people, this breaks down to 75-80% of their diet.

Rule 2: Keep Carbs Under 50 Grams

The keto lifestyle is all about staying in ketosis. To achieve this, most people must eat fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. 50 grams of carbohydrates is quite limited — a medium-sized apple or half a bagel is enough to knock someone out of the altered metabolic state.

Rule 3: Protein in Moderation

The ketogenic lifestyle puts a slight cap on the amount of protein consumed per day — usually around 15-20% of daily calories. While other low-carb options put protein on a pedestal, it’s not necessarily the most important in the keto diet, as excess protein can be turned into glucose and knock you out of ketosis.

By taking these ketogenic guidelines into account, it’s easy to see which items on the Chipotle menu are as good as gold, and which you should probably avoid.

What to Look For: Navigating the Chipotle Line

At the average Chipotle, the first thing that greets customers is a giant tortilla warmer. For keto-ers, this is a hard pass, as Chipotle tortillas contain 50 grams of carbohydrates alone. Instead, keto-ers should opt for the salad option, which uses romaine lettuce as a base.

Protein

Next comes the protein. All of the protein options at Chipotle are fairly low-carb. The highest level of carbohydrates is found in the sofritos option, with 12 grams per serving. Next comes barbacoa with 2 grams of carbs, followed by steak with 1 gram. Chicken and carnitas tie for first place when it comes to low carb protein options, each containing 0g.

Cheese

As we move down the line, the next thing you’ll want to add is cheese. Chipotle uses a standard Monterrey Jack cheese, which adds 1 gram of carbs to your overall total. If you opt for queso, you’ll add an additional 4 grams of carbs to your total, but all in all, it’s not out of the keto question.

Fajita Veggies

If you’re looking to bulk up your bowl with more veggies, add some fajita vegetables. These charred onions and bell peppers are relatively low in carbs and contribute a bit of fiber as well.

Salsa

Next, we arrive at the salsas. Most of the salsas on the line at Chipotle add about 4 grams of carbs to your meal. If your carb budget has room, go ahead and salsa it up.

Guac

Lastly, the ever controversial upcharge for guac. Chipotle’s guacamole will add 8 grams of carbs to your meal, however, 6 grams of those carbs are considered pure dietary fiber.

Because your body doesn’t digest these carbs like sugar, many followers of the keto lifestyle say it’s ok to subtract those dietary fiber carbs. This leaves the level of carbs in Chipotle’s guacamole at a much more manageable 2 grams.

What to Avoid

By understanding the rules of the keto diet and which items at Chipotle are a no brainer for someone sticking to this lifestyle, all that is left are the classic no-nos found on the menu.

Beans

While beans have lots of great health benefits, they’re not necessarily the best choice if you’re trying to stay away from carbs. Both black and pinto beans are carbohydrate bombs that will set you back in terms of ketosis. It’s best to avoid these altogether.

Rice

White rice is out of the question, as it’s a simple sugar. Although brown rice is generally a better option (in terms of overall health) because it’s more nutrient dense and contains a lot more fiber, at 36 grams of carbs, brown rice should stay out of your bowl if you’re eating keto.

Tortillas

Tortillas and tortilla chips are obviously against all keto rules. They’re high in carbs, especially the simple sugars that are easily broken down into glucose. If you’re going to eat these, you might as well scarf down a loaf of Wonderbread.

Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa

The roasted chili-corn salsa is the only high-carb culprit when it comes to the salsas. This is mostly because of the added sugar. At 16 grams of carbs per serving, it’s best to avoid this sugary sauce.

Cost

When it comes to the price of dining, keto options are almost always going to be more expensive. Let’s face it: carbs are cheap.

While Chipotle does upcharge for several hot ticket items at its restaurants, the high carbohydrate foods among them — rice, beans, tortillas — are usually free. On the bright side, if you usually order chips, the keto diet will save you a few bucks by avoiding these carb-heavy snacks.

There is another silver lining of eating keto-friendly at Chipotle. Because of the naturally-satiating nature of high-fat and protein-rich foods, followers of the keto lifestyle will feel full faster, which could help you save money by stretching one meal into two.

Wrapping it Up

Overall, it’s not all that tough to stay in ketosis eating at Chipotle. They’ve got plenty of good (and, in our opinion tasty) options you can snag that are high in protein, high in fat, and don’t have many carbs.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re trying to go low carb at this particular restaurant, you’re going to be crushing salads, and you’ll want to stay away from burritos, rice bowls, and chips.

Most meats are totally up for grabs, and any salsa other than the fire roasted chili-corn salsa should also be keto-friendly. Don’t feel like you have to skimp on the cheese, and guac can certainly help the keto-oriented eater stay on track while still adding a bit of flair (just remember: guac is extra!).

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