The Healthiest Lunches at Qdoba, Chipotle, Baja Fresh, and Other Mexican Chains

The most nutritious tacos, burrito bowls, and burritos at local joints.

You can save a lot of calories by ordering a bowl over a burrito with tortilla at chain Mexican restaurants. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Mr. T in DC.

The country’s top Mexican chain restaurants have all seen fit to call Washington home—and while that means more options for cilantro-laden goodness, it also means more opportunities to make poor meal choices. Check out our roundup of the healthiest eats at Baja Fresh, California Tortilla, Chipotle, Lime Fresh, and Qdoba, and stay on track no matter where you go.>

• Burrito bowl with steak or chicken, brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, guacamole, and green salsa: Skipping the tortilla is one of the best shortcuts to healthy eats. This burrito bowl is a solid 510 calories, 17 grams of fat, and an impressive 22 grams of fiber. Just remember to go easy on the guac—although this type of fat is good for you, it’s still fat.

• Salad, with lettuce, chicken or steak, black beans, fajita vegetables, and green salsa on the side: Without the salsa, it’s a light 340 calories, 41 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, and 795 milligrams of sodium—an ounce of salsa adds 15 calories and 115 milligrams of sodium to your meal. Add a little guacamole if you’re concerned about staying full.

• Shrimp original Baja taco: One 200-calorie taco has 11 grams of protein and just 280 milligrams of sodium, which means you could fill up on a few without overloading calories, sodium, and fat. Plus shrimp provides heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. 

• Southwestern chicken salad (no cheese or tortilla strips): The one option our nutritionist could comfortably recommend on the entire menu offers 368 calories, 40 grams of protein, lots of vitamin C, and a relatively tame 723 milligrams of sodium. You’d be surprised at how much the Monterey Jack and tortilla strips can change this picture.

• Lower-carb taco: Although Lime Fresh doesn’t offer nutrition stats, this taco—chicken, lettuce, cheese, and salsa in a multigrain tortilla—is simple and lean, so there’s less chance that it’s a calorie or sodium bomb.

• Skinny burrito: Instead of leaving off the tortilla, the skinny burrito makes it whole wheat, skips the rice, and add lettuce and fat-free beans. And our expert says that even though it’s “skinny,” the wheat tortilla and beans will give you substantial fiber to keep you full.

• Best built: Naked burrito with black beans, pico de gallo, cilantro-lime rice, lettuce, grilled veggies, and ranchera sauce—it has 460 calories, 7 grams of fat, 20 grams of fiber, and, even without meat, 18 grams of protein. Just be mindful of the 1,220 milligrams of sodium.

• Best built: A taco salad with grilled chicken, lettuce, black bean and corn salsa, and grilled vegetables topped with fat-free picante ranch dressing gives you 755 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 1,220 milligrams of sodium. If you don’t eat the crispy bowl it comes in, you automatically cut almost 400 calories, 22 grams of fat, and 150 milligrams of sodium from your meal.

For more nutritional menu breakdowns of local restaurants, visit Well+Being’s Lunch Break page