The Best and Worst Menu Items at Qdoba

Between the customizable tacos, burritos, and nachos, here's how to build the healthiest meal at this popular Tex-Mex chain.
Qdoba grill

When you are craving a custom-made taco or burrito, the Qdoba menu has you covered. With over 720 locations, this popular Tex-Mex chain can serve up any burrito, taco, nacho, and more that can accommodate any eating plan. The best aspect of the restaurant may lie in the ability to tailor the ingredients of each meal specifically to your diet. With so many choices of ingredients to add or subtract, the decision of how to eat healthy can seem overwhelming.

In order to navigate the menu, we consulted with Dr. Rachel Paul, CDN and RD from CollegeNutritionist.com, to decide how to construct the best entree items when you eat at Qdoba. Because the customer gets to decide what ingredients go into their meals, there is no easy way to decide if a burrito might be better than a taco. With this in mind, Paul helped determine how to craft the healthiest selections on the Qdoba menu by selecting the best and worst ingredients in each category. Read on to find out how to construct the best meals you can make for yourself from the Qdoba menu to keep your diet on track!

Protein

Best: Pulled Pork

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140 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 17 g protein

"Pulled pork is my favorite," Paul says. "140 calories of complete, high-quality protein, with just 1 gram of sugar at 4 grams of fat (2 grams saturated fat) makes it the leanest choice, even compared to chicken."

When you want to build the perfect meal that won't break your diet, pulled pork pulls ahead as the best protein you can select on the Qdoba menu. It is high in protein and low in fat, beating out other protein options, including impossible meat. If you are a meat lover, feel free to top your meal off with this.

Worst: Smoked Brisket

kansas city bbq slow smoked brisket with burnt ends with barbecue sides
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270 calories, 20 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 1,120 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 20 g protein

On the other end of the protein spectrum lies Smoked Brisket. This meat has "almost double the calories of the pulled pork, and with 20 grams fat [and] 8 grams of saturated fat, which is more than half the recommended daily intake for saturated fat," Paul says. With so much to lose from such a choice, make sure to avoid this meat during your visit.

Burrito Tortillas

Best: 5.5-Inch Flour Tortilla

flour tortilla tacos
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70 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

"Even though this tortilla isn't made of whole grains, I recommend sticking with this one to save 200 calories," Paul says.

If you opt to order a burrito, smaller portion sizes almost always yields healthier results. The same can be said for Qdoba's small burrito tortilla. This smaller choice will be sure to keep the pounds off.

Worst: 12.5-Inch Flour Tortilla

flour tortilla burritos
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300 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 760 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 8 g protein

"This tortilla is a whopping 300 calories—which could be a snack by itself," Paul says. "It's also not whole grain, so choose a different option when possible."

This option will be sure to pack on the pounds, and with a large tortilla, you also risk fitting in more fillings to overload your calorie count for the day. To save even more calories, Paul recommends skipping the tortilla altogether. "Opt for a burrito bowl instead of a tortilla to save hundreds of calories," Paul says. "A lettuce base is very low calorie (shredded lettuce [is] zero calories)."

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Taco Tortillas

Best: 5.5-Inch Corn Tortilla

corn tortilla tacos
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60 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 1 g protein

"Choose the 5.5 inch corn tortilla for 60 calories and only 1 gram of fat—still get your tortilla fix!" Paul says.

And she couldn't be more on the money! This small tortilla option will be guaranteed to save you some calories. When every ingredient choice counts, opting for a smaller portion will do wonders in the long run.

Worst: 12.5-Inch Flour Tortilla

corn tortilla burritos
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300 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 760 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 8 g protein

"Again that 12.5-inch flour tortilla!" Paul says. "Save 300 calories and choose something else."

Just as there are burrito bowls, the Qdoba menu also offers taco bowls that cut out the tortilla and allow you to eat your meal on a bed of zero-calorie lettuce. Do your diet a favor and switch to the taco bowl option instead.

Rice

Best: Brown Rice

brown rice
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170 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 4 g protein

When you have to select a rice filling, choosing whole grains over processed white rice seems like a no brainer. "It's always best to choose whole grains when you can," Paul says. "With the brown rice, you save 20 calories, and add a gram of fiber." Pair your rice off with a choice of beans and you will fit in a full vegetarian protein for your day.

Worst: Cilantro Rice

cilantro rice
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190 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

"Refined grains like this rice type aren't worth it, nutrition-wise," Paul says. The white processed rice will pack your meal with a ton of unnecessary carbs that are sure to make you feel sluggish all day.

Beans

Best: Pinto and Black Beans

black beans
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140 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (14 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 9 g protein

If you enjoy beans and want to pick a favorite, we have some amazing news. "Honestly the 2 bean types are pretty much the same," Paul says. "There's definitely not a 'worst' here."

These beans also beat out the impossible vegan protein if you are looking for a plant-based boost. "I recommend sticking with foods (e.g. beans) that have few, natural ingredients, versus Impossible protein which has a list of almost 20 ingredients including Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, [and] Soy Leghemoglobin," Paul says.

Sauces and Salsas

Best: Pico de Gallo

Bowl of salsa
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10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 70 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

With this fresh salsa, you "get a lot of flavor without worrying about your health goals," Paul says. With only 10 calories and a boost of vitamin C from the tomatoes, this topping on the Qdoba menu will not only brighten up your meal but help your diet move along.

Worst:Three-Cheese Queso

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190 calories, 15 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 710 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 6 g protein

"Skip the three-cheese queso," Paul recommends. "Not only is this a lot of calories, but it contains almost a whole day's worth of saturated fat (for a 2000-calorie diet)." This queso won't make your weight loss journey any easier and may even make your cravings stronger for more rich food. With so much extra fat, your body will thank you for passing this up.

Toppings

Best: Fajita Vegetables

fajita vegetables
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35 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 1 g protein

"It's always good to eat more veggies, and this topping adds a lot of flavor," Paul says.

By adding these veggies in, you guarantee that you will feel satiated with the bulk to your meal that they provide. Some other great toppings to pair off with these veggies that contain incredibly few to no calories include minced onions (zero calories), pickled jalapeños (15 calories), cilantro (zero calories) and bacon (35 calories).

Worst: Tortilla Strips

tortilla strips
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10 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein

"I never think tortilla strips as a topping are worth it," Paul says. "They're a starchy carbohydrate, aren't filling, and don't give the body much in terms of nutritional benefit."

The tortilla strips pack in nothing but empty calories, contributing nothing positive to the nutritional balance of the meal. With so many other great toppings on the Qdoba menu to choose from that offer so few calories, there's no reason to blow your diet on the tortilla strips.

Dressings

Best: Cilantro Lime Dressing

cilantro lime dressing
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50 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

"Stick with the Cilantro Lime dressing," Paul recommends. This zesty dressing comes in at only 50 calories and 180 milligrams of sodium, making it an optimal way to brighten your meal while keeping the calories low. If you need a dressing, this is your best bet.

Worst: Mexican Caesar

mexican caesar dressing
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60 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 1 g protein

"Don't choose the Mexican Caesar dressing," Paul says. "[It's] only 60 calories but it contains 1100 milligrams sodium—nearly a day's worth of sodium for many people!"

This dressing is sure to send your diet over the edge and into oblivion. Bypass this option in favor of a healthier topping instead. "If you want a cheesy fix, choose Cotija cheese (100 calories) or Sour cream, lite (50 calories) versus shredded mozzarella (170 calories) or queso diablo (170 calories)," Paul says. "If you're dairy-free, guacamole is also a great choice here for filling fats (130 calories)."

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Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more
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