When it comes to Mexican food, two popular choices are burritos and burrito bowls. Both are made with similar ingredients like rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, and protein. However, there are some differences in how they are prepared and served that can impact their nutrition profiles. This article will compare burritos and burrito bowls to help you determine which option may be healthier for you.
One of the biggest factors when comparing the healthiness of foods is the calorie content. Generally, foods with higher calories are considered less healthy, especially for those watching their waistlines.
Burritos are typically made with a tortilla wrap, whereas burrito bowls do not include the tortilla. Tortillas add extra calories, with a medium flour tortilla having around 150 calories. Burrito bowls eliminate this carb-heavy wrapper, meaning they tend to be lower in calories compared to burritos with the same fillings.
For example, a steak burrito from Chipotle is around 1,000 calories whereas their steak burrito bowl is around 705 calories without the tortilla. That’s a significant calorie savings just from leaving out the wrap!
Winner: Burrito Bowl
In addition to calories, it’s important to look at the macronutrient breakdown when comparing the healthiness of foods. Macronutrients include protein, carbs, and fat.
Burritos and burrito bowls typically contain ingredients like rice, beans, salsa, and guacamole. The main difference is the tortilla used in burritos.
Tortillas are a grain-based carb and do not offer much protein. By skipping the tortilla, burrito bowls eliminate a significant source of carbs. This means the macro ratio in burrito bowls may be more balanced. Burrito bowls also make it easier to swap high carb white rice for a lower carb option like cauliflower rice.
Overall, burrito bowls are lower in carbs and higher in veggies compared to burritos with the same fillings. This may provide a more nutrient-balanced meal.
Winner: Burrito Bowl
Fiber is an important nutrient that promotes digestion and heart health. It also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer after eating.
Beans, veggies, brown rice, and whole grain tortillas are all sources of fiber in burritos and burrito bowls. By removing the tortilla, fiber will decrease a bit in a burrito bowl compared to a burrito with a whole wheat wrap.
However, you can make up for this by adding extras like salsa, pico de gallo, corn, and avocado to your burrito bowl. Plus, you can swap in brown rice or extra beans to increase the fiber content. Burrito bowls also make it easier to add nutrient-rich lettuce like spinach or kale.
Overall, burrito bowls can provide similar amounts of fiber to burritos when you include fiber-rich ingredients.
Consuming too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and other health issues. So it’s important to watch your salt intake when choosing between burritos and burrito bowls.
The tortilla used in burritos does not contain much sodium on its own. The fillings like meat, cheese, beans, rice, and salsa account for most of the sodium content in both burritos and burrito bowls.
Since the fillings are very similar between the two options, there may not be a significant different in sodium levels. However, burrito bowls make it easier to customize and control the sodium content.
For example, you can skip salty cheese and sour cream, opt for lower sodium salsa, and ask for fresh toppings like cilantro and lime instead of salt. With a burrito, you’re stuck with whatever sodium levels are in the predetermined ingredients.
So if watching your salt intake, burrito bowls offer more flexibility to reduce sodium.
Winner: Burrito Bowl
Burritos and burrito bowls contain most of the same basic ingredients like meat, beans, rice, veggies, and salsa. But there are some subtle differences that impact the nutrition and healthiness.
Burritos use a tortilla wrap, which provides mostly carbs and not much nutritional value. Burrito bowls skip the wrap, allowing more room for nutrient-dense ingredients like vegetables, healthy protein, and fiber-rich beans and rice.
Burrito bowls also provide an opportunity to swap in healthier options. You can easily sub in brown rice, cauliflower rice, extra vegetables, plant-based protein like beans or tofu, fresh herbs, and lighter sauces like chimichurri or salsa verde.
With a set burrito, you’re stuck with the tortilla and whatever fillings are used. Overall, burrito bowls offer more customization for a potentially healthier mix of ingredients.
Winner: Burrito Bowl
It’s easy to overeat with the massive burritos served at many Mexican restaurants. Oversized tortillas stuffed to the brim can provide two or more servings in one burrito. In contrast, burrito bowls are served in a bowl without a wrap enclosing the contents.
