Many of us find ourselves working long hours, pressed for time, with only one hour of free time squeezed into a hectic work schedule. And during those precious sixty minutes of freedom all anyone can think about is how quickly can I satisfy my groaning stomach before I have to complete the next set of daunting tasks?
Time is ticking and minutes are racing by as you find yourself amid a mental crossroad, debating whether you should drive a couple of miles more for an unprocessed, vegan chai vanilla soy smoothie or succumb to that much, much closer fast food place across the street.
Glancing down at your watch you realize that a fast food restaurant is a far more time-convenient option, despite the motherly voice in your head warning you against the empty caloric-wrapped sin you are about to commit.
And Hopefully if you find yourself in this predicament, you’ll glance down the street and spot a red and white sign with the chili pepper emblem amongst the plethora of brightly colored choices.
The occasional Chipotle trip doesn’t have to be a caloric burden weighing so heavy on your conscience that it literally sends you running towards a treadmill. As Alexander Pope says, “To err is human,” so if you’re going to commit the ‘cardinal sin’ of eating fast food anyway, why not choose a fast food place that has an upstanding reputation not tainted by hormones, antibiotics, and the infamous pink slime.
Chipotle’s high quality standards prove that you can still have your speed cuisine without sacrificing your health too. Of course, the battle is still not completely won, since once you make the initial choice of choosing a fast food restaurant, you are then faced with the most difficult decision: making a health-conscientious choice based on your personal code of nutritional goals and needs.
Here are a few health tips on how to make it through your next Chipotle trip without diverting from health zone territory:
Healthy tip #1:
My first tip will be the most difficult to digest (no pun intended): avoid getting the flour tortilla packed with 300 calories of fat (most likely hydrogenated), high sodium (690mgs), and carbohydrates devoid of nutritional value. Instead, replace the flour tortilla with its’ corn tortilla counterpart—a much healthier alternative, containing only 70 calories.
Not only is the corn tortilla a better option in terms of caloric intake, but also in terms of carbohydrates and sodium since all of these levels are significantly reduced. The only real nutritional drawback to the common corn tortilla is the fact that corn itself is one of the most commonly genetically modified foods.
However, considering that you are on a time crunch, I’m giving you the best fast food option, not necessarily the most ideal. If you do not want to altogether rule out the tortilla, go for the corn tortilla and rid yourself of the desire to order the 1,500 calorie burrito. Other options (excluding all tortillas) include the salad and fajita bowls.
Healthy tip #2:
Choose your protein according to your own nutritional needs and guidelines. Overall, when it comes to selecting red meat, poultry or pork, you can rest assured knowing that Chipotle’s founder, Steve Ells, is an advocate for clean, healthy eating.
He once testified in 2009, before congress, against the use of antibiotics in ranching. In 2000, Chipotle claimed that 100% of their pork is naturally raised. And In 2002, Chipotle started serving naturally raised chicken from farms that meet these high standards. When it comes to quality, Chipotle most definitely carries higher health-conscientious standards than the average fast food place.
Selecting the best meat option really boils down to preference and personal nutritional needs. If you are looking to lower your cholesterol, select either the barbacoa or steak because both items contain lower levels of cholesterol (65mg) in comparison to other meat options. However, if your goal is to reduce high blood pressure and hypertension, then the chicken and steak are better options since they contain lower sodium levels. And, last of all, if you’re looking for a lean yet protein rich option, the chicken and steak are the best items on the menu; not only do they contain lower levels of fat, but also are very high in protein content.
Although the chicken and steak have 30-32 grams of protein, you can get 6-7 grams of protein in the large scoop of beans. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that the average person consume 10-35% of protein (or about 50-175 grams of protein) a day. You can fulfill your protein requirements with either beans or meat, or a combination of both.
So which legume is better? Black or pinto beans? Note: the black beans might be a slightly better choice since they contain a little less sodium and 2 more grams of fiber than the pinto beans. Not only are black and pinto beans a great source of protein, but also a great source of fiber with 10-12 grams of dietary fiber in each serving.
Healthy tip #3
Add on the Romaine lettuce and fajita vegetables. What other fast food place is willing to give you high quality lettuce and condiments? According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, complex carbs should make up about 40-65% of your diet, so do not neglect the veggies or brown rice!
Hope you found these health tips helpful and will think of them next time you find yourself making an unexpected fast food detour.