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How to Stay Healthy While Eating at Chain Restaurants

Making smart choices when dining out is not as difficult as you might think. Research the restaurant’s nutrition information in advance, so you know what to avoid. More than likely, the culprit is portion size—so ask if a dish can be halved or check to see if a lunch portion is available. In general, stick to grilled, baked, or steamed dishes over fried, choose leaner proteins such as chicken, fish, or sirloin steak, and load up on the veggies.

With the Cooking Light Diet, you can enjoy delicious homemade meals, and eat at your favorite restaurants when you choose foods like these in your calorie range.


Junior Roast Beef Sandwich
Cal: 210, Fat: 8g, Sat Fat: 2.5g, Sodium: 530mg
or Roast Beef Classic Sandwich (without Arby’s Sauce)
Cal: 360, Fat: 14g, Sat Fat: 5g, Sodium: 970mg

One small packet of mayo-based Horsey Sauce adds 50 calories, 5g of fat, and 160mg of sodium. Choose barbecue-flavored Arby’s Sauce instead.


Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Cal: 320, Fat: 5g, Sat Fat: 2g, Sodium: 800mg
with a Fruit Cup (medium)
Cal: 50, Fat: 0g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 0mg

With 430 calories, 22g of fat, and 1370mg of sodium (all before salad dressing!), Chick-Fil-A’s Chicken Cobb Salad is a poor choice. Opt for a salad that avoids fried chicken nuggets, bacon, and cheese, such as the Grilled Market Salad.


Kid’s Steak Tacos with 2 Soft Corn Tortillas, Fajita Vegetables, Cheese & Chips

Cal: 380, Fat: 11g, Sat Fat: 3g, Sodium: 350mg
Or Chicken Tacos with 3 Soft Corn Tortillas, Lettuce, Cheese & Tomato Salsa
Cal: 515, Fat: 7g, Sat Fat: 3g, Sodium: 1030mg

When it comes to tacos, fajitas, or quesadillas, choose corn tortillas whenever possible. Flour tortillas—even whole-wheat varieties—are usually higher in calories, fat, and sodium.

California Pizza Kitchen

Kid’s Traditional Cheese Pizza
Cal: 560, Fat: 12g, Sat Fat: 6g, Sodium: 1180mg

CPK’s pizzas strike out in nearly every category—they are all loaded with calories, fat, and sodium. TheThai Chicken Pizza may look like more salad than pizza, but it has 1290 calories, 45g of fat, 15g of saturated fat, and 3190mg of sodium. Even halving this pizza still sets you back significantly.

Domino's Pizza

Small Cheese Pizza with Chicken with Spinach & Mushroom Marinara Sauce & Hand-Tossed Crust
Cal: 380, Fat: 11g, Sat Fat: 4g, Sodium: 810mg

When ordering pizza, use your common sense. Any pizza likened to a cheeseburger or Philly Cheesesteak is probably not a smart choice. We recommend building your own pizza using the menu’s healthiest ingredients. Beef, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, and extra-cheese are the greatest fat and sodium offenders, so opt for leaner proteins such as chicken or ham, and make sure to pile on the veggies!

Jack in the Box


Cal: 280, Fat: 11g, Sat Fat: 4g, Sodium: 620mg
with a Side Salad
Cal: 20, Fat: 0g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 10mg
with Low-Fat Balsamic Dressing
Cal: 30, Fat: 1.5g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 350mg

After 9 p.m., Jack in the Box offers“Munchie Meals” menu. Most of the options are overloaded with fat and sodium. The worst offender—Loaded Nuggets—has 760 calories, 56g of fat, and 2030mg of sodium. Stick to the regular menu.

Jason's Deli

Half Mediterranean Wrap

Cal: 180, Fat: 5g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 610mg
with a Fruit Cup
Cal: 60, Fat: 0g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 0mg
and Steamed Veggies
Cal: 60, Fat: 0g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 55mg

If you’re eyeing a sandwich with the word “club” in its title, think twice. A club sandwich might be tasty, but it’s little more than a fat and sodium bomb. Jason’s Deli’s version, the California Club Sandwich, piles guacamole on top of roasted turkey, Swiss cheese, bacon, and mayo, and clocks in at 770 calories, 52g of fat, 19g of saturated fat, and 1400mg of sodium. Yikes!


