Will a Chipotle Burrito Be a Food Diarist’s Undoing?

Our diarist gets in regular workouts and makes mostly healthy choices, but our expert says occasional splurges on fast food are loaded with calories and sodium
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Our food diarist makes mostly healthy choices, but she missed out on the healthier burrito bowl at Chipotle. Photo courtesy Flickr user Mr. T in DC

The Stats
Gender: Female.
Age: 29.
Height: Five-foot-zero.
Weight: 105.
Location: Baltimore.
Profession: Web editor.
Self-described activity level: “I’ve always maintained a pretty regular five- to six-day-a-week workout regimen that includes gym classes, cardio and sometimes outdoor running in spring/fall. But I’m coming off of traveling (by air) three times in the last three weeks and a week of 100-plus degree weather during which my gym was closed for cleaning. The night before I started this diary I went back to the gym for a high intensity training class, which kicked my butt.”

Day One
7:00 AM: Alarm goes off. I’m not a morning person, which means I need maximum get-ready time. I prep lunch, pour half skim milk and half iced coffee with some Truvia into a travel mug and leave. Side note: I recently got an iced coffee French press which you make the night before and can last for several days. It’s amazing.
8:15 AM: Leave for work, sip iced coffee in the car.
9:00 AM: At work. Check cafeteria menu. The cafeteria downstairs is great, cheap, and healthy—most items are low-fat. The breakfast feature today is an egg-and-cheese croissant. Sounds tasty, but the Web site says it’s filled with fat and calories. When I get down there, there’s a line for eggs, so I toast a raisin bagel with low-fat cream cheese. Elevators are having issues today, so I walk up the four flights.
11:00 AM: I switch to water and fill up my 16-ounce cup.
1:30 PM: Not really hungry yet after that bagel, but I know I’ll be having an early dinner before my weekly ceramics class this evening, so I take the salad I brought with me out of the fridge. It consists of “spring mix” lettuce, corn leftover from a barbecue, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, beets, avocado, black beans, and balsamic vinaigrette. It’s just what I had in the fridge, but turns out to be an amazing combo. I also have fat-free Greek yogurt with a sliced peach and a few walnuts.
1:50 PM: Fill up my water.
2:15 PM: Investigate a deal online for a one-month local produce club and then look at prices, say “Oh, God,” and go back to work. $1.20 for a lemon? $5.99 for a half pint of blackberries? No thank you.
3:20 PM: Chocolate craving! I grab a dark chocolate-with-almonds mini Dove bar from the bag I keep at my desk. The wrapper says, “Be a little naughty with your nice.”
4:10 PM: Give up halfway through the water and open a can of Arizona Arnold Palmer with zero calories of sugar. It’s made with Splenda and is a tad too sweet, so I water it down with ice. My teeth have a great affinity for cavities, so I’m really strict about sugary drinks and candy (aside from chocolate, clearly).
5:00 PM: Leave work. My ceramics class is at 7, but there’s barely time to go home first, and would just be a waste of gas. So I stop at Chipotle and get a chicken burrito with black beans, tomatoes, a bit of the corn mix, rice, and cheese. I’m twice as hungry now that the burrito is in the car with me.
6:00 PM: At the studio and finished with my burrito, I get an early start. Tonight I trim three bowls and one vase, and make one new vase. Not bad.
9:45 PM: Call it a night. I drive home, exhausted, and have a small glass of water and am in bed at 10:30.

