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[Eating Out] A Letter From Qdoba, And How To Eat Better At Chipotle’s Healthier Cousin

Qdoba logo

Let’s go on a mini Qdoban journey.

Flashback two months. I’ve passed the cactus a million times while perusing NYC, but had never bothered to walk into a Qdoba — a Mexican grill with a more colorful, creative menu than Chipotle — or really had much interest in trying it, honestly.

That changed when this Indiana Jones-esque box showed up out of the skies, sent from the head of Qdoba’s culinary team, Ted Stoner, in response to our article on How To Cut Calories And Make Your Chipotle Belly-Friendly.



Inside, a simple letter. I thought it was so genuine and impressive, that I’ll let him do the talking (click to enlarge).


Chef Ted's letter to me from Qdoba. Source:

Chef Ted’s letter to me from Qdoba. Source:


Rarely do large brands offer a heartfelt glimpse into their guts; a peak at what unequivocally drives their clockwork, genuine passion, and authentic enthusiasm. This is all of that incarnate, and I sincerely appreciate that.

As mentioned previously, Chipotle can absolutely be a healthy, protein-packed, complete meal. Qdoba is one grade better.

“What I enjoy most about working for Qdoba, is that my borderline obsessive passion for food is shared by my colleagues, our guests and other food lovers” — Chef Ted Stoner, Qdoba

Health and nutrition are put at the forefront. They’re baked into the core of Qdoba’s culture and permeate their culinary creations, without sacrificing explosive flavor or their Mexican roots. They proactively accommodate our pain-in-the-ass gluten-free generation, with flexible options explicitly laid out to make things dead simple for vegans, vegetarians, Celiacs, and those with other food allergies.

And Qdoba is transparent, while entrenched in the middle of an industry defined by arcane secrets. Chef Ted calls out upfront that their Ancho Chile BBQ sauce contains a tiny bit of milk chocolate from Mole, making it vegan-unfriendly; and a tiny amount of Ritz crackers, unfit for Celiacs. Again, I appreciate and respect that as a consumer.1

They recently introduced brown rice, which oozes with flavor from roasted garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, and two types of dried chili. As someone who’s borderline-hypochondriacal about what goes in and out of their body, I feel good about what Qdoba’s cooking.


Quick Tips To Reduce Calories and Eat Healthier at Qdoba


At the core, Mexican is Mexican. The identical game plan we put in place for Chipotle carries over — follow that, it’s comprehensive. Here are a few quick-and-dirty tips to effectively navigate the intricacies of Qdoba’s menu:


Qdoba Taco Salad

1. Get Naked.

Avoid calorie-bloated tortillas and order your burritos “Naked” — you’ll save nearly 300 calories.

Also order Taco Bowls “Naked” without the crunchy flour tortilla bowl — you’ll save 400 calories and 22 g fat.



2. Mango Up.

The mango salad is a chromatic, flavorful, low-cal option. The mango salsa topping only adds a svelte 30 calories; the baked-in cilantro lime dressing only contributes another 60.2


Qdoba Meat

3. Pull That Pork.

Pulled pork is the leanest meat option on the menu with 140 calories, 4 g fat, and 17 g protein.

The grilled chicken, grilled steak, and shredded beef sit at 190 calories, 7-10 g fat, and 24-26 g protein; the seasoned ground beef is the worst option with 240 calories, 16 g fat, and 21 g protein.


Qdoba Mexican Gumbo

4. Sodium Overload.

Mexican Gumbo with brown rice and grilled chicken is a low-cal, protein-heavy option — only 450 calories and 32 g of protein — but like most soup, it’s LOADED with 1,750mg of sodium (73% DV). Avoid it.3

Qdoba Brown Rice

5. Brown > Cilantro Lime.

Go with brown rice over the cilantro lime variety — you’ll add fiber and protein, and cut out 20 calories, 140 mg sodium, and 2g of fat per burrito.

Qdoba Chips

6. Skip the Chips.

Skip the Chips & Dip — one serving has 740 calories, 40 g fat, 14 g sat fat, and 830 mg sodium. Also pass on the Craft 2 Nachos — one serving with 3-cheese queso packs 300 calories, 17 g fat, and 400 mg sodium.45


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Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
  1. Chef Ted’s Tips []
  2. Qdoba Mango Salsa Nutrition []
  3. Qdoba Mexican Gumbo Nutrition []
  4. Qdoba Craft 2 Nachos Nutrition []
  5. Qdoba Chips & Dip Nutrition []
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