The 4 Best Lunch Options at Chipotle If You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you can find nutritious and delicious lunch choices at Chipotle. The menu is completely customizable, which makes finding choices that fit your nutrition needs easier.

a side by side of a Chipotle and a Chipotle's Wholesome Bowl
Photo: Getty Images

If you are one of the 37.1 million Americans, per the CDC, with diabetes, you know that making decisions around food is constant and sometimes stressful, in part because what you eat has a direct impact on blood sugars. In addition, you might be managing other health conditions, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, where dietary choices matter. But, it is possible to make food choices that fit your lifestyle, adhere to your cultural customs, and help you maintain the pleasure of eating.

In an effort to ease your stress, we've done the work for you and highlighted the best lunch options for someone with diabetes at Chipotle, a popular fast-food chain that prides itself on using fresh ingredients. When making these picks, we considered carbohydrates, fat, fiber and protein.

We do recognize that all nutritional needs should be individualized. Therefore, if you have specific questions about your nutritional needs, reach out to a health care professional such as a registered dietitian or certified diabetes care and education specialist.

What to Look for When You Order Fast Food

When ordering fast food for lunch, it is important to choose options containing high-quality carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fats and protein. This food combination will keep you feeling full and energized and prevent large fluctuations in blood sugar.

If you are following a consistent carbohydrate diet, you'll want your carbs to fit into your meal plan. And if you count carbohydrates to match your insulin, you'll need to know carbohydrate meal totals.

Fast food is usually high in sodium, so choosing food items that are lower in sodium (if available) is also important, particularly if you have diabetes and high blood pressure. Because most of the menu options at Chipotle are high in sodium, you'll want to make sure you choose lower-sodium choices for the rest of the day and drink plenty of water.

Opt for choices that are also lower in saturated fat, as this type of fat can increase cholesterol levels, per the American Heart Association. Finally, the total amount of calories is important for people trying to maintain or lose weight. Many fast-food servings exceed people's caloric needs per meal. While listening to your hunger cues is always important, not everyone is used to that. Food options rich in fiber will naturally contain fewer calories and will do a much better job of keeping you full and satisfied.

The 4 Best Lunch Options at Chipotle for Diabetes

One of the best things about Chipotle's menu is that it is completely customizable. You can choose your base, main ingredients and toppings. Request that items be doubled, served on the side or served "light." And Chipotle has a nutrition calculator that can assist you in tallying up carbohydrates and other nutrients.

1. Wholesome Lifestyle Bowl

For a lower-carbohydrate option, you may want to choose the Wholesome Bowl, made with a supergreens lettuce blend, chicken, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa and guacamole, a combination that packs major flavor and nutrition.

Nutrition information, per Chipotle's site.

  • Calories: 460
  • Total Fat: 29 g
  • Saturated Fat: 7 g
  • Protein: 35 g
  • Carbohydrates: 18 g
  • Fiber: 9 g
  • Sodium: 1,380 mg

For this lunch to fit our diabetes-appropriate parameters, we recommend you get half the serving of fresh tomato salsa and guacamole. Though this item has lots of protein and fiber, it lends toward a higher sodium and saturated fat content. The salsa alone has around 550 milligrams of sodium, and the guacamole has 370 milligrams of sodium and 3.5 grams of saturated fat. However, working with a registered dietitian or a primary health care provider can help you identify your specific nutritional recommendations.

2. Customized Veggie Burrito Bowl

A higher intake of plants is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes and improved glycemic control in people with insulin resistance, per a 2018 review published in Current Diabetes Reports. To increase your plant intake, try a veggie bowl and opt for plant-based options such as fajita vegetables, beans, corn salsa and guacamole. We constructed our own bowl made with fajita veggies (onions and peppers). The veggie option also includes guacamole, which provides healthy monounsaturated fat and filling fiber, and a choice of beans. We chose a light serving of pinto beans for a vegetarian source of protein and a light portion of brown rice to control the carbohydrate content. We topped it off with some romaine lettuce and a light portion of roasted chili corn salsa.

Nutrition info, per Chipotle's site.

