Moe’s Southwest Grill announced last week that it has added a second tortilla variation, one made from whole grain flour, to pair with its selection of humorously named Tex-Mex menu options.
The nearly ten-year-old fast casual chain offers burritos, tacos, quesadillas and other Mexican-influenced dishes in several basic ingredient combinations, but allows diners to completely customize their orders by adding or subtracting from a list of twenty-five different options, including numerous kinds of meat, beans, vegetables, and sauces. In addition, customers can also choose whether they want their entrée traditionally wrapped with a tortilla or as a salad-style bowl.
With its whole grain tortilla, the restaurant has added yet another alternative, one that Dan Barash, Director of Research and Development for the chain, says “takes [Moe’s] healthy offerings to the next level.” In a news release issued about the new tortilla, Barash notes the higher vitamin and mineral content of whole grain foods, as compared to similar products made from refined grain. Clearly, whole grain does have its health benefits, but will whole grain tortillas make Moe’s a more suitable choice for the diet-conscious?
Whole grain tortillas will bolster certain nutritional aspects of a meal at Moe’s Southwest Grill. The USDA and others have published data confirming that whole grain foods deliver a greater quantity and variety of nutrients than even foods made with enriched white flour. Also, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated a correlation between foods with a low glycemic-index (such as whole grains) and diminished risks of diabetes, heart disease, uncontrollable weight, and even certain cancers. Additionally, several popular diet programs, like South Beach Diet and NutriSystem, advocate completely replacing refined grain carbohydrates with those made from whole grain.
A burrito from Moe’s, however, even surrounded by a whole grain tortilla, could still be considered unhealthy by some. On its website, Mayo Clinic compares a slice of white bread with a slice of whole wheat bread across several categories. While the slice of wheat bread offers nearly twice as much protein and more than three times as much fiber, it also contains five percent more calories. While Moe’s has not released nutritional data for its whole wheat tortilla, the company does list nutritional content for its white flour tortillas on its website. The twelve-inch tortilla that surrounds a Homewrecker burrito appears to contain 310 calories, 80 of which come from fat. By applying the figures used in the Mayo Clinic example, one might expect a Moe’s whole grain tortilla to contain at least 330 calories. No evidence exists to lead to the assumption that whole grain and refined grain products differ significantly in sodium content, so holding it constant with its white flour counterpart, a whole grain tortilla from Moe’s might also add 830mg of sodium to a Homewrecker, making the entrée responsible for 104% of the FDA’s recommended daily allowance of that particular mineral. In excess amounts, sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other ailments dieters use whole grain to help avoid. According to the chain’s website, even without any tortilla at all, the Homewrecker burrito contains 105mg of cholesterol and 13.8g of saturated fat.
In addition to its burritos, Moe’s also offers salads — its vegetarian salad, the Personal Trainer, contains 3g of fat, 17g of fiber, and 6g of protein (along with 6g of sugar and 700mg of sodium) after removing standard ingredients cheese and Chipotle Ranch dressing, as well as its taco shell. The restaurant won the distinction of eDiets’ Healthy Dining Restaurant for the month for January.
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