Basic Math Blows Holes in Chipotle’s Absurd “Calorie Range”

The law requiring all chain restaurants in New York City to post calorie information goes into effect today.  And while it is still being fought by the New York State Restaurant Association, many have already complied, including Chipotle, which has already posted a “Calorie Range” for all of the items on their menu.  There’s only one issue… somebody’s math sucks, because when you compare the “ranges” posted to the (very difficult to find) nutritional information on the Chipotle website, it doesn’t quite match up.

My rudimentary math skills get put to the test, after the jump…

Let’s take the basic burrito as an example.  The Chipotle in my building has the range for any Burrito as 420-918 calories.  Common sense might cause somebody to think “Hmmm, low probably refers to the vegetarian burrito, high is burrito with some sort of fatty meat”.    That would be a faulty assumption.

According to the nutritional information on the Chipotle website, the flour tortilla *alone* is 290 calories, leaving one to wonder, what exactly is in this 420 calorie burrito?  Under burrito, the list of ingredients is as follows: (I’ll include the caloric content of each so you can do some fun burrito math)

  • Cilantro & Lime Rice (160)
  • Pinto Beans/Black Beans (138/130)
  • Salsa (15-100 depending on which one you choose)
  • Cheese (110)
  • Sour Cream (120)
  • Guacamole (included in the Vegetarian Burrito only) (140)

And that’s not even including any meat.  So, by process of elimination, if you want a burrito on the low range of the calorie scale (420), you will be ordering a flour tortilla, filled with vegetarian black beans.  No salsa.  No sour cream.  No rice.  No cheese.  Can that even be considered a burrito?  Has anybody ordered a burrito like that?  Ever?

Initially, I thought- “oh, maybe they’re including burrito bowls”, a burrito minus the tortilla- clearly one of the more fattening parts of the equation.  But no- “Burrito Bowls” get their own listing, and the minimum listed for that on the “Calorie Range” is 130.  130 Calories???  Are you joking?  To get a burrito bowl on the low end of the range, you would basically be ordering a bowl, with a scoop of beans in it.  Ridiculous.

The high end is almost as laughable.  A vegetarian burrito, at its least, would be considered rice, beans, salsa, and guacamole (which is included free in the vegetarian burrito) in a tortilla, coming in at a grand total of 740 calories.  And that doesn’t even include cheese (!!!) or the fajita veggies that they give you for free in that particular burrito.  Add some meat (an extra 170-200 calories) and you’re closer (if not over) the high end of the calorie range (listed as 918).  The NY Post lists the Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito at 1179, a full 250+ calories higher than any range listed on the Chipotle Menu.

While I personally don’t want to know how fattening the food I eat is, I do think fast food chains purposely mis-lead people into thinking their food is healthier than it actually is.  Nobody is going to be fooled into thinking that roast pork with rice, beans and plantains is a low fat lunch, but you’d be surprised at how many people think a vegetarian burrito at Chipotle is low in calories.  I think the law is a good thing if it gets people to eat less fast food, but when you see how Chipotle has distorted the info, it makes you wonder who is going to police it, and how accurate the information really is going to be.

Chipotle Nutritional Information [PDF]

54 Comments

  • SING IT!

    that place is an abomination.

  • Yeah. It is kind of ridiculous. Ever since I used the Chipotle Burrito Calculator (google it), I couldn’t bring myself to ever eat there again.

    And those numbers are nowhere near the ones the Calculator gives. Considering numbers like that are usually on the lighter side than actuality (ie the scoops of beans, cheese, etc is probably bigger in real life than reflected in the numbers or guidelines for scooping), I would be wary of eating there too often. Not good enough to justify the weight gain, I’m afraid. Bahn mi on the other hand…

  • When Chipotle first opened, my husband somehow thought their burritos were a decently healthy lunch option & he ate one for lunch almost every day. MAN, did he get fat. When he stopped eating Chipotle, he immediately dropped like 30 pounds.

  • This is some good detective work and it brings up an interesting issue. Question for all the people who are shocked at the Chipotle numbers: do you think the numbers will be different anywhere else?

