Healthy Meals at Popular Chain Restaurants
The latest fast food restaurant rankings were just released and Technomic’s report shows continued growth in sales across the board. If CC members are representative of the wider American population, some of us calorie counters have been cooking less and eating out more. As summer approaches, family gatherings, road trips, and celebrations will have us out and about more than usual, which means we may run into more fast food menus than we’d hoped. Here are healthier choices from America’s most popular restaurants that are as good as you can get in my opinion. Many of these options are high in sodium, but we also added a list of the produce available at each establishment so that you can ask for the good stuff as needed.
Fresh produce available Green beans, spinach, cucumbers, snow peas, asparagus, edamame, grape tomatoes, mango, avocado, carrots, green papaya, apple, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, potatoes, pineapple, celery, honeydew melons, spinach, bean sprouts, lemon, lime, lettuce cups, mushrooms, leeks
Healthiest Meal Who knew there were so many options at this salty Chinese eatery? Yes the sauces are full of sodium, but if you want a little of that and lots of vegetables, you can if you ask. By scouring all of their dishes, you can find a little bit of everything. Ask for the Ginger Chicken with Broccoli. While adding brown rice will add 300 calories to this dish, asking for the dish(and anything else they offer) steamed with sauce on the side instead of stir-fried should save you some calories. Nutrition Info: 470 calories, 11g fat, 38g carbs, 8g fiber, 59g protein.
Chipotle Nutritional Information and Meal Builder
Fresh produce available limes, green and red bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, corn, romaine lettuce, and guacamole.
Healthiest Meal This falls between a drive-thru and a sitdown restaurant, but here it goes anyway. A Custom-made Chicken Salad. Add brown rice, chicken, fajita vegetables, cheese, and tomatillo-red chili salsa. A squeeze of lime adds a citrus kick. Nutrition Info: 520 calories, 20.5g fat, 46g carbs, 8g fiber, 47g protein.
Fresh produce available Strawberries, grapes, mandarin oranges from syrup, and apples, blueberries, carrots, red cabbage, grape tomatoes, an onion and bell pepper blend is also available.
Healthiest Meal The just added salads and wrap options are a boon to health-conscious eaters like us so although there’s a drive-thru I thought it too should be added to the list. While their Grilled Market Salad is good at 180 calories without dressing, I choose their most fibrous meal, the Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap as the healthiest. Thanks partially to the flatbread used, this is a well-rounded meal that is more filling. Hold the dressing or you’ll add 150 to 300 more calories. Nutrition Info: 330 calories, 12g fat, 28g carbs, 15g fiber, 38g protein.
Fresh produce available Onions, red potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, celery, lettuce, yellow squash, carrots, pineapple, strawberry, mushrooms, and apples.
Healthiest Meal Interesting that their “Meals under 550 calories” menu doesn’t include the Blackened Tilapia, which comes with a nice mix of broccoli, yellow squash, and carrots – with red potatoes to boot. Nutrition Info: 410 calories, 15g fat, 36g carbs, 6g fiber, 34g protein.
Fresh produce available bell peppers, baked potatoes, broccoli, plantains, strawberries, spinach, carrots, corn, asparagus, green beans, onions, bean sprouts, limes, lemons, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, apples, lettuces including kale, snow peas, avocado, edamame, artichoke, zucchini, celery, mango, cranberries, pears, orange, pineapple.
Healthiest Meal Nutritional information is available in the restaurant at Cheesecake Factory but according to the General Manager at my local Cheesecake Factory, they are unable to give calorie information over the phone, “for legal reasons”. I went ahead and walked in to see the nutritional information for you guys. The healthiest meal in my opinion is the Grilled Mahi Mahi which comes with green beans (470 calories). Ask for them steamed to save a few more calories.
Fresh produce available asparagus, broccoli, baked potatoes, lemon, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, lettuces, artichokes
Healthiest Meal Their lighthouse menu is pretty safe calorie-wise, but remember not to go with the Roasted Vegetable skewers unless you’re looking for 800+ calories. The Tropical BBQ Glazed Chicken is low in fat and while the carbs are a bit high thanks to the rice it’s served with, you can always ask for double the veggie instead. If you add steamed broccoli as the “accompaniment” to the main dish, here’s what you get. Nutrition Info: 430 calories, 6g fat, 63g carbs, 30g protein, no fiber information available.
Fresh produce available grape tomatoes, lettuce, shredded carrots, mushrooms, spinach, artichoke hearts, onions, broccoli, yellow squash, green beans, red and green bell peppers, snap peas, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus.
Healthiest Meal There are those who go to Outback specifically for ribs, and while it isn’t a “healthy” choice per-se, it’s worth mentioning that the Ribs and Chicken on the Barbie with fresh seasonal veggies is a reasonable 650 calories. This is of course without added barbecue sauce, or the standard fries. If you’re sticking to your healthy guns, pair a side of grilled asparagus with a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup and you’ve got a hearty, filling meal that you can’t find listed on the menu. Nutrition Info: 337 calories, 19g fat, 27g carbs, 16g fiber, 15g protein.
Bottom Line: Owning Your Meal
The takeaway for this list is choosing the best option and adding produce to it where possible. By adding fruits and vegetables to existing meals, and lowering the condiments, sauces, and fattening add-ons, you can own your meal without as many calories as the dish on the menu.
How have you changed meals at sit-down restaurants to suit your healthy eating lifestyle?