Let’s face it: People freaking love Chipotle.
Even those who keep their McDonald’s runs on the DL will proudly proclaim their adoration for the chain’s made-to-order Mexican fare. And for good reason—the chain was one of the first to nix all GMOs and artificial ingredients.
But while a taco loaded with fresh veggies is certainly cleaner than a Big Mac, not all Chipotle orders are made equal. Yes, you can hack the menu—yes, burritos included—to make it even healthier.
I asked Dana James, MS (founder of Food Coach and a triple board-certified nutritionist) how to make your next Chipotle run as good-for-you as possible, without sacrificing taste (or guacamole). Follow her rules, and your hardest decision will be which salsa to choose.
Here are expert-approved healthy hacks to try the next time you place an order at Chipotle.
Opt for the burrito bowl
Chipotle scores major nutrition points off the bat by making everything customizable—you determine how much of each ingredient goes into your meal. That said, James right away spotted one menu option that isn’t as healthy as the others: the burrito.
“The tortilla shell has [more] carbs than the average person needs,” she says. “So I would only suggest that to people who work out a lot.” Not quite crushing as many daily burpees as Drake? Then the burrito bowl it is.
As for fillings, James recommends that half of your bowl be veggies, so ask your server to pile on the fajita peppers and romaine. Protein should make up a quarter of your overall dish, while the other quarter can be filled with rice and beans (ask for half a scoop of each). And friendly reminder that if you’re ordering something sans meat, the guac is technically free.
Don’t order the same thing every time
If Chipotle is your go-to lunch spot, James notes that it’s important to switch up your protein source. “I see an over-reliance on chicken among healthy eaters,” she says. So if you had poultry for dinner last night, go for the beef. Try not to overdo the tofu, either. “Women should typically only be eating tofu once a week, unless they are low in estrogen,” says James. (It contains phytoestrogens, which may screw with your natural hormone levels.)
Variety is also key when it comes to choosing between pinto and black beans. “Different beans have different nutrient values, so the most important thing is that you get an array,” James says.
Order three tacos, eat one shell
Maybe you really want a taco. So which shell is the healthier choice: hard or soft?
James claims it doesn’t really matter which one you pick. But since a typical order comes with three tacos, and the tortilla is the least nutritious part of your meal, she suggests only eating one of the shells and pouring the fillings of the other two into a bowl. You’ll still get your taco fix while keeping the bulk of your meal as nutrient-dense as possible—which means more room for chips and guac. (The best part of a Chipotle lunch, obviously.)
One more place to find avocado on the go: Starbucks. Meanwhile, this prepared food spot is rolling out a seriously impressive vegetarian menu.