  • Calories: 465
  • Total Fat: 27 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g
  • Protein: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 51 g
  • Fiber: 15 g
  • Sodium: 885 mg

To boost this meal's protein content, add some sofritas (plant-based protein) for an additional 150 calories, 10 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 8 g protein, 560 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate and 3 g fiber. This adds a significant source of sodium; therefore, if you add it, consider cutting out the roasted chili salsa to reduce your sodium content.

3. Customized Steak Salad

We constructed a salad made with steak as the protein source, which surprisingly has 20 fewer calories and 1 less gram of fat than a serving of chicken. For our salad, we chose lettuce, steak, light brown rice, light black beans, light fajita vegetables and guacamole. Opting to put the dressing on the side controls the amount you use. The Chipotle honey vinaigrette contains 220 calories, 16 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates and 850 mg sodium. This dressing can be a significant source of sodium and carbohydrates, so it's a good idea to use it sparingly.

Nutrition info (without dressing), per Chipotle's site.

  • Calories: 565
  • Total Fat: 32 g
  • Saturated Fat: 7 g
  • Protein: 30 g
  • Carbohydrates: 42 g
  • Fiber: 10 g
  • Sodium: 975 mg

To reduce the sodium and saturated fat content, you can consider asking for half a serving of guacamole or skipping the beans.

Chicken Corn Tacos

Sometimes you just need some crunch, which is one reason we chose the corn taco shell. Another reason is that it contains zero milligrams of sodium, compared to the flour tortillas, which contain 160 mg each. A taco meal consists of three tacos. We customized our taco with chicken, lettuce, fajita vegetables, light brown rice and cheese, and tomatillo-green chili sauce (on the side). The chili salsa adds a low-calorie flavor but does contain 260 mg of sodium per serving, so just use a dab—you don't need much.

Nutrition info (without salsa), per Chipotle's site.

  • Calories: 580
  • Total Fat: 23 g
  • Saturated Fat: 7 g
  • Protein: 41 g
  • Carbohydrates: 58 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Sodium: 910 mg

If you want some added creaminess and extra fiber you can purchase a side portion of guacamole. Add a dollop to each taco and take the rest home to limit your sodium intake

The Best and Worst Toppings for Diabetes

There are certain toppings that will be higher in sodium, saturated fat and calories. When choosing toppings, think about the contents of your meal, your nutrition and your health-related goals. If you already have sources of fat, such as guacamole and meat, then it's probably a good idea to skip the cheese, queso or sour cream. You'll also want to consider how many carbohydrates your meal has and if adding a topping would spike your blood sugar. Lastly, consider how it tastes and if it's something you don't have often. A higher-calorie item that you simply love and want to have can be put on the side and used in smaller quantities or swapped with something else.

What to Look For

Look for toppings that are lower in saturated fat and sodium and higher in fiber and protein—two nutrients that can help balance out your blood sugars.

What to Include

Include lettuce, vegetables and guacamole (though watch out for the sodium) and, in some instances, sour cream. Although sour cream is higher in saturated fat, it's one of the lower-sodium options (30 mg of sodium per serving). Some sour cream varieties contain probiotics, important contributors to gut health, per a 2022 article published in Food and Chemical Toxicology. Sour cream is also low in carbohydrates. If you include sour cream, skip the cheese and opt for a smaller portion of guacamole to keep your calories in a good range.

What to Limit

A side of queso contains 240 calories, 18 grams fat and 12 g saturated fat. Most of the fat in it is saturated. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and is the type of fat that can contribute to increased cholesterol, per the AHA. The red chili salsa and fresh tomato salsa, although low in calories and made with fresh ingredients, contain about 500 mg sodium per serving. Because the menu is already high in sodium, it's probably a good idea to keep your portions of these lower. That goes for the salad dressing also, which contains 18 grams carbohydrates and 850 mg sodium per serving.

The Bottom Line

There is no one way to eat if you have diabetes. Everyone has their own unique health history, goals, food preferences, lifestyle and schedule. Chipotle makes eating a bit easier because its menu is completely customizable and limited. The limited selection makes creating a meal a bit easier. When choosing your lunch, aim to include some vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Try to keep carbohydrates and sodium moderate by choosing light servings of seasoned rice, beans and sauces.

If you follow a specific carbohydrate diet or manage insulin to carbohydrates, look online beforehand to calculate the carbohydrates in your meal. Lastly, sit down and enjoy your meal. Maintaining the pleasure and joy of eating is equally important.

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