Day Two
7:00 AM: Up. Shower. Pour my iced coffee with milk and Truvia, pack more peach, yogurt and walnuts. On my one-block walk to the car, I notice that there’s a new nearby restaurant giving away free coffee and blueberry muffins to spread the word. I already have coffee, but take a muffin—score! It’s still warm and tastes wheat-floury and not sweet—just how I like it. To top it off, the Lady Gaga song that’s been all over the radio this month—you know the one—comes on as I pull onto the highway. I sing. This morning gets a 10.
8:45 AM: At work, sip my coffee. My calves are killing me from my H.I.T. class two days ago. And I forgot to take the stairs this morning, even though it’s our weekly office wellness day when we get to wear sneakers to work and are encouraged to exercise. It’s too hot to take a walk today, so stairs are my only hope—oops.11:30 PM: Fill up my water. Has anyone noticed that drinks are more fun with a straw, even when they’re not a magarita? I use one of those plastic cups that looks like a Starbucks cup, but is reusable. It definitely helps me to drink more.
12:15 PM: Walk across the street to the mall with a co-worker to look for Orioles T-shirts. We’re having a “bullpen party,” with our department on Friday, and neither of us owns anything Orioles. No luck, so we head back and swing by the cafeteria. It’s pasta day, which I love (they make it to order), but I might make pasta for dinner. I get a turkey sandwich on multigrain with lettuce and provolone, grilled. I’m starving by the time we get back upstairs (my co-worker reminds me that we need to take the stairs) and I stuff the sweet pickles that came with my lunch into the sandwich.
1:10 PM: I grab the yogurt I brought for dessert.
2:15 PM: Tired. Not sure what to do about it.
3:10 PM: Water refill. I notice when I get up that the soreness has creeped up my legs and shoulders. I wish I could go to the gym tonight—I always feel better when I work out sore muscles.
4:45 PM: Leave work.
5:10 PM: I get home and straighten up, cut up a quarter of a large watermelon and pour sweet potato chips from Trader Joe’s into a bowl. I’m hosting my weekly four-person writer’s group and I know they love these chips. We’re all fiction writers, and everyone but me is working on a novel. The meetings help us to get feedback and stay on track with our writing.
6:00 PM: The meeting starts. We discuss a chapter of someone’s wonderful and funny novel, and I eat a handful of chips and a few pieces of the watermelon.
7:30 PM: After the group leaves, I make spinach and three-cheese ravioli with tomato sauce and fresh basil that I grow outside. I also have some of the same salad I brought for lunch yesterday, followed by a strawberry Fig Newton and two pieces of dark chocolate. Since my boyfriend is out of town, I put less effort into dinner prep. Usually we cook together and most of the time we eat chicken since he’s big on protein and neither of us are big on red meat.
10:15 to 10:45 PM: I stretch my sore legs, drink a cup of water and read.

Day Three
7:00 AM: Wake up, shower. I’m pretty hungry, so I eat Special K (the kind with strawberries) with skim milk, remember to take a vitamin D, pour my coffee and pack leftover ravioli, a sliced apple, a yogurt, and an Arnold Palmer. I juggle the recycling and dodge mosquitoes on my way out. Running late.
9:00 AM: Make it to work on time.
9:40 AM: My boss very kindly brings each of us a Chick-fil-A breakfast biscuit. I’m not
hungry, nor does it seem like a good idea, but I hate to waste it. I take a bite, and nibble on the biscuit part.
12:15 PM: Fill up my water.
1:00 PM: Lunch time. I eat my ravioli and apple.
2:45: Tired. I grab my Arnold Palmer, though I’m not optimistic that it’ll help. I wonder if I’m tired because I haven’t worked out since Monday, or because I really need nine hours of sleep. Both, probably.
4:00 PM: I get my yogurt. It’s a pomegranate-and-granola combo from Trader Joe’s that I’m in love with. It’s not artificially colored, is more sour than sweet and has a great crunch—yum.
5:00 PM: Leave work!
5:45 PM: I walk the approximately seven minutes to the gym. It’s about 100 degrees, so this is my warm-up. I do 30 minutes on the elliptical, jog for 10 minutes, and do a 20 minute ab class and feel way more awake. I stop by Whole Foods on the way home for milk. I have a fear of running out of milk. If you haven’t noticed, I’m sort of a dairy freak. I walk home, am dripping by the time I get there, and immediately get in the shower.
8:00 PM: Boyfriend is still away, and it’s getting late, so I throw a Trader Joe’s “Misoyaki Turbot” meal in the microwave. I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place if I realized it was microwave-only. It smells fishy before it’s even done cooking and doesn’t taste very good. I eat about a third of the fish and all of the vegetables. Not satisfying. I warm up a loner piece of leftover pizza and drink a cup of coconut water. I follow this up with a peanut butter Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich and a cup of water.
11:15 PM: Fall asleep immediately.

