With the holidays, new year’s, January Rules, and then the move, it’s been a while since I’ve put together a Menu Monday post. Somewhere during all of that, reader Shannon requested that I review Freebirds, which she calls “The Subway of Burritos.”
I’ve never been to Freebirds, so I’m basing everything below on what I can glean from the nutrition information posted on their website. If you’ve eaten there, by all means please chime in with suggestions in the comments!
In their FAQ they note that the tortillas contain hydrogenated oil. Any amount of hydrogenated oil means that there’s trans fat in the food (even if it’s rounded down to zero). Bummer. I encourage you to contact them and let them know any hydrogenated oils are unacceptable and unnecessary.
They also list some “Suggestions for Balance.” Here are some I agree with, slightly adjusted:
- Try our Half Bird. It is a smaller burrito.
- Get a Bird Salad without the tortilla and lots of lettuce, pico de gallo, roasted peppers and onions. Use our fresh salsa lime juice and guacamole as a salad dressing. [The pico de gallo and salsa are both high in sodium.]
- All of our meats are lean, but are inherently denser in calories than veggies. Consider getting a veggie burrito to cut calories or keep the meat but skip the cheese.
- Double the amount of beans and skip the rice on any of our menu items. You will load up on fiber while reducing the number of calories.
- Request our Tacos be made with only 2 corn tortillas instead of 4. Order them steamed. Corn tortillas are lower in calories than the flour, wheat, cayenne and spinach tortillas.
- Go light on Avoid the Bad Ass BBQ Sauce.
- All of the beans are low in fat and high in fiber — even the Refried Beans! We never use lard.
Additionally, they offer Suggested Combinations for Dietary Lifestyles (PDF). Be careful on the sodium on some of those, though — they can top 2,000mg! Yikes! Read on to see which substitutions will make a big difference.
If you take away nothing else from my recommendations, heed this warning: Avoid the “Monster” or the “Super Monster” burritos. Just the tortilla alone in a Super Monster burrito is over 800 calories! (I clearly need to go back and add “monster” to my list of objectionable food adjectives!)
If you’re going to get a burrito, my advice is to get a Half Bird. As such, all of my recommendations below use the numbers for a Half Bird.
Tortillas – Better Choices
The tortillas are all very similar by the numbers, with the exception of sodium. Wheat tortillas are best (400mg) while the Spinach tortillas are worst (560mg). The wheat tortillas also have an extra gram of protein. Better still to skip the tortilla altogether and get it in a bowl.
280 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 6g total fat, 400mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 8g protein
Remember that “Wheat” probably doesn’t mean “Whole Wheat.”
Corn Tortillas (2)
120 cal, no fat, no sodium, 26g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g protein
Getting 2 corn tortillas instead of 4 in the tacos is a great way to cut down on calories without feeling like you’re missing out. The nutrition info says there’s no sodium in them at all, though I wonder if that’s a typo.
Tortillas – Worst Choices
280 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 490mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein
270 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 6g total fat, 470mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein
270 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 6g total fat, 560mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein
Meat & Veggies – Better Choices
34 cal, no sat fat, 1g total fat, 110mg sodium, 5g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g protein
50 cal, no sat fat, 1.5g total fat, 240mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 10g protein
Meat – Worst Choices
100 cal, 2g sat fat, 5g total fat, 150mg sodium, 1g carbs, 13g protein
Note that the Steak includes wheat, gluten, soy, and fish (anchovy) allergans. Guess there’s more than just steak in the steak.
70 cal, 1g sat fat, 3.5g total fat, 280mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 8g protein
Beans & Rice – Better Choices
35 cal, no fat, 125mg sodium, 7g carbs, >1g fiber, 2g protein
30 cal, no fat, 160mg sodium, 7g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g protein
Beans & Rice – Worst Choices
45 cal, no sat fat, 1.5g total fat, 160mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g protein
110 cal, no sat fat, 2g total fat, 210mg sodium, 21g carbs, >1g fiber, 2g protein
Cheese – Better Choices
80 cal, 4g sat fat, 6g total fat, 115mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 5g protein
83 cal, 4g sat fat, 7g total fat, 131mg sodium, 1g carb, no fiber, 5g protein
Cheese – Worst Choice
I’m assuming the Queso is some sort of cheese sauce. Whatever it is, please skip it — it’s got a truckload of sodium!
110 cal, 6g sat fat, 9g total fat, 420mg sodium, 1g carb, no fiber, 6g protein
Sauces & Salsas – Better Choices
8 cal, 45mg sodium
4 cal, 40mg sodium
8 cal, no sodium!
50 cal, no sat fat, 3.5g total fat, 70mg sodium, 4g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g protein
161 cal, 2g sat fat, 14g total fat, 7g sodium, 3g carbs, 7g fiber, 2g protein
I’m a fan of avocado — but if you’re watching calories you may want to skip it, as it definitely adds a lot to your meal. The guacamole may be a better choice, as it’s 1/3 the calories — but it does have more sodium and less fiber.
Sauces & Salsas – Worst Choices
10 cal, 120mg sodium
10 cal, 125mg sodium
160 cal, 3.5g sat fat, 11g total fat, 800mg sodium, 16g carbs
150 cal, 2g sat fat, 13g total fat, 647mg sodium, 4g carbs, 2g protein
20 cal, 430mg sodium, 4g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g protein
Pico de Gallo
10 cal, 150mg sodium
63 cal, 3.5g sat fat, 5.5g total fat, 16mg sodium, 1g carbs, 1g protein
Other Great Choices
Load your burrito up with these instead of sauces for extra flavor and nutrition, with almost no extra calories or sodium.
Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.
indicates the “best-of-the-best,” and indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.
Photo by suttonhoo.