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One of the primary roadblocks to weight loss and health success is the commonly busy lifestyle which leads to the need for eating on-the-go. From business luncheons to travel to happy hour with friends, eating in restaurants is very common these days. One of the biggest misconceptions is that it's impossible to stay fit while dining out. Fortunately, most restaurants are jumping on board with the fitness movement so you can find weight-friendly meals in most eating establishments. Below, you will find my top eight picks for national chain restaurants.
1. P.F. Chang's
Usually, Chinese food is out the window when trying to shed the pounds (hello noodles!), but P.F. Chang's has a variety of healthier options. My favorite is the chicken lettuce wraps--very simple but tasty, diced chicken and veggies wrapped in perfectly crisp lettuce leaves. They also have salads which can be topped with salmon, or try one of the low-carb no-rice sushi rolls!
2. Olive Garden
You may be scratching your head at this one because yes, those breadsticks and pasta dishes! Check out their "Taste of the Mediterranean" section of the menu--you will see that each entrée does not exceed 600 calories. Not to mention, they even have "zoodles" (noodles made strictly from zucchini only) topped with shrimp!
This is a smaller burger chain but it's worth a mention because of the 26 burger chains in the U.S. only two received 'A' ratings for their beef and BurgerFi was one of them. An 'A' rating means the beef is void of hormones and other common toxins found in fast-food meat. You can get their burger lettuce wrapped and topped with lots of fresh produce, exponentially cutting those high-glycemic carbs.
4. California Pizza Kitchen
CPK is one of those places that is really jumping on board with the healthier food movement--check out their "power bowls" and you'll be impressed. These bowls are packed with healthy produce and quality proteins. I have only tried one so far (the Bahh Mi Bowl) and let me tell you, I didn't miss the pizza!
I think Denny's deserves a mention due to one of the breakfast amenities it boasts (no, I'm talking about the Grand Slams)! Denny's lets you build your own omelet and they have variety of healthy produce that can be added to your concoction. Not to mention, you can opt out for breakfast potatoes and choose fruit or sliced tomatoes.
The "Guiltless Grill" section of Chili's menu has entrees that have no more than 550 calories per plate, and each is comprised of quality protein and fresh produce. Also, not on the Guiltless Grill, but still very guiltless--check out the Shrimp Fajitas--delicious shrimp, onion, and bell peppers at around 300 calories per entrée and that includes the tortillas!
7. TGI Fridays
Some salads can be deceiving when it comes to calories, carbs, and unhealthy fats. The BBQ Chicken salad, as well as the Million Dollar Cob salad at TGI Fridays both have around 500 calories and that is with ranch dressing included!
Eatin' good in the neighborhood is even better now that Applebee's offers a lot of weight-friendly dishes. Their 6-ounce sirloin steak only has 200 calories--yes, I said 200 calories! Now of course, that doesn't include side dishes but there are so many healthy options to choose from that you can easily construct a 500-calorie steak dinner. Check out the green beans, broccoli, coleslaw, grilled shrimp, and fire-grilled veggies.
You must be thinking, wow this person must eat at restaurants all of the time to know the nutritional value for all of these meals. Occasionaly, I do but not often--the reason I have this info at my fingertips is because all national restaurant chains are required to post their nutrition menus online. This is great news as you can scope out the healthy fare before you decide where to dine. Also, for much cheaper entree options (some restaurants can get pricey!), check out our low-carb and high-protein breakfasts, lunches, and dinners here!