Creating a Healthy Burrito

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You're ordering up a burrito with a heaping pile of rice, beans, cheese, beef, guacamole, and—to top it all off—a few dollops of sour cream. Before you know it, you're polishing off a five-pound chunk of mouth-watering goodness that's packed with nearly 50 grams of fat and a whopping 1,200 calories. Here, nutritionist Bill Wheeler, Ph.D., ACSM, dishes on a healthier way to stuff your burrito so it tastes delicious and fuels you for competition.


"Most burrito shells are high in bad carbohydrates," Wheeler says. "So, order a low-carb shell when available." To amp the good carb content, add rice. It's a low glycemic index food that provides sustained energy.


Choose chicken over beef. It's slightly lower in fat and calories, but has almost as much protein (29 grams), which helps your muscles recover and repair after a hard workout.

Legumes & Veggies

Don't forget the fiber. "It's one of the most needed nutrients in an athlete's diet," Wheeler says. "It's key to maintaining a healthy body weight." A half-cup of black beans has seven grams of fiber. Other good sources include lettuce, spinach and corn.


Add salsa instead of cheese to limit your calorie and fat intake. A 4-oz. serving has about 25 calories and provides 35 percent of your daily value of vitamin C to help prevent bruises.

If fat content isn't a concern, throw on some cheese; 1 oz. has 125 calories and 11 grams of fat. "Athletes need fat and calcium for recovery and repair," Wheeler explains. "Fat from cheese provides a concentrated energy source to fuel muscles. Calcium is important for normal muscle function."


Can't rock without the guac? No problem. Four ounces has just 13 grams of fat—the healthy kind. You can also try low-fat sour cream, which packs only 35 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Last Thoughts

Burritos are perfect for your night-before-a-game meal, because they contain slow digesting carbs, and for a post-activity snack, because of all the protein and carbs that help your body recover.

Nutrition Totals:*
Calories 920
Protein 51g
Fat 24g
Carbohydrates 122g
Fiber 22g
*low-fat burrito with chicken, rice, black beans, lettuce and salsa

Bill Wheeler is the chief science officer for Peak Performance Nutrition Ltd. He was a staff nutritionist for the '02 United States Olympic Snowboarding Team and has consulted for numerous other teams, including the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Washington Wizards. For more information, visit

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock