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

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]

55 Comments

  • Since I was diagnosed with diabetes last year I have had to become very conscious of portion size. I think that’s where people don’t have a clue any more. Just the size of the Chipotle tortilla alone is way too big.

  • Katie and Scorpio – you guys are missing the point. The point is that Chipotle’s “calorie ranges” are deceiving. Obviously people know that burritos are fattening and that if you add sour cream its going to be more fattening. But, how are people supposed to make informed choices when the posted calorie range is totally misleading. It calls into question Chipotle’s ethics when the “420″ calorie burrito is a tortilla w/ beans and the “130″ calorie burrito bowl is a plastic bowl with beans! Its ridiculous is all I can say.

  • Food Corps,USDA,FDA and the food lobbyists in DC have collectively fucked up the health of the last three generations of americans(as a whole i mean, not you svelt guys:):).And are taking a good bloody swipe at fucking up europeans health too.

    I give the Ski machine in my gym an hour every morning,im dripping with sweat and really going for it, and the calorie count? 900 ish FOR an HOUR.Im no health food nut, my friday breaky would kill kost cardiologists just by reading the menu

    I suppose im saying the rules and education about nutrition in the US have to change(Present Mrs.McBagel is from upstate,Albany;So im not just having a go), i can see both sides.

    MY New Docu DVD Supersizedpubepluckers is out now.
    (j/k)

  • we’ve already copyrighted the word ‘Supersizedpubepluckers’. Please send us a check for 5 american dollars for using it in this blog comment, or face the wrath of our highly paid lawyers, all of whom are also customers of our hair removal clinic.

  • Just eat half a burrito fatass!

  • …and have a creme brule after that burrito. Or even put one in it.

  • I laughed when I saw the calorie range at Chipotle. It’s indicative of nothing. The best thing to do is make wise choices – we all know a tortilla is a zillion calories and moreso if it’s fried. You really can get a healthy meal at Chipotle but they shouldn’t have advertised their stupid calorie range.

    The calorie ranges are there to placate the conscience of someone who wolfs down a loaded burrito and points to the low end of the calorie spectrum in defense.

  • Do the math on the math. When made right, burritos are relatively healthy. Rice, beans, chicken breast, salsa — all very low in fat. Get a burrito bowl sans guac, sour cream and cheese (tough, I know), and it is very healthy. Chipotle’s problem is NOT an ingredients issue. It is a portion issue. Anyone who thinks a 2 pound burrito is good for you, and won’t make you fat when eating one everyone day is beyond help, and no law will make them lose weight.

    Here’s an idea… buy one burrito and split it with a friend. Do the math on that and you will find a reasonable number of calories for a single meal in addition to a significant monetary savings.

    One last thought — too many calories make you fat. You could eat nothing but fat all day and you won’t get fat if you don’t consume more calories than you burn.

  • Bang for the buck man! I don’t know what the complaining is about. I eat burrito’s there all the time. You know that heavy full feeling when you leave? Yeah, it’s correlated with the calorie count too. If you don’t want as many calories, go easy on the fat toppings, or just eat half.

  • “Anyone who thinks a 2 pound burrito is good for you, and won’t make you fat when eating one everyone day is beyond help”

    Absolutely! Adding to that – the person who is eating the 2 lb. burrito knows danged well it’s not good for them. It really is all about portion control because even if you like guac and cheese, a SMALL AMOUNT is where it should stop. Have enough of these things for the taste to register and enjoy it, then consider it done! :D

    <3 Chiffy

  • Do we really need a calculator to determine that a burrito that weighs in at about 5 pounds would be high calorie?! Those things are huge! I love em but I know they are not a healthy or low calorie option when I eat them.

