Stuffed with meat and cheese, a chimichanga is a tortilla rolled around the filling and then deep-fried to crispy perfection. While a chicken chimichanga does supply certain nutrients, such as protein, the fact that it's deep-fried means that the dish tends to be quite high in fat and calories. Coupled with the sodium content, proceed with caution if you have visions of chicken chimichangas going through your mind.
Calories and Fat
A chicken chimichanga from a sit-down restaurant contains 1,430 calories and 90 grams of fat, of which 26 grams are saturated, which is more fat than you should have for the entire day. (See Reference 3) Too much saturated fat on a regular basis can increase your cholesterol levels, which puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. High intake of saturated fat might also raise your risk of type 2 diabetes.
The average chicken chimichanga from a sit down restaurant contains 2,640 milligrams of sodium. (See Reference 1) This is far more than the 1,500 milligrams you should limit yourself to each day as recommended by the American Heart Association. (See Reference 3) When you eat too much sodium on a regular basis, it raises your blood pressure, which can put you at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. (See Reference 3)
You Do Get Some Nutrients
Chimichangas aren't all bad. Chicken chimichangas supply some iron, a mineral that helps your body make red blood cells, as well as potassium, a mineral necessary for a healthy heart. Restaurant chimichangas also supply a good dose of zinc, niacin and vitamin B-12. If you have cheese in your chicken chimichanga, you'll also get some bone-building calcium.
So, Should I Have the Chimichanga or Not?
Deep-fried foods, including chicken chimichangas, should be an occasional part of your diet simply because they are so high in saturated fat. If you really want that chimichanga, consider sharing one with a friend or asking your server to cut it in half and box up one half for another meal. (See Reference 4) Have your chimichanga with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and salsa. These are low in calories and fat and also supply key nutrients such as fiber and vitamin C. A small amount of guacamole is nutritious, as well, because most of the fat it contains is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind. Skip sour cream and melted cheese sauces, however, because these drive up the fat and sodium content even more. (See Reference 4)