Last week, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill opened a new location in Columbia Heights, to much excitement—Mayor Gray even cut the grand-opening ribbon. And it seems Lime is vying for our affections—in the past year, the California-bred chain also opened locations at Pentagon City and Clarendon. But as far as nutrition goes, Angela Hasemann, RD, CSP, says, “Not so fast!”
“Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the menu—there isn’t a lot of variety in the menu, and there’s definitely room for more healthy options,” she says. “And for a place that has a tagline of ‘get fresh,’ there aren’t many fresh vegetables to choose from.”
Lime doesn’t list its nutrition values, so read on for Hasemann’s analysis.
• Worst—8th Street burrito: While most might assume Lime’s “XL” burrito—the Big Cali—would be the meal to avoid, the 8th Street burrito offers more subtle sabotage. “It’s close, but the 8th Street burrito has bacon and fried tortilla strips, which probably add great texture but also lots of fat and calories,” she explains.
• Better—Nudie burrito: The tortilla-less option is usually a safe bet. This one has chicken or ground beef, rice, organic refried or black beans, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Leave out the cheese and sour cream and you’ve got yourself a decent meal.
• Best—Skinny burrito: Instead of leaving off the tortilla (which is whole wheat for this option), the skinny burrito skips the rice and adds lettuce and fat-free beans. Hasemann says the fiber in the whole-wheat tortilla and refried beans will keep you full, “so maybe you won’t want as many of those [complimentary] tortilla chips.”
• Worst—I Wanna Tijuana taco: “This was an easy choice,” Hasemann says. “This taco wraps a soft flour tortilla around a crispy corn tortilla—you’re basically doubling the calories before you even begin.” And on top of the standard fixings, the taco comes with cheese and sour cream.
• Better—Fish taco: If you order the fish grilled instead of “lightly fried,” choose a soft corn taco over crispy or soft flour, and go easy on the “special sauce,” you’ll have improved this option to its healthiest form. Hasemann says, “Special sauce is usually lingo for ‘high fat,’ and they probably use a lot of it. I would be careful and order it on the side.”
• Best—Lower-carb taco: This option offers a chicken, lettuce, cheese, and salsa in a soft multigrain tortilla (though Hasemann wonders if it’s the same whole-wheat tortilla of the Skinny burrito with a clever new name). “Hopefully, the lettuce is a darker variety, which is healthier,” she says. She also reminds to skip the sour cream.
• Worst—Cabo cob salad: This salad includes bacon and fried tortilla strips, among other compromising ingredients that overpower the salad’s veggies. (The taco salad was a close second for similar reasons). “It has cotija cheese, which is special so they’re probably using more,” says our expert. “And the dressing is avocado-ranch which sounds delicious, but is very high fat—ranch we know is fattening, and avocado is full of fat. Even though it’s good for you, it’s fat nonetheless.”
• Best—La Paz salad: Hasemann points out that the salads are all similar, and only two—including this one—are bacon-free. It has lightly fried fish, greens, black bean corn salsa, carrots, pico de gallo, and tortilla strips. “The fried fish can be swapped for grilled, and the greens, carrots, and beans have lots of fiber,” she explains. “Keep the tortilla strips and dressing on the side.”
Although we’ve pointed out the Lime lunch pitfalls for you to avoid, Hasemann says the real threat is the tortilla strips and chips that come with just about every meal. “Be careful,” she says. “Ask if there’s another option or a smaller size, or ask to have none at all.”
A good thing about Lime is that the company will happily tweak your order for a more wholesome lunch. Keep dressings on the side, ask for more vegetables when you can, and take advantage of the grilled fish option (which you can substitute anywhere for an additional fee) to maximize nutrition.