Healthiest Choices for Popular Restaurants

From time to time while doing BFL you may be faced with making a choice from a menu in a restaurant or missing a meal.  Before throwing your diet out the window, make an educated choice.  There are some items on most menus that you will be able to eat on occasion.  However, do not make these a staple of your diet.

I looked up all the nutrition information that I could find for each restaurant listed below. Several popular restaurants (like Steak 'n' Shake, Dairy Queen, WG Grinders, Sonic, Red Lobster, Golden Corral, Chili's, Cracker Barrel, Chevy's Fresh Mex, Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday and Country Kitchen) did not provide nutrition information on the web, but it is likely that there is at least one good choice on their menus. Watch for keywords (mentioned below) in their menu items to make a good choice.

Keep in mind that most restaurant food is very high in sodium.

Keywords that may indicate a good choice:*

baked, blackened, boiled, broiled, consomm�, grilled, marinated, poached, roasted, sear, steam

Keywords to avoid:*

brown, deep-fry, frying, glaze, pan-fry, remoulade, saut�, stuff

Find out more when you see:*

au gratin, au jus, braise, stew, stir-fry, vinaigrette



Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (no dressing), 230 cal, 8 fat, 8 carb, 33 prot

Grilled Chicken Salad, 210 cal, 4.5 fat, 14 carb, 30 prot

Light Grilled Chicken (light menu), 280 cal, 5 fat, 30 carb, 29 prot

Light Roast Chicken Deluxe (light menu), 260 cal, 5 fat, 33 carb, 23 prot

Light Roast Turkey Deluxe (light menu), 260 cal, 5 fat, 33 carb, 23 prot

Roast Chicken Salad, 160 cal, 2.5 fat, 15 carb, 20 prot

Don't be fooled by thinking their Market Fresh sandwiches are healthy.  They all contain 33-44 gms of fat. 

Burger King

Chicken Tenders, 4 piece, 170 calories, 9 fat, 10 carb, 11 prot

Chicken Whopper, no mayo, 420 calories, 9 fat, 47 carb, 38 prot

Chicken Whopper Jr., no mayo, 270 calories, 6 fat, 30 carb, 25 prot


This looks to be one of the healthiest fast food places considering the number of menu items available that don't have a ton of fat!

Char grilled Chicken Garden Salad, 180 cal, 6 fat, 8 carb, 23 prot

Chic-N Caesar Salad, 240 cal, 10 fat, 6 carb, 31 prot

Char grilled Chicken Sandwich, 280 cal, 7 fat, 29 carb, 25 prot

Char grilled Chicken Sandwich, no butter, 240 cal, 3.5 fat, 28 carb, 25 prot

Char grilled Chicken Deluxe Sandwich, 280 cal, 7 fat, 30 carb, 26 prot

Char grilled Chicken Club Sandwich, 360 cal, 13 fat, 31 carb, 30 prot

Chick-N Strips (4), 250 cal, 11 fat, 12 carb, 25 prot

Nuggets, 260 cal, 12 fat, 12 carb, 26 prot

Chicken Caesar Salad, 240 cal, 10 fat, 5 carb, 34 prot


Garden Chicken Deluxe Salad*

Grilled Alaskan Salmon Dinner*

Vegetable Beef Soup*


Chicken Breast, 370 cal, 15 fat, 29 carb, 29 prot (remove skin to make this healthier)

Grilled Chicken Sandwich, 350 cal, 16 fat, 28 carb, 23 prot (no dressing to make healthier)


Crispy Strips (3), 340 cal, 16 fat, 20 carb, 28 prot (remove the breading to reduce fat and carbs)

Honey BBQ Flavored Sandwich with sauce, 310 cal, 6 fat, 37 carb, 28 prot

Original Recipe Sandwich w/o sauce, 360 cal, 13 fat, 21 carb, 29 prot

Original Recipe Chicken Breast, 370 cal, 19 fat, 11 carb, 40 prot (remove skin to make this healthier)

Tender Roast Chicken Sandwich w/o sauce, 270 cal, 5 fat, 23 carb, 31 prot

Long John Silvers

Grilled Chicken Salad, 140 cal, 2.5 fat, 10 carb, 20 prot

Ocean Chef Salad, 130 cal, 2 fat, 15 carb, 14 prot


1% lowfat milk, 100 cal, 2.5 fat, 13 carb, 8 prot

4 piece Chicken McNuggets, 190 cal, 11 fat, 13 carb, 10 prot

Chicken McGrill, no mayo, 300 cal, 6 fat, 37 carb, 24 prot

Fat Free Herb Vinaigrette, 35 cal, 8 carb, 0 prot

Grilled Chicken Caesar salad, 100 cal, 2.5 fat, 3 carb, 17 prot

McSalad Shaker Chef salad, 150 cal, 8 fat, 5 carb, 17 prot

Scrambled eggs (2), 160 cal, 11 fat, 1 carb, 13 prot


Smoked Turkey Breast Small, 335 cal, 5 fat, 50 carb, 23 prot (get double meat to increase protein)

Chicken Caesar Salad (no dressing), 254 cal, 10 fat, 13 carb, 28 prot

Smoked Turkey Chef's Salad (no dressing), 243 cal, 10 fat, 15 carb, 24 prot

Light Italian Dressing, 90 cal, 8 fat, 3 carb, 0 prot

None of their sandwiches are very good choices, even the Light and Flavorful; none have less than 50 carbs.


