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Nutrition Articles  ›  Meals and Food

Build a Better Burrito

Make Your Own to Save Calories and Cash

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietician
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Are you and your family craving that spicy, south-of-the-border cuisine? Well, skip the local burrito joint. Those "burritos as big as your head" can contain more than 1,000 calories—even more depending on how many fixings you add. Instead, round up the muchachos and throw a build-your-own burrito fiesta! These quick and easy Mexican delights take just minutes to prepare and are sure to please the pickiest of eaters.

The basic building blocks of burritos are tortillas and beans, which provide a healthy amount of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. By applying the following burrito building tips, you can trim the excess calories, fat, and sodium, but keep the flavor. With these healthy and tasty burritos, your family will be singing your praises and shouting "Ole!"

Cut the Calories and Fat

  • Replace ground beef with ground round or ground turkey.
  • Use fat free refried beans or canned beans of your choice (such as pinto, black, navy, or great northern).
  • Avoid beans canned with lard.
  • Use reduced fat cheeses or cheese blends.
  • Select flavorful cheeses, such as sharp cheddar. Since it has a stronger taste than mild cheddar, you can use less and still have a delicious taste.
  • Enjoy a small dollop of guacamole or sour cream.
  • If you don’t want to swap your ground beef for turkey, brown and drain the meat. Then place the beef in a colander and rinse well with hot water. This method reduces both fat and calories.

Season Without Salt

  • Use fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes labeled "no salt added."
  • Try a taco or burrito seasoning, labeled 30% less sodium.
  • Use corn tortillas, which have less sodium, instead of flour tortillas.
  • Select reduced sodium cheeses or use less cheese.
  • Add flavor with cilantro or avocados.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Like the dish but with chips. - 5/6/2013 8:13:14 AM
  • skip the wrap and opt for a bowl. - 5/2/2013 8:38:33 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    Ground turkey is not necessarily better than ground beef. Check the labels - some ground turkey is dark meat and has added fat.

    I buy 93% lean ground beef, and brown it. Then I drain it in a paper towel lined colander. When it's cool, I freeze it for future meals. When I need it for a recipe, I put it in a paper towel lined dish and defrost it in the microwave. The paper towels absorb any residual fat. - 1/23/2013 1:35:10 PM
  • Instead of a little sour cream try a little low fat yoghurt, low fat Fromage Frais or Quark (lo-fat or Magerquark for German or Yiddish speakers). Works really well. Though as I don't often eat beef or turkey itís usually with some kind of lentils, TVP or Quorn mince or even millet cooked in stock. - 11/21/2012 5:02:45 AM
  • Great tips. Will definitely have to try some. - 2/13/2012 12:57:25 AM
  • PATRIOTS4ME
    awesome suggestions. I love burritos and easy tips here. - 1/15/2012 10:55:07 PM
  • I really enjoyed reading your recipe and am very thankful for the suggestions. They are surely going to be used in my kitchen. I love cooking and making full meals. I am looking forward to seeing more of your recipes. Yours will be the first from here I am going to use it tomorrow for my dinner. I am sure it will be great and I am sure the others who eat it will love it to. They love Burritos. - 1/9/2012 12:02:25 AM
  • COMMONGROUND2
    Thank you for all the suggestions. I have just recently added Burrito's to our diet. - 10/3/2011 7:18:46 PM
  • This is a great article I love mexican food and just recently started liking gucamole - 10/3/2011 7:10:23 PM
  • This is a great article. My family and I LOVE burritos. We don't eat them like we used to however. But when we do, we like to mix it up a little. Instead of a large tortilla shell, we purchase the Whole Wheat Faijtas(mispelled
    ) Shells and place our ingredients in them and fold like a burrito. But most times, we'll place all our ingredients and toppings inside a Green Leaf or Red Leaf Lettuce and fold them, so much better. I believe it all depends on what your putting inside a burrito. I say if your ingredients are healthier for the most part, go ahead and have that tortilla shell, but one though. You just have to do what works for you when it comes to calories. - 9/14/2011 4:16:46 PM
  • NEEDLESOFGOLD
    My favorite burrito place has more choices: beef, pork, chicken, tofu, veggie. Whole wheat or regular tortilla or even a bowl without the tortilla. You can also get brown rice instead of white. I've been getting the bowl with brown rice, pinto beans, chicken, lettuce and pico. I add a little salsa as well and make it like a salad. YUM - 6/27/2011 11:39:52 PM
  • If you use a tortilla, be aware that they are really high in calories & don't offer much else in nutritional value! And I suggest NOT adding more carbs by eating rice as a side. Tortilla or rice, not both, if you're wanting to minimize calories. - 6/27/2011 6:09:55 PM
  • This is a good article but I just wanted to comment that guacamole isn't necessarily always a healthy option depending on what it's made with. So you should always check the ingredients or, better yet, smash up some fresh avacado instead.

    Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE using soy chorizo in my burittos instead of meat. Black beans are also a great substitute. - 6/27/2011 5:03:46 PM
  • lol! Those burritos are usually the size of a newborn, of course they pack a ton of calories. I don't think it's fair to dismiss the burrito places completely though. All of the ones I've come across also offer bowls & salads. The ingredients themselves aren't too bad at all (grilled meats, black beans, rice, salsas) and I usually go for a 'bowl' with no tortilla. Nutrition information is generally available on their websites, so I add it up before I go. - 6/27/2011 11:34:16 AM
  • I like the microwave idea will be using it from now on. - 4/24/2011 10:14:52 AM