  • Calories, shmalories…it’s the salt that will kill you. A burrito with bb, rice, Tom., Corn, Cheese and lettuce with one of the meats will range from 2700-3100 mg (+300 mg if you get the fajita veg.), or 115%-166% of RDA for sodium in ONE MEAL!!! Calculate for yourself if you don’t believe me:

    http://www.chipotlefan.com/index.php?id=nutrition_calculator

  • I work for chipotle and let me inform you that all this depends on what you put in your burrito. We don’t intend for anyone to have more than 4oz. of rice but people want 12oz., beans or fajita veggies but people want both, cheese or sour cream but people want both. you see the pattern? Gluttony is the real problem and i see it everyday. we do offer better food than any fast food company; naturally raised meats, no artificial growth hormones in our dairy, no added sugar or preservatives.

  • I just want to comment real quick, especially now that somebody who “works for chipotle” has now commented. I want to make it clear that this post was not about burritos being fattening or not being fattening, or people’s choices of what to eat, or whether or not somebody is an idiot for thinking a burrito of any kind would be low fat.

    The post was about how hilarious it is that Chipotle in NYC puts a calorie range on their menu that is unrealistic even for the most healthy of eaters. A 420 calorie burrito consists of a tortilla with beans in it. That is not a burrito, so listing it as the “low end” of the range of plausible calories your burrito may have, is disingenuous.

    There is always somebody who will ask for more beans, more rice, every topping, and that doesn’t have to be listed as the high. Everybody knows guac and sour cream are fattening. And so is pork and beef. But the “range” posted on the menu should be a more accurate representation of plausible burrito orders (which it clearly isn’t). Nobody orders a bowl with a scoop of beans in it, and calls it a “Burrito Bowl” so it shouldn’t be listed as the bottom of the “calorie range”. And no argument from Chipotle could refute that fact. That is all.

  • Thanks for brining this issue up! It’s amazing how hard restaurant chains are fighting to hide their nutrition information. I wanted to share a new service my company just launched called ‘Wellternatives’ that lets people find nutrition info for thousands of chain restaurants for free – right from their cell phone or on the web. It also makes recommendations for a healthier alternative, hence the name… Wellternatives. If restaurants aren’t going to post their nutrition info, we figured we’d do what we could to give people instant access to the info from anywhere. Would love to hear what you think of it! Maija

  • Its too bad that only chain restaurants have to do this. I would LOVE to see the calorie counts on some of the Indian and Chinese restaurants I frequent. I bet its way more than I can imagine.

  • I can’t eat a whole one anyway. I usually divide it into 3 pieces and eat it over 2 days. So I guess the calories aren’t so bad that way! :D (Website still under construstion)

  • In my opinion, Chipotle is GOOD for you! Why…?

    1. You should really separate the meals into 2 to 3 servings. I NEVER eat a whole burrito bol in one sitting. Besides, that’s A LOT of food and I don’t see how anyone could get all of it down.

    2. Most of their food is fresh and some organic.

    3. Just because a food’s calorie count is high, does not always mean it’s bad for you. Look at the ingredients. First of, all meats hold a lot of calories. But does that mean eating meat is bad? Of course not! You should be eating meat for protein! It’s only if you’re adding extra sauces, sour cream, and guacamole, you are choosing to add tons of extra calories. You should pick only one of the above instead of several.

    Here’s my typical meal at Chipotle…

    Burrito Bol
    -Rice
    -Black Beans
    -Chicken
    -Corn salsa
    -Cheese
    -Lettuce

    TOTAL CALORIE COUNT: 804/3 serv. = 268

    Does that sound so bad?
    I don’t think so…

  • I work at chipotle (free food everytime i work). And i have not gained any weight since i started. with no changes in my excercise which is basically none.

    it’s really up to the consumer to be smart about the choices they make not the restraunt. my veggie bol – black beans, fajita, corn, tomato, guac, lettuce falls in the 500 calorie range. replace the guac for chicken and it’s about the same…

    it’s the rice and the tortillas that pack the calories and the sour cream and cheese. but anyone should be able to figure that out. I agree that it was wrong for them to print the menu that way, but either way the consumer should be responsible about their food whether there is a number next to it or not.

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