This makes it easier to visually see and track how much you’re eating when opting for a burrito bowl. You’re also less likely to overstuff yourself by overfilling a tortilla beyond capacity.
With a burrito, it’s hard to know how many servings are rolled up inside the gigantic wrap. But an open burrito bowl provides more awareness of proper portion sizes.
So for maintenance of a healthy weight, burrito bowls support better portion control.
Winner: Burrito Bowl
How filling a meal is plays a role in its potential health benefits. Foods that are more satiating can help you feel satisfied on fewer calories, preventing overeating later.
Both burritos and burrito bowls contain fiber, protein, and healthy fats that promote satiety. However, burritos have an advantage when it comes to keeping hunger at bay.
The tortilla wrap encloses the fillings and takes longer to break down during digestion. This helps food remain in your stomach longer, keeping you fuller for a more extended period.
Burrito bowls digest quicker since the ingredients are not confined in a wrap. While still satiating, burrito bowls may leave you feeling hungry sooner than a burrito with the same ingredients.
If keeping hunger pangs away is your priority, burritos are a better option than burrito bowls.
Convenience is an important factor for many people when selecting foods. Burritos are handheld and easier to eat on-the-go compared to burrito bowls.
With a burrito, everything is wrapped up neatly in an easy-to-hold package. Burrito bowls require a fork to eat, so they are less convenient to eat while walking or driving.
Burritos are also more convenient options at events, parties, or other gatherings where cutlery may not be available. They are grab-and-go friendly.
Burrito bowls, on the other hand, require being served in a bowl with a fork. They are less suited for busy situations where you need to eat quickly and with your hands.
When it comes to convenience, burritos are hard to beat. Their portability gives them an advantage over stationary burrito bowls.
Money may also factor into your choice between burritos versus burrito bowls. Burritos sometimes cost a dollar or two more than burrito bowls at restaurants that offer both options.
This is because burritos require the extra tortilla wrap. The bowl used for burrito bowls is inexpensive. So skipping the carb-heavy tortilla decreases costs a bit.
However, prices can vary greatly depending on the restaurant. Some establishments price both options the same or only charge slightly more for burritos with the tortilla wrap.
Considering ingredients alone, burrito bowls should be a few dollars cheaper than burritos of equal size. But pricing ultimately depends on the individual restaurant.
Overall, burrito bowls may provide some cost savings but it varies case by case. Don’t assume bowls are always cheaper.
Winner: Potentially Burrito Bowl
Lastly, taste preferences may guide your choice between burritos and burrito bowls. Keep in mind that taste is highly subjective!
Some people love the taste and texture of a good tortilla wrap around all the hot, flavorful fillings. The interplay between the crispiness of the tortilla with the ingredients inside provides textural interest.
Wrapping everything together also allows the ingredients to mingle and blend their flavors. In contrast, the components are separated in a bowl.
However, others feel the tortilla overpowers the other ingredients. Or they would prefer to taste each component individually rather than mixed together.
Burrito bowls also allow any ingredient to take center stage in each bite depending on what you spear with your fork. With a burrito, bites are a predetermined mix of ingredients rolled together.
So taste comes down to personal preference. There’s no clear winner when it comes to subjective taste appeal.
So is a burrito or burrito bowl healthier? Based on the nutritional comparisons, burrito bowls come out ahead in several categories.
Burrito bowls tend to be lower in calories and carbs. They also allow more room for nutrient-dense ingredients like veggies and plant-based proteins. Burrito bowls are also easier to customize to your dietary needs, like reducing sodium or swapping in healthier carb sources.
Plus, burrito bowls support better portion control compared to oversized, calorie-stuffed burritos wrapped up in a tortilla beyond capacity.
The only categories where burritos edge out burrito bowls are in convenience, satiety, and arguably taste for tortilla lovers. But overall, burrito bowls are the healthier option more often than not.
By skipping the tortilla and opting for a burrito bowl with wholesome fillings, you can enjoy the flavors of a burrito in a lighter, nutrition-focused meal. Burrito bowls allow you to have your Mexican food fix while still maintaining healthy eating habits.