6" Roasted Chicken Breast, 318 cal, 5 fat, 47 carb, 23 prot

6" SUBWAY Club�, 323 cal, 6 fat, 46 carb, 24 prot

Roasted Chicken Breast Salad, 141 cal, 3 fat, 12 carb, 16 prot

Roast Beef Salad, 117 cal, 3 fat, 10 carb, 12 prot

Subway Club Salad, 146 cal, 3.5 fat, 12 carb, 17 prot

order double meat on any of these to increase protein

Taco Bell

Soft Taco, Chicken, 190 cal, 7 fat, 19 carb, 13 prot  

TGI Friday's

Chargilled Chicken Sandwich*

Fresh Vegetable Medley*

Grilled Chicken Caesar*

The Olive Garden

Chicken Giardino, Lunch Entree, 350 cal, 7 fat, 40 carb, 26 prot, Dinner Entree, 460 cal, 8 fat, 59 carb, 36 prot

Veal Scaloppini*


Grilled Chicken Sandwich, 300 cal, 8 fat, 36 carb, 24 prot

Chicken BLT Salad, 150 cal, 16 fat, 10 carb, 33 prot

Taco Supremo Salad, 360 cal, 17 fat, 29 carb, 27 prot 



Because many of the selections found on a Chinese restaurant menu are fried in oil, what seems like a reasonable low fat choice may actually come to the table bathed in fat. Chinese restaurants also tend to go heavy on the salt and sugar. The best you can do to avoid this is be specific when you order. Tell your server, no MSG, sugar, oil, or soy sauce, please.

Skip them - the usual choices (egg rolls, won tons, fried noodles, etc.) are extremely high in fat.

Pick broth based soups over chowder or cream soups

Ask for steamed vegetables, rather than fried. Or you can ask them to stir-fry them in chicken broth or water. Most of the sauces served with vegetable dishes are relatively low in fat.

Look for baked or broiled items.

Avoid selections that are batter fried; opt for chicken and vegetables; cashews, peanuts, and almonds add extra fat.

Rice and Noodles
Ask for plain, steamed rice and noodles, not fried.

Choose steamed, stir-fry (if with minimal oil). Make sure chow mein dishes are stir-fried and not fried. Lo mein may be a better choice if prepared without oils. Say no to Peking duck and egg foo young, fried dim sum, and other deep-fried appetizers.

Go ahead and splurge with a fortune cookie!


Look for lighter fare prepared with wine or herbs, like bouillabaisse, poached salmon, coq au vin, poulet aux fines herbes, ratatouille, steamed mussels, and fish en papillote. Avoid processed foods, organ meats, and heavy cheese dishes such as sweetbreads, foie gras, quiche Lorraine, and fondue.


Most Indian dishes are quite healthy. Just avoid curries made with coconut milk and parathas, a whole-wheat bread that is fried. Stick with vegetable curries and naan, a baked flatbread made with wheat flour and sourdough. Dals, chapatis, biryanis, pilafs, and tandoori chicken or fish are all healthy options as they contain vegetables and wheat flour.


Use tomato (marinara) sauce, red clam or white clam.  Avoid cream, alfredo, and butter sauces. Eat half of your lasagna and order ravioli or manicotti stuffed with ricotta cheese and/or spinach rather than meat.  Minestrone soup is a good appetizer if made solely with vegetables, pasta or rice, and seasonings.

Choose thin crusts, instead of the deep dish and reduce the fat content by avoiding olives, extra cheese sausage, and/or pepperoni. Eat your pizza with a fork and knife, it takes longer to eat and you will fill up on fewer pieces.


Salmon, albacore tuna, shrimp sushi. Chicken, beef, or pork teriyaki, yakimono (broiled or grilled) fish and chicken. Avoid tempura and any dish with the word "atsu, " which often connotes deep-fried with a batter.


Avoid the chips if possible! A small hand full of tortilla chips amounts to 150 calories, over 50% of which are fat calories. Here are some low fat suggestions for ordering at a Mexican restaurant:

Ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice, vegetables, and spices)
Tostada (salad served open-faced on fried corn or flour tortilla)
- order with chicken or instead of beef
- ask them to not put sour cream on top
- request a soft corn tortilla, not a fried one
- go light on the guacamole and olives Taco
- order chicken or fish
- nor sour cream
- soft tortilla instead of fried Burrito
- order chicken or fish or bean
- no sour cream
- no extra cheese on top, please
- sauce is OK

*Enchilada- same recommendations as Burrito

Good choices are fajitas, chicken, beef, or pork. Avoid anything fried, which is most of the menu items.

Middle Eastern/Greek (Mediterranean)

These are great places to order lamb because lean, marinated cuts are necessary for most dishes. Shish kabobs, pilafs, and couscous are low-fat well-seasoned choices for proteins and grains. Watch out for dishes with feta cheese or nuts.


The most important thing to do when you eat out is as a paying customer it's your right to request the way you want your food prepared and served.   Restaurants know that most people enjoy the flavor of fat; and they're in the business of giving people what they want. It's really to the restaurant's benefit, as well as yours, to tell them what you want.


I'd like my toast dry
No butter on the pancakes
Would you please make my omelet with 1 egg and 2 egg whites, in stead of 3 eggs
I'd like my sandwich without mayonnaise, please
I'd like the salad dressing on the side, please
I'd like my baked potato with everything on the side
Can you steam the vegetables please, no butter
Can I have my fish broiled without the butter
Would you please tell the chef to go light on the oil
May I please have a doggie bag

*source: Muscle Media Magazine

**source: web site

The rest are items that I picked.  Keep in mind that nutrition information does change even for the same menu items.  The nutrition  information was last updated in September 2002.  Ask for a recent nutrition brochure if you are unsure.