Fast food is often criticized as being unhealthy. However, some fast food items may be better options than others. Jack in the Box’s chicken fajita pita is one such item that appears relatively healthy at first glance. To determine if the chicken fajita pita is truly a healthy choice, we need to look at its nutritional information and ingredients.
According to Jack in the Box’s website, a chicken fajita pita contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 350
- Total Fat: 8g
- Saturated Fat: 2g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 3g
- Cholesterol: 55mg
- Sodium: 790mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 44g
- Dietary Fiber: 2g
- Sugars: 3g
- Protein: 31g
At first glance, 350 calories does not seem too high for an entire meal. The fiber content is decent at 2g, though most experts recommend 25-30g of fiber per day. The sodium is quite high at 790mg (34% of daily recommended value).
Let’s take a closer look at the macros – protein, carbs, and fat. 31g of protein is excellent and will help you feel full. 44g of carbs is moderate. Total fat at 8g is not too bad, and only 2g comes from unhealthy saturated fat.
Overall, the nutritional profile of the chicken fajita pita is fairly balanced. It provides a good amount of protein, moderate carbs, and minimal unhealthy fats.
Here are the ingredients in a Jack in the Box chicken fajita pita:
- Pita Bread: Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour, Water, Wheat Bran, Wheat Gluten, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% or Less of the Following: Salt, Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Sulfate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono- and Diglycerides, Azodicarbonamide), Calcium Propionate Preservative, Fumaric Acid, Wheat Starch, Calcium Sulfate, Monoglycerides, Ammonium Sulfate, Calcium Peroxide, Enzymes.
- Chicken Strips: Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Vegetable Oil (canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Food Starch-Modified, Salt, Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten Protein, Yeast Extract, Flavors, Wheat Starch, Soy Protein Isolate, Sodium Phosphates, Caramel Color. Battered and Breaded with: Bleached Wheat Flour, Water, Wheat Flour, Leavening (sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Salt, Dextrose, Leavening (sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Spices, Soy Flour, Extractives of Paprika, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil.
- Pico De Gallo: Diced Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Salt, Naturally Derived Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride), Onions, Cilantro, Lime Juice, Salt, Garlic.
- Jalapeños: Jalapeño Peppers, Water, Vinegar, Salt, Calcium Chloride.
- Fajita Vegetables: Green Bell Pepper Strips, Onions Slivers, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Soybean Oil, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (as Preservatives), Artificial Color, Calcium Disodium EDTA (To Protect Flavor).
- Fajita Seasoning: dextrose, salt, corn maltodextrin, spices, onion powder, yeast extract, citric acid, beef extract, natural and artificial flavors.
- Black Olives: Olives, Water, Salt, Ferrous Gluconate.
- Shredded Cheese: Low Moisture Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese (Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Powdered Cellulose (to prevent caking), Natamycin (a natural mold inhibitor).
- Sour Cream: Pasteurized Grade A Cultured Cream, Milk, Enzymes.
Analyzing the ingredients list reveals some positives and negatives. On the plus side, the chicken is real chicken breast meat rather than processed chicken. The pico de gallo provides fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and garlic. There are also some fajita vegetables like bell peppers and onions.
However, the pita bread contains concerning ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and azodicarbonamide (a dough conditioner also used in yoga mats). The fajita seasoning and vegetables also have artificial colors and preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. The cheese and sour cream are made with pasteurized dairy and have added powders and emulsifiers.
Overall, while the chicken fajita pita has some fresh ingredients, it also contains many additives and artificial ingredients found in processed foods. This detracts from its health profile.
In addition to ingredients, portion sizes impact a food’s healthfulness. Large portion sizes can cause you to overconsume calories, fat, carbs, etc. even if the food has a decent nutritional profile.
The chicken fajita pita weighs 8.4 oz (237 grams). For comparison, nutrition experts recommend the following portion sizes:
- Whole grain wrap or tortilla: 1 medium (8 inches across)
- Lean protein: 2-3 oz cooked
- Cheese: 1.5 oz
- Extras like sour cream: 1-2 tbsp
The pita alone is a fairly large 8-inch tortilla. The chicken is probably 2-3 oz after cooking. An entire packet of shredded cheese is included, which is likely 1.5-2 oz. There are also extras like pico de gallo, jalapeños, and sour cream.
Given all the filling ingredients, the chicken fajita pita is a very large single portion. Eating the whole thing likely provides too many calories for a single meal and over a day’s worth of sodium.
If you’re looking for a healthier fast food option, here are some suggestions:
- Grilled chicken sandwich or wrap: Choose a whole grain bun or tortilla, load up on veggies, and skip the sauce.
- Salad with grilled chicken: Opt for low-calorie dressing and limit high-fat toppings like cheese and croutons.
- Baked potato: Load up with chili, broccoli, salsa or Greek yogurt instead of butter and sour cream.
- Soup and side salad: Go for broth-based, lower-sodium soups like minestrone or vegetable. Pair with vinegar-based salad dressing.
- Yogurt parfait: Low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts or seeds makes a protein-rich meal.
When possible, build your own healthy fast food meal by choosing whole grain options, lean protein, lots of veggies, and minimal sauces and high-fat toppings.
Healthier Fajita Wraps
You can also make healthier fajita-style wraps at home. Here are some tips:
- Use a medium whole wheat tortilla (about 8 inches).
- Fill with 3 oz grilled chicken breast or lean steak.
- Load up with sautéed onions and bell peppers.
- Mix in tomatoes, salsa, cabbage, spinach, etc.
- Use just 1 tbsp grated low-fat cheese.
- Include plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
- Add spice with jalapeños, cumin, chili powder instead of heavy sauces.
- Drizzle with lime juice and cilantro.
Making fajita wraps at home allows you to control the ingredients. You can boost nutrition and minimize calories, fat, and sodium.
Is the Jack in the Box chicken fajita pita healthy? It does provide some nutritious ingredients like chicken breast, vegetables, beans, and dairy. However, it also contains many processed ingredients, artificial additives, sodium, and saturated fat.
While the chicken fajita pita is one of the better options at Jack in the Box, it is still a very large portion with too many calories for a single meal. You can make healthier fajita-style wraps by choosing better ingredients and controlling portions.
In general, fast food meals almost always have room for improvement nutrition-wise. Your best bet is building your own healthy meal focused on lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains. But if opting for a pre-made meal, the Jack in the Box chicken fajita pita isn’t a terrible choice.