Anyone on a diet can tell you that one of the biggest struggles of dieting is dining out. Portions are huge, flavors of magnetic, and dessert is always on the menu. But dining out doesn’t have to sabotage your success. Here are a few big name restaurants with surprisingly healthy (and amazingly delicious) menu items that will keep you on track and happy about it!
Did you know that a single burger on the Red Robin menu can cost you up to 1,200 calories? That’s right, a whole day’s worth of calories for a typical female dieter… and that’s before we even talk about the fries. So it might be a bit surprising to see it topping my list. But hear me out!!! Skip the burger and opt for the Ensenada Chicken Platter. Double up on the meat, trust me you’ll want it. This is a south of the border inspired dish focusing on getting flavor from calorie-free spices instead of sauces. Since there is no bun the carbs are naturally low, though you can get them even lower if you ask for no chips. The Baja ranch dressing that compliments your (bottomless) side salad is amazing, too. All of this, for under 500 calories.
I know, I know… it’s delicious and that means that it can’t be healthy. Right? Turns out you’re wrong. A chipotle bowl (not the burrito) is actually a well-balanced meal that keeps your intake on point and your family happy about dinner. There are a few tips to getting the most nutrition bang for your buck, though. First up- try for chicken instead of beef. And make it double the protein. Load up on the fajita veggies too, and skip the rice. If that’s asking too much, just ask them to go light on the rice. I love adding black beans in place of rice. It’s still a carb, but the high fiber offsets the carb count for those tracking net carbs.
The Cheesecake Factory
If you don’t trust me by now, this one will win you over. The answer is yes, you can stay on a diet when you eat at a place dedicated to decadent desserts. You can even HAVE dessert. Here’s how. Start by ordering the “Skinny-Licious” grilled salmon. (I don’t name the dishes people, I just endorse them.)You’re getting a heap of protein and Omegas without the fat of beef. And hey- it’s not chicken! Compliment the fish with green veggies to get some fiber in while keeping your carbs low. Ask for no butter in the preparation, or butter on the side to manage fat. All of this clears the way for dessert. Stick with regular plain cheesecake (no Oreo cheesecake allowed!) for a dessert with a decent amount of protein that is still satisfying! Yum!
Yes, I went there. I have a friend who taught me this hack and it is so satisfying! Order the chicken scampi dish … but substitute out the angel hair pasta. Instead, ask for your meat to be served on a bed of broccoli. She usually asks for an extra side of sauce, but doing that will up your total fat intake. In any event, it comes out similar to a stew. The broccoli sops up the sauce in a satisfying way, and you’re out the door for under 20 carbs. If you can avoid the breadsticks, that is…
Finally, if nothing on my list gets you excited to dine out on a diet, head to Applebees. Here you can actually have a steak and stay under 500 calories! That’s because the restaurant created an entire menu of items offered under 500 calories. They did it back when they were partnered with Weight Watchers. And, while that partnership may not have worked out the way that they had hoped, the end result was a delicious menu well suited to dieters with a lot of options to choose from.
Now that I’ve totally blown your mind, grab your purse. It’s time for dinner on the town!
Join me next week when we take a tour of yoga studios around the Eastside!