Skip to Content

Small Changes Can Lead to Big Calorie Differences

Mexican food can be a really healthy option when eating out, but it can also quickly become very high calorie if you’re not careful.

You can make obvious changes like ordering a salad or skipping the chips & queso. But if you’re like me, you want to satisfy your big appetite. And if I’m going to Chipotle, I don’t really want to order a plain salad with no dressing. I want to go big!

So, let’s look at some easy swaps you can make…

A big calorie saver is swapping the burrito for a burrito bowl. I always go for a bowl, because I feel like you get much more bang for your buck. I mean, you can fit more food inside a bowl than in a tortilla.

Ditching sour cream and cheese will also save you a lot of calories. If you feel like you absolutely need either, I’d suggest getting sour cream on the side and asking for light cheese. But I always opt for tomato salsa, which is virtually calorie-free, instead of sour cream or other sauces.

One of my biggest “hacks” is asking for double meat and half carbs. A standard serving of chicken is 4oz, so asking for double chicken gets you a much heftier 8oz portion (and buttloads of protein).

I love getting black beans and rice, but if you want to cut out some calories, ask for 1/2 servings of each. If you fill your bowl with vegetables (fajita vegetables and lettuce), you won’t miss the extra rice & beans. I promise you will barely notice they’re missing!

Don’t misconstrue it- there’s nothing wrong with the burrito!

In this case, it’s very high calorie, but you can certainly make substitutions to get those calories down a bit. However, I always find a bowl much more filling, plus it lasts me longer.

Interesting in learning more about the nutrition for Chipotle items? I have a full guide for that!

Now let’s look at this same concept from a different angle.

Let’s talk salads!

Salad calorie savers

When ordering a salad, it’s not uncommon for them to contain 1,000+ calories.

This isn’t to say a salad is not a great choice by any means. I mean, a salad will provide you with plenty of micronutrients! Rather, it’s to show you how drastically the nutrition can change from a few small changes.

For this comparison, I’m using the crispy chicken tender salad from Applebee’s. You can order the same salad with grilled chicken or a different salad all together for a more obvious calorie-saver, but I wanted to keep the crispy chicken to highlight a couple less obvious changes.

This salad has a honey dijon mustard dressing, which I would assume would be pretty low calorie. Mustard is virtually calorie-free, so this dressing surely is low in calories.

Turns out, the honey dijon dressing alone contains 410 calories & 35g of fat. By swapping out that dressing for the Italian dressing, you save yourself 365 calories!

If you leave out the shredded cheese, that’s another 220 calories you can save. 2 simple swaps can save you nearly 600 calories, which is the equivalent of 3 breadsticks at Applebee’s.

If calories are a concern for you, pay attention to the dressing & mix-ins on your salad. If you have questions about the dressings and which are lightest, it can’t hurt to ask!

For me, I always ask for the dressing on the side. Even if you were to order the salad on the left without any changes, getting the dressing on the side allows you to control the portion. It’s very possible that you only need half as much as they give you, which would save you 200 calories without even thinking about it.

Generally speaking, salads are a great way to fill up while keeping calories low, but remember that not every salad is the same! You might even be surprised to learn how other options might even be better than the salad, depending on your goals.

Share The Love

About Matt Rosenman

With over 15 years of experience in health and fitness, Matt Rosenman is the expert voice behind Matt’s philosophy is simple: no foods are off-limits, and a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be complicated or restrictive. As a former certified personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in Health Behavioral Sciences, Matt brings well-rounded expertise to his blog. From revamping classic recipes with a nutritious twist to breaking down fast food menus, his goal is make healthy living less confusing for everyone. Featured in major publications and with a strong following on social media, Matt is committed to making “healthy” uncomplicated—no matter where you are in your health journey. Join Matt on his mission to simplify health without sacrificing flavor. Learn More