See Also:

What a Food Blogger Eats: The Food Diaries

Health Heroes: Allyn Blind

Study: One in Six Customers Pays Attention to Calories on Menus

Day Four
7:00 AM: Up. Pack a nectarine, yogurt, and walnuts, plus my coffee. There’s not much left, so it’s mostly milk.
8:45 AM: At work. I eat my nectarine/yogurt with my coffee. The peach was better.
10:30 PM: Fill up my water. I plan to hydrate well today—it’s going to be 105 degrees and I will actually be outside in it today at the Orioles game.
11:00 PM: I need a snack. I grab a Kashi cereal bar (“blackberry graham”). I like these because they’re not overly sweet or gooey.
Noon: I head down to the cafeteria to get lunch. It seems crazy to get soup on a day like this, but the office is cold, and I know I’m not going to have healthy dinner options at the game. I get a small “navy bean” soup and a side salad with a little bit of fruit salad (watermelon, pineapple, grapes and melon). I put lettuce, half an egg, green pepper, broccoli, carrots, chick peas, black olives, a sprinkle of feta and balsamic vinaigrette in the salad. The soup turns out to be crazy salty, so I take a few spoonfuls and then focus on the salad. I eat the fruit last, but there’s a lot of rind going on. I feel bad throwing the soup out, but I’ve never been a “plate-finisher”—I’m more of a “dessert-haver.”
12:45 PM: I eat a Dove square. I’ll spare you the wrapper quote.
1:00 PM: Get a water refill.
2:00 PM: The salad didn’t quite cut it. I try some Utz honey wheat pretzel sticks that I’d brought to the office a few days ago. They turn out to be great. I eat a handful.
3:00 PM: The office closes early, and I head home before the game and pre-game party. My boyfriend isn’t getting home until tonight, and I’m taking a friend to the game. Luckily she lives next door, so we can drive together. I drink some water before heading out. It’s a quick trip since we live downtown.
5:30 to 7:45 PM: At the game, I drink tons of water. Like, tons. There’s a buffet of hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages. I don’t eat pork, so I get a hamburger, a few chips and a piece of watermelon.
8:00 PM: We’re back home after just catching the beginning of the game, and rinse off from the unbelievable heat. We both change make a quick turnaround with our boyfriends this time—we’re all headed to a Baltimore Fashion Week-associated charity fashion show at a gay club. My friend is a fashion designer and knows many of the designers. I’m wearing heels and standing, and the show starts late, so my feet hurt before it even starts. I drink two gin and tonics, which don’t help the pain, and while it’s the most entertaining Friday night in awhile, my boyfriend and I leave while the show’s still going.
11:30 PM: After a short taxi home, we’re both way past ready for bed.

Day Five
8:45 AM: I’d really like to sleep in today, but we both have friends visiting DC and we need to hit the road.
10:15 AM: On the way out of Baltimore, we stop at my favorite coffee shop, Latte Da, and I run in for a small iced coffee and small raspberry scone. I also get a water for later—it’s going to be over a hundred again. I put Splenda and a splash of half-and-half in the coffee.
12:30 PM: After taking the metro from Crystal City, I meet a friend in Chinatown and catch up over unsweetened passion fruit iced teas at Starbucks.
2:15 PM: We meet my other friend who’s visiting from San Diego and her family for lunch at Legal Sea Foods. We’re all originally from Boston, so everyone’s in their element here. I order grilled salmon that comes with orzo, hummus, and two pita chips. I also drink seltzer. I’m starving and eat everything, plus a roll with butter.
5:30 PM:
My out-of-town friend and I have been walking from air-conditioned store to air-conditioned store and I’ve been drinking water. We see a fro-yo shop and stop in. Everything is fat-free, but very sweet. I eat a small cup of random flavors (it’s self-serve).
7:00 PM: We meet back up with my boyfriend and his friend at the W hotel a short walk away, and I have a Greyound at the rooftop bar. The white grapefruit juice is fresh squeezed and refreshing. The view is amazing, but it’s really hot, so after a few minutes, we head inside.
8:00 PM:
My boyfriend, his friend and I leave and walk to the Metro. It’s about a ten minute walk, but feels like forever. It’s still over 100 degrees.
8:45 PM: We go to a Chick-fil-A near where we’re parked in Crystal City. Not my first choice, but I make do with a salad with grilled chicken and it’s actually really fresh and good. The balsamic vinaigrette is too sweet, but that’s often the case with low-fat foods. I eat about two thirds of the salad and drink water. The finish line of a race is right outside, and the last runners are crossing it. They win my admiration—it has not cooled down at all.
Midnight: We’re home and exhausted. I should chug some water, but hit the pillow instead.

From the Expert

Claire LeBrun, a senior nutritionist in The George Washington Medical Faculty Associates Department of Surgery who supports patients before and after weight-loss surgery, says: “Wow, someone who is aware about what they are eating—I wish I could see this more often! At five-feet and 105 pounds, she meets the ideal weight range for her height. You can tell she is health conscious by ensuring regular (almost daily) exercise and eating mostly whole foods like: low-fat dairy, fresh vegetables and fruit, legumes, and nuts. When she does eat prepared foods, she considers nutrition stats to make healthier choices. Interestingly, if you look at just the calories, her choice of the bagel with light cream cheese (425 to 550 calories, depending on the size of the bagel and amount of cream cheese used) is more than most egg and cheese croissants (370 calories for a typical fast-food version according to Fitday.com), albeit much healthier at 4 grams versus 14 grams of artery-clogging, saturated fat. A lower calorie, healthier, and stomach filling option might be an egg and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread or English muffin—it has a balance of protein and carbs which tends to be more filling than just carbs and fat alone, like in the bagel and cream cheese, for significantly fewer calories (roughly 250).”

“I love her ‘little naughty with your nice’ treat of a mini-dark chocolate Dove bar with almonds (190 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat). Dark chocolate in particular has high levels of heart-healthy polyphenols. But who can keep a bag at your desk without having it call your name every hour? At 190 calories per bar, this could be a calorie-laden temptation for many.”

“I checked out the Arizona Tea Web site and found there are two types of Arnold Palmer ‘lite’ teas (one was half tea and half lemonade and the other was a green tea). Both contained 50 calories per serving, but the only size can they offer has three servings—a 23.5-ounce can—150 calories total. While this was a whole lot better than consuming a regular Arizona tea (which at that size is 270 calories), it still contains 150 calories of sugar, and not much else in terms of health value. If the diarist is drinking a diet beverage that’s sweetened solely with artificial sweeteners, suc
h as Splenda, it will not promote cavities or provide extra calories that she might rather have spent on food. Personally, I prefer to make my own tea as it’s easy to do, tastes just the way you like it (not to mention fresh), and can be both lean on the pocketbook and on sugar calories.”

“The chicken burrito from Chipotle certainly sounds healthy as they use only whole, unprocessed food, but if you check the nutrition info at their Web site, her choice of burrito comes out to be 930 calories and 30 grams of fat (11 saturated). However, if you ditch the rice (130 calories) and the tortilla (290 calories) and put it in a “burrito bowl,” with lettuce, it’s only 515 calories and 18 grams fat (7 saturated) and still has a whopping 14 grams of colon-loving fiber. Men’s Health in June 2009 placed Chipotle’s chicken burrito as number 16 on its “20 Worst Foods in America” list and calculated it as having 1,179 calories and 2,656 milligrams of sodium. I’m assuming they tested a loaded version of the chicken burrito, which would explain the difference in numbers. But what’s obvious is that no matter how you dress it, the chicken burrito is a large calorie and sodium infusion for one meal. Her regular workouts, food consciousness, and meal planning (plus perhaps a good metabolism) help balance out her occasional high-calorie, high-fat splurges.”

Are you brave enough to keep a food diary? We dare you. E-mail wellbeing@washingtonian.com with your contact information and a paragraph or two about why you'd make a good diarist.

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