5 Nutritionist-Approved Ways to Healthify Your Chicken Caesar Wrap
Of all of this year’s food-based TikTok trends, the current frenzy surrounding chicken caesar wraps is one we are totally on board with. (Sorry, “healthy Coke.”) A chicken caesar salad is already one of the world’s most delicious meals: an excellent balance of nutrients, textures, and flavors, with crisp romaine, crunchy croutons, savory cheese, and sturdy chicken all brought together with a light coating of rich and umami caesar dressing. And a chicken caesar salad made portable with the addition of a handy wrap? Delightful. But are chicken caesar wraps healthy?
The wrap, however, does have the potential for throwing the nutritional balance of a chicken caesar a little off-center. “The chicken caesar wrap can be loaded with calories and unhealthy fats if you’re not careful,” says Adylia-Rhenee Gutierrez, Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. This is especially true if you’re picking up a wrap from a deli that uses breaded chicken, refined flour wraps, and a heavy hand with the caesar dressing — meaning that what can otherwise be a good, nutrition-forward choice risks toppling into downright bad-for-you territory. “A typical caesar salad wrap includes ingredients that are higher in calories, saturated fat, and sodium,” echoes Kiran Campbell, RDN. “But with a few substitutions and healthy additions, you can turn a caesar wrap into a veggie-loaded, nutrient-dense, satisfying and filling meal that you can feel good about.”
“You’re better off making one at home,” says Patricia Kolesa, MS, RDN, or at least being aware of how much and how often you’re eating chicken caesar wraps — so you can balance other meals in between. Regardless whether you are making one for yourself at home or ordering out, here are five nutritionist-approved ways to lighten up your chicken caesar wrap.
1. Reimagine the dressing
It’s the caesar dressing that makes caesar salad and caesar salad wraps what they are. The rich, salty, umami punch is a huge part of why we love caesars so much, but our surveyed nutritionists have a multitude of ideas on how to achieve those results with less caloric or saturated fat impact.
“Most caesar salad dressings are made primarily with egg yolks and oil,” says Gutierrez. “Egg yolks are not all bad, but be mindful they are high in cholesterol, which can elevate your risk of heart disease.” All the more reason to make yourself a caesar wrap at home so you can control the ingredients. “If using mayonnaise, make sure that the mayonnaise is made with olive oil,” she says. Better yet, Gutierrez suggests using a small amount of caesar dressing, then amping up the flavor with other accoutrements: “drizzle with hummus and lemon juice, and season with garlic powder and pepper,” she suggests.
Campbell also offers some creative, flavorful swap outs: “use a vinaigrette instead, or make homemade caesar dressing using plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dijon mustard, olive oil, minced garlic, grated parmesan cheese, and a little cracked black pepper,” she says. You can also add a couple of anchovies directly to the wrap for a little omega-3 fatty acid boost.
One of our favorite caesar dressing recipes involves blending anchovies with Greek yogurt and a few other healthy ingredients for a much lower-calorie, super-creamy take, while another is a vegan version utilizing silken tofu, which offers a lighter texture. Both are delicious, and we’ve been known to blend the two, as well: anchovies and tofu go together surprisingly well.
2. Don’t be (breaded) chicken
If you’re ordering your chicken caesar wrap out, make sure to know what kind of chicken is being used, and opt for grilled or roasted — rather than breaded and fried. “This can help with reducing fat and sodium intake,” says Kolesa. “Grilled chicken is a leaner protein option and is a better choice for those with heart conditions.” Not only do you avoid the additional fat from the fried breading itself, but that breading can also be a conduit for soaking up way more caesar dressing than you actually want or need.
3. Swap croutons for crunchy vegetables
Croutons give a satisfying crunch to caesar salads, and as the only starch component in that format, they’re a welcome addition in moderate amounts (although we’ve been known to swap ‘em out for crispy garlic-roasted chickpeas, as well). But if you’re getting a caesar wrap, you’re already elevating the carbohydrate profile of the meal, so… do you really need those croutons? Especially when they run the risk of getting soggy when they’re all wrapped up?
There’s a better way to add texture without sacrificing health. “Add more vegetables like bell pepper, cucumber, or onion to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals and help you stay hydrated,” says Kolesa.
Cooked or marinated vegetables can also enhance texture and flavor. “Some add-ins to up the nutritional value can include sun-dried or roasted tomato, roasted red bell peppers, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, or artichoke hearts,” says Campbell. “This allows you to get a serving or two of vegetables while also increasing the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they offset the amount of fat and sodium added from the dressing and wrap.” The same swaps can be made when ordering from a deli by scoping out the salad bar or asking what additional vegetables are available.
“These minor substitutes offer a more healthy wrap,” says Gutierrez. “And it’s still really good!”
4. Go easy on the dressing
We’ve all had restaurant or deli salads that are absolutely swimming in dressing, and the chicken caesar wrap can also be a victim to this kind of handling, especially once it gets stuffed in the wrap and you can’t necessarily see what’s going on. “If you’re ordering out, ask for light dressing, or request for the dressing on the side,” says Gutierrez. “This allows you to manage the amount of dressing that is on the wrap.” It may take a little takeout gymnastics to lightly dress a caesar wrap once wrapped, but it’s worth it to have a lunch that doesn’t immediately require a nap from a potential blood sugar spike and corresponding crash. And you can always use the dressing more as a dip, putting a little bit on each bite at a time.
5. Reconsider the wrap
Yes, if you lose the wrap altogether, you’re back to just eating salad, but unless you’re choosing a better-for-you wrap, it’s usually worth it. “By using a flour tortilla wrap, you’re getting between 200-300 calories and up to 500mg sodium from the wrap alone,” says Campbell. “I personally love swapping out flour tortilla wraps for lettuce wraps.”
Campbell also recommends Mission cauliflower wraps and Egglife egg wraps, both of which cut the calories and sodium content significantly over a traditional flour wrap. Gutierrez recommends Siete’s almond flour tortillas, which are low in saturated fat and sodium.
You probably won’t have these alternative options when ordering out. “However, using a whole wheat tortilla instead of a white tortilla can increase fiber intake and fullness,” says Kolesa, and those are usually pretty easy to come by. “Whole wheat wraps typically have more vitamins and minerals, plus foods like whole wheat products with fiber can slow blood sugar from spiking.”