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Recipe Rescue: Build-Your-Own Burritos and Bowls

We love customizable burritos and bowls, but do you know how to make yours diet-friendly? The giant tortilla, rice, beans, and corn make it a carb fest, while cheese and sour cream ramp up the fat. Roll it all together (literally!) and the calorie count - like the burrito - is as "big as your head."  If you love going out for Mexican but don't love going home feeling like you're going to explode, you've got to try this dish. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe!)

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Popular Chain Restaurant Burrito:
  • Extra large flour tortilla
  • Chicken
  • Brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Fajita veggies
  • Corn salsa
  • Pico de gallo
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese
  • Lettuce

Changes Made:

  • Extra large flour tortilla: Included tortilla by making portion-controlled bowls with 8" tortillas
  • Chicken: Marinated in spices for flavor
  • Brown rice: To control carbohydrates, we served either over brown rice or in the tortilla bowl
  • Black beans: Used reduced-sodium and rinsed
  • Fajita veggies: Cooked in the same skillet as chicken to get the same southwestern flavor
  • Corn salsa: To control carbohydrates, we added less corn; used canned corn
  • Pico de gallo
  • Sour cream: Made recommendation for portion control
  • Cheese: Made recommendation for portion control
  • Lettuce
  • Guacamole: Added guacamole as a topping option (source of healthier fat); made recommendation for portion control

Nutrition Facts Face-Off!

Before: Chain restaurant burrito with flour tortilla, chicken, brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, corn salsa, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce

After: Tortilla bowl with lettuce, fajita mixture, pico de gallo, and 2 tablespoons each of cheese and sour cream

Image removed.


Southwestern Spiced Fajita Bowls (Printable PDF Version)

Serves 6


Fajita Mixture:

1 ½ lb raw boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin strips

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons oregano

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ medium red bell pepper, sliced in strips

½ medium green bell pepper, sliced in strips

Small onion, sliced thinly

15.25 ounce can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

8.25 ounce can sweet corn, drained


Tortilla Bowls:

Six 8" flour tortillas


For serving:

3 cups chopped romaine lettuce

Pico de gallo (click here for our recipe!)

Light sour cream

Guacamole (click here for our recipe!)

Shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese



    1. Add chicken, olive oil, and seasonings to a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag. Marinate in refrigerator for up to 4 hours.
    2. In a large skillet prepared with nonstick spray, saute chicken over medium-high heat until cooked through and browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
    3. Add additional nonstick spray to skillet. Saute peppers and onions with a wooden spoon scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
    4. When peppers and onions are tender, add chicken back to the skillet. Add black beans and corn and toss all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    5. To make tortilla bowls, preheat oven to 375°F. Heat tortillas for 10-15 seconds in a microwave to make them pliable. Spray both sides of tortillas with nonstick spray and lay each tortilla inside oven-safe bowls. Place oven-safe bowls on baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crisp and slightly browned. Let cool for about 5 minutes before removing tortillas.
    To serve, lay ½ cup lettuce in the bottom of each tortilla bowl, then divide fajita mixture evenly among the 6 bowls. Top each with pico de gallo as desired. Garnish with up to 4 tablespoons of any combination of light sour cream, guacamole, or shredded sharp cheddar cheese. For example, 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 tablespoons cheese; 4 tablespoons guacamole with no sour cream or cheese; 1 tablespoon sour cream, 2 tablespoons guacamole, 1 tablespoon cheese; etc.).


    • Adding larger portions of toppings will increase the calories. Or, you can use less to lower the calories.
    • Try substituting other lean protein options like tilapia, shrimp, sirloin or flank steak, etc.
    • Serve fajita mixture over 1/2 cup brown rice rather than in a tortilla bowl.


    Nutrition Facts (Tortilla bowl with lettuce, fajita mixture, and 2 tablespoons each of cheese, sour cream, and pico de gallo): Calories 420, Total Fat 14g (Saturated 6g), Cholesterol 80mg, Sodium 870mg, Total Carbohydrate 42g, Dietary Fiber 5g, Protein 33g, Vitamin A 50% DV, Vitamin C 50% DV, Calcium 30% DV, Iron 10% DV

    Today's post was written by Leia Kedem. Leia Kedem, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator covering Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties. She appears weekly on WCIA-3/WCIX-49 and is a biweekly contributor to the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. She also maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts where she regularly posts health tips and answers nutrition questions for free.