Egg White Delight

Cal: 250, Fat: 8g, Sat Fat: 3g, Sodium: 770mg
or Egg McMuffin
Cal: 300, Fat: 13g, Sat Fat: 5g, Sodium: 750mg
with Clementines
Cal: 40, Fat: 0g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 0mg

McDonald’s offers several healthy breakfast options, but the Steak & Egg Biscuit, with 540 calories, 32g of fat, 16g, of saturated fat, and 1470mg of sodium, is not one of them. The Egg McMuffin is a much healthier choice.

Olive Garden

Baked Tilapia with Shrimp

Cal: 360, Fat: 12g, Sat Fat: 6g, Sodium: 980mg

Olive Garden’s Cucina Mia menu allows customers to create their own pasta dishes from a selection of noodles, sauces, and proteins. In theory, this sounds like a smart choice. However, a simple combination of Cavatappi pasta, Five-Cheese Marinara sauce, and grilled chicken has 1080 calories, 49g of fat, 22g of saturated fat, and 1510mg of sodium. Stick to smaller portions, such as the lunch-size Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.

Panera Bread

Power Steak Lettuce Wraps

Cal: 230, Fat: 10g, Sat Fat: 4g, Sodium: 250mg
or Half Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT on Sourdough
Cal: 250, Fat: 9g, Sat Fat: 2g, Sodium: 490mg
with Fresh Fruit Cup
Cal: 60, Fat: 0g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 15mg

We often associate Mediterranean flavors with health, but the Greek with Chicken Salad (with Greek-Herb Vinaigrette) has 710 calories, 58g of fat, 13g of saturated fat, and 1620mg of sodium. Opt for a different salad dressing, such as reduced fat balsamic, and ask for it on the side.

Red Lobster

Oven-Broiled Wild-Caught Flounder/Sole

Cal: 340, Fat: 8g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 460mg
with a Plain Baked Potato
Cal: 200, Fat: 0.5g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 310mg
and Broccoli
Cal: 50, Fat: 0.5g, Sat Fat: 0g, Sodium: 105mg

The Cheddar Bay Biscuits
are delicious, so indulge with one—but stop after that. Each biscuit has 160 calories, 10g of fat, 3g of saturated fat, and 380mg of sodium.

T.G.I. Friday's

Thai Pork Tacos
Cal: 280, Fat: 14g, Sat Fat: 3.5g, Sodium: 700mg
or BBQ Chicken Flatbread
Cal: 460, Fat: 23g, Sat Fat: 8g, Sodium: 790mg

The majority of T.G.I. Fridays’ signature Jack Daniel’s-glazed items are sodium bombs—the burger has 4040mg, the chicken sandwich has 2770mg, and the ribs has 3220mg! The plainer, the better. Order a simple steak “From the Grill” to save on calories, fat, and sodium.


6” Turkey Breast on 9-Grain Wheat with Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onion, Green Peppers & Cucumbers

Cal: 280, Fat: 3.5g, Sat Fat: 1g, Sodium: 670mg
or Double Chicken Chopped Salad(without dressing)
Cal: 220, Fat: 4.5g, Sat Fat: 1.5g, Sodium: 490mg

The 6” Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt
sub has 570 calories, 28g of fat, 10g of sat fat, and 1050mg of sodium. Stick to the “6 Grams of Fat or Less” menu.

Tim Hortons

Oatmeal with Mixed Berries

Cal: 210, Fat: 3g, Sat Fat: 0.5g, Sodium: 220mg

Timbits—Tim Horton’s version of doughnut holes—give you much more bang for your buck than the traditional doughnuts. Four Apple Fritter Timbits have significantly less calories, fat, and sodium than one Apple Fritter Donut!

Dairy Queen

Grilled Chicken Garden Greens Salad
Cal: 150, Fat: 2g, Sat Fat: 0.5g, Sodium: 730mg
with Light Ranch Dressing
Cal: 80, Fat: 4.5, Sat Fat: 0.5g, Sodium: 330mg

Dairy Queen’s Veggie Quesadilla Basket
sounds harmless, but it’s loaded with calories, fat, and sodium. Cut the damage by eating only half of the quesadillas, skipping the sour cream, and substituting a side salad for the onion rings.

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