I used to think I didn’t have a prayer of staying on my fat-burning plan if I ate out. The problem was, with my heavy traveling schedule it was sometimes difficult to avoid chain restaurants altogether. I began to think about how the average American eats, and realized that chain restaurants were everywhere: A day of shopping might mean lunch at Panera’s. A night out with the kids might mean dinner at the Olive Garden. A quick work lunch—a sandwich at Subway. A road trip—a pit stop at Chili’s or Boston Market. I realized that it was unrealistic and overly harsh to tell people to avoid restaurant and fast food dining. The key is choice and control.
Below are fat-burning meal choices at 5 popular chain restaurants. But before you delve in, remember that you’re in charge of your dining out experience. Before you go, check the website for nutritional information. Once you’re at the table, decline the bread basket. Be aware of the hidden calories and sugar in sauces and dressings. And once you’re dining, stop when you’re full and have your leftovers wrapped. Don’t see your favorite below? Go online and check out the menu and nutrition information for any national chain restaurant. Enjoy your meal—the fat-burning way!
- Panera Bakery
Salads and flatbread sandwiches are filling and delicious. Pair a Mediterranean and Chicken Quinoa Salad or an Ancient Grain, Arugula and Chicken Salad with a cup of low-fat vegetable soup. Or choose a Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread or Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread.
Mexican restaurants can be synonymous with guilt—which is why Chili’s guiltless selection is so satisfying. Choose the Guiltless Garden Asian or Caribbean Salad with a cup of Southwestern Vegetable Soup. Or pick a hardier entrée—the Guiltless Gourmet Grilled Salmon or the Guiltless Gourmet Classic Sirloin with seasonal vegetables or avocado slices. The Spicy Garlic and Lime Shrimp is another great choice.
- Olive Garden
This restaurant is known for its never-ending pasta bowl and large pasta portions. But the menu offers some pretty appealing and healthy choices. Start with a Garden Fresh Salad. Or enjoy one of the delicious entrees—the Herb Grilled Salmon, the Venetian Apricot Chicken, Parmesan Crusted Tilapia or the Seafood Brodetto.
No matter where I am in the world, I can usually find a Subway, and I’ve come to expect a consistent high quality experience. As a chain, Subway is committed to offering healthy choices—and any sandwich can be ordered as a salad. The Fresh Fit menu is full of healthy options. For breakfast choose the Egg White with Avocado, Red Onion, and Spinach on Flatbread. The Double Chicken Chopped Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing (on the side) is a good choice. If you’re having an occasional sandwich, choose the six-inch turkey breast on nine-grain wheat bread with lettuce, tomato and spicy mustard. Better still, eat it as an open-face sandwich with only one slice of bread.
- Boston Market
Pot pies, meatloaf, rich soups and killer sides will set your fat-burning efforts back, but the good news is there are plenty of fat-burning choices here. Choose the roasted turkey breast meal, paired with a side of fresh steamed vegetables, the quarter white rotisserie chicken with steamed vegetables or green beans, or the beef brisket–and decline the cornbread.