Eating Healthy at Chain Restaurants

31 Oct

Anyone who dines at chain restaurants knows that eating healthy at these establishments can be a challenge. Seemingly healthy menu items are often fat bombs in disguise. Thankfully the amount of restaurants publishing the nutritional information of their menu items is increasing, making it easier to practice eating healthy.

Dine at the chain restaurants below guilt-free with these tips for eating healthy:

The Olive Garden

Everyone loves the Olive Garden. It may not actually be Italy, but a  lot of us dumb Americans are certainly fooled by it. One of my favorite things  about this restaurant is the salad and breadsticks that come before dinner.  That was until I realized that one serving of their seemingly innocent salad  packs 26 grams of fat and 360 calories! Thankfully it’s very easy to  slim it down by to a mere 3.5 grams of fat and 120 calories by simply skipping  the dressing. Or, take the even safer route and choose minestrone soup for just 1 gram of fat and 100 calories.

How to Eat Healthy:

Venetian Apricot Chicken

Calories: 290

Fat: 2.5 grams

*On a side note, go easy on the breadsticks. Each of those delicious
wonders will cost you 2.5 grams of fat and 250 calories!

First Watch

First Watch is a tricky one. Something about it makes everyone think  that it’s a super healthy breakfast spot, but in reality it’s just a fat bomb in a pretty (and delicious) package. The restaurant does have a healthy section on the menu, but most weight conscious people would be horrified after checking out the nutrition stats on most items. For example, the “Lean Machine” has 25 grams of fat before adding in the sides that accompany them. Sides such as the muffin of the day can add as much 26 grams of fat and 480 calories to your “healthy” breakfast. Add that together with the main dish and any other sides and you’ve already consumed the amount of fat and calories you’re supposed to eat for the entire day.

How to Eat Healthy:

Tri-Athlete Omelet (with sides of an english muffin and fresh fruit)


Calories: 109

Fat: 0 grams

English muffin:

Calories: 110

Fat: 1 gram

Fresh Fruit:

Calories: 206

Fat: 2 grams

Grand Total:

Calories: 425

Fat: 3 grams

P.F. Chang’s

You may have to look twice at the P.F. Chang’s nutritional information in order to really understand it. Instead of giving the nutrition stats for the entire meal that they dish up, they break it up into serving sizes to make it appear less alarming. But no, they don’t break it up into serving sizes on your plate. For example, the “Ginger Chicken with Broccoli” looks innocent enough with 273
calories and 11 grams of fat… per serving
. Multiply that by the three servings they restaurant has broken it into and you’re actually eating 819 calories and 33 grams of fat. Yikes!

It's not easy, but eating healthy is possible at P.F. Changs

How to Eat Healthy:

Buddha’s Feast (Steamed)

Calories: 55 (x two servings) = 110

Fat: 0 grams

Buddha’s Feast (Stir-Fried)

Calories: 220 (x two servings) = 440

Fat: 6 grams (x two servings) = 12 grams

California Pizza Kitchen

It’s no secret that California Pizza Kitchen serves good food, but is it really worth busting a button on your pants for? It’s not easy to find anything healthy on the menu of this restaurant. Most of the menu items including pizzas, tacos, sandwiches, and salads boast more than 1,000 calories per entrée. Yikes!

How to Eat Healthy:

Grilled Vegetable Salad, substituting Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing for their homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

Grilled Vegetable Salad Calories (without meat): 597 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/ 219* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

Fat (only saturated fat is given):  6 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/ 0* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

Grilled Vegetable Salad Calories (w/grilled chicken breast): 834 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/456* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

Fat (only saturated fat is given): 7 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/ 1* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

Grilled Vegetable Salad Calories (w/grilled chicken breast): 693 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/
315* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

Fat (only saturated fat is given): 6 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/ 0* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

Grilled Vegetable Salad Calories (w/sautéed salmon): 826 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/ 448* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

Fat (only saturated fat is given): 9 (w/CPK homemade Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing)/ 3* (w/ Fat-Free Vinaigrette dressing)

*Based upon approximate nutritional information for Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.

Outback Steakhouse

Choose carefully when deciding what to order at the Outback Steakhouse. One wrong turn, such as ordering the Bloomin’ Onion appetizer, can cost you nearly 2,000 calories and a whopping 160 grams of fat. Yowza! The restaurant does offer a nice little selection of healthy 500 calorie and under options, that won’t leave you with a fat hangover the next day.

How to Eat Healthy:

Chicken on the Barbie with Seasonal Vegetables

Calories: 401

Fat: 7 grams

6 oz Sirloin With Broccoli No Butter And Tangy Tomato Salad No Croutons

Calories: 403

Fat: 11 grams

2 Lobster Tails With Tangy Tomato Salad No Croutons And Broccoli No

Calories: 414

Fat: 8 grams

Simply Grilled Tilapia With Steamed Veggies

Calories: 323

Fat: 8 grams

Simply Grilled 8 oz Mahi with Rice Garnish And Steamed Veggies

Calories: 388

Fat: 12 grams

Grilled Chicken Sandwich With Broccoli No Butter

Calories: 441

Fat: 12 grams


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