    I personally have no idea. But it certainly is sobering.

  • Ok, who EVER thought burritos, ANY BURRITO, was healthy? They’re not and never have been. What you get with Chipotle is a burrito made with fresher ingredients. I don’t think they ever claimed anything different.

    So considering New York has the worst burritos I’ve ever tasted, and considering they are ALL fattening, I don’t see a problem with eating at Chipotle because they use good, fresh ingredients, and it tastes good.

  • I still tell myself the burrito bowl is healthy, and that was 15 pounds ago.

  • I agree with Jane. The chipotle by my school was giving out free burritos a few months ago. But I also discovered the Chipotle Burrito Calculator that day, and since then could never stomach another burrito from them.

    I wonder how well Subway stacks up against these numbers? I have been a big fan of Subway for the past three years, but it would be extremely disappointing to learn that they lie about their numbers too.

  • I don’t see how Subway could be bad for you, considering they give you one tiny slice of meat if you’re lucky, but who knows?

  • I used the Chipotle Burrito Calculator for my vegetarian burrito and came up with something like 1,100 calories. That’s what guac, sour cream and cheese will do to you! It’s not even very filling.

    A 6-inch veggie delight with honey mustard sauce from Subway is definitely health food. It’s basically a salad on a roll. If you’re feeling really decadent you can get it with cheese! However, you will be hungry 30 minutes later. Subway also has a veggie burger (they call it a veggie patty) that is probably way healthier and tastier than anything they serve at Zen Burger.

  • There was a direct correlation between my weekly Chipotle burrito and me gaining almost 20lbs over 18 mths. I used to think it was healthy until I used the calculator. What’s most shocking besides the calories and fat is the sheer amount of sodium. Of course, when you see the guy mix the rice and add a TON of salt, then it all makes sense.

  • five dolla. five dolla foot loooong.

  • Ouch, I thought I was being good and only getting the chicken burrito with out sour cream and only the tomato salsa, and only come in on about 500-600 calories.

    I love this new requirement to post calories now! every time i get that “craving”, I can just look at the menu and brush it off!

  • Chips and Guacamole is something insane like 800 calories, for chips and guacamole! The chips alone are 490, I used to eat a burrito with chips + guac all the time, so I would be eating a 1500+ calorie meal. I thought it was *mildly* better than fast food but it is just as bad, if not worse than some. This supports my theory that you can eat anything and stay fit as long as you go to the gym regularly ;-)

  • We despise Chipotle, and will not grace their establishments with our presence. In fact, we will not accept appointments from Chipotle employees at our hair removal business. My husband and I feel that each one of you individually is an excellent argument for birth control, and I concur.

  • You and your hubby both feel that?……..and you concur?

    A Scitzophrenic pube plucker.

  • You, good sir, have no idea of the money making possibilities that an industrious hair removal empire can reap.

    The wealthy lives of billionaires are built on the pubes of the little people.

  • Subway may be low in calories but in no way are chemically-processed, preservative-saturated, strangely colored vegetables “healthy”. Subway is the devil.

  • *Insert obligatory Anna’s Taqueria waxing*

  • The thing that blows my mind about this is that people are surprised. Like many women, I’ve gone through a calorie counting phase, so it was easy to guess that a burrito would have about 1,000 calories. So my question is, why are people so clueless about calories? And Chipotle is actually a great case study for this, because their food is pretty simple. No hidden butter or cream sauce. Nothing should get in the way of people being able to guess that there are 300 calories in a tortilla. There are 300 calories in every tortilla of that size! So the fact that people are surprised suggests that people just have no idea about calories. No wonder we have this obesity problem!

    And I know that this sounds obnoxious, but I just take my carnitas burrito with sour cream/cheese/guac and cut it in half. Half of a 1300 calorie behemoth is a reasonable meal for me.

  • Why all the picking on Chipotle? If people want less fattening food, cook it yourself, that’s the only way to cut calories and control intake of fats. Anyone who eats an entire Chipotle burrito has to be really slow not to know that it is fattening.

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