Healthy Options at Freebirds

February 21, 2011 11:50 am
Posted in: Menu Mondays
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Freebirds

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.

Wheat Tortilla
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

Flour Tortilla
280 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 7g total fat, 490mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein

Cayenne Tortilla
270 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 6g total fat, 470mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein

Spinach Tortilla X
270 cal, 1.5g sat fat, 6g total fat, 560mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g protein

Meat & Veggies – Better Choices

Roasted Veggies
34 cal, no sat fat, 1g total fat,  110mg sodium, 5g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g protein

White Chicken
50 cal, no sat fat, 1.5g total fat,  240mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 10g protein

Meat – Worst Choices

Steak X
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.

Dark Chicken
70 cal, 1g sat fat, 3.5g total fat, 280mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 8g protein

Beans & Rice – Better Choices

Black Beans
35 cal, no fat, 125mg sodium, 7g carbs, >1g fiber, 2g protein

Whole Beans
30 cal, no fat, 160mg sodium, 7g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g protein

Beans & Rice – Worst Choices

Refried Beans
45 cal, no sat fat, 1.5g total fat, 160mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g protein

Rice
110 cal, no sat fat, 2g total fat, 210mg sodium, 21g carbs, >1g fiber, 2g protein

Cheese – Better Choices

Monterey Jack
80 cal, 4g sat fat,  6g total fat, 115mg sodium, no carbs, no fiber, 5g protein

Jack/Cheddar Blend
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!

“Queso” X X
110 cal, 6g sat fat, 9g total fat, 420mg sodium, 1g carb, no fiber, 6g protein

Sauces & Salsas – Better Choices

Death Sauce
8 cal, 45mg sodium

Habanero Sauce
4 cal, 40mg sodium

Lime Juice
8 cal, no sodium!

Guacamole
50 cal, no sat fat, 3.5g total fat, 70mg sodium, 4g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g protein

Avocado
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

Hot Sauce
10 cal, 120mg sodium

Mild Sauce
10 cal, 125mg sodium

BBQ Sauce X X
160 cal, 3.5g sat fat, 11g total fat, 800mg sodium, 16g carbs

Ranch Dressing X X
150 cal, 2g sat fat, 13g total fat, 647mg sodium, 4g carbs, 2g protein

Salsa X
20 cal, 430mg sodium, 4g carbs, 1g fiber, 1g protein

Pico de Gallo
10 cal, 150mg sodium

Sour Cream
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.

Tomatoes

Cilantro

Roasted Garlic

Onions

Jalapeños

Lettuce

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 X indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.

Freebirds Nutrition Information (PDF)

Freebirds Allergen Information (PDF)

Photo by suttonhoo.

7 Comments on "Healthy Options at Freebirds"
  1. Comment left on:
    February 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm
    ACC Chiro says:

    This place loves the salt.

    • Comment left on:
      February 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm
      Andrew says:

      Indeed. Though actually they’re not as bad as others!

  2. Comment left on:
    March 22, 2012 at 8:33 am
    bluelena says:

    Freebirds has taken down their nutrition information. I emailed to ask for a copy, and they replied that I should check back with the website soon and that they were in the process of updating their nutrition information.

  3. Comment left on:
    August 11, 2012 at 1:23 am
    KayJ says:

    Could you have a second look?

    It looks like Freebirds has their nutritional information back up again and it doesn’t seem right. The Super Monster my family split added up to something like 1,344 calories total when I used their data. (Flour tortilla, pinto beans, cilantro lime rice, roasted veggies, steak, queso fresco)

  4. Comment left on:
    January 10, 2013 at 11:36 am
    jerry says:

    I disagree with the avocado.yes it has a lot of fat but it is healthy fat, the kind your body needs to live vs the bad fat which kills you.thank you.

    • Comment left on:
      January 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm
      Andrew says:

      Hi Jerry – It sounds like we agree, actually. I listed it under the “Better Choices” heading. :)

  5. Comment left on:
    February 20, 2014 at 2:18 pm
    Houston says:

    Get the bowl!
    No tortilla and still fully customizable.

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