It’s that time of the year when thousands of Brits head to the US – and, as I did a few weeks ago, come back heavier than when they left. Between the portion sizes, the fact that outside of big cities it’s tricky to walk that far to burn things off and trying to cram workouts in around too many things to do in the day it can get messy for diets out there.
However, US chain restaurants are really, really good at telling you how many calories are in their food with easy to find lists on their websites. As I discovered the night we went to Olive Garden, some have even made their nutritional information super mobile friendly so you can scan without squinting at tiny charts on your phone at the table. If only we’d eaten in more chains I might not be crying every time I step on the scales right now!
Now I’m not suggesting anyone live their holiday denying themselves dishes of yumminess, but if you do want to try and keep things under control, here are the lowest calorie options for a selection of the big chains…..and as with here in the UK you might be surprised at what they are. For example I’d never have thought that I’d be better off ordering the Ravioli di Portobello (aka cheese and mushroom ravioli) in Olive Garden than the DIY Cucina Mia pasta with tomato sauce and shrimp but the ravioli was 570, the shrimp 750. And it didn’t disappoint either.
Note, none of these counts include those yummy free treats like breadsticks, cheese buns or chips and salsa that they like to give you! They are also taken off the main evening menus, lunch menus often have smaller portions or different offerings with slightly lower counts….
The Baked Talapia with Shrimp at 360 calories is the lowest dish on offer. If you want pasta choose the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce at 460 calories.
Find the full nutrition list by clicking here
Sizzling Chicken or Steak with Spinach is lowest actual meal, it comes with a mozzarella and tomato salad for 510 calories.
Or go for a 6oz Sirloin, Half a Lobster Tail and a side salad (no dressing) for 530 calories (drop 120 if you leave off the lobster)
The absolute lowest thing you can have is Oven Broiled Sole (290 calories) with broccoli (40 calories). If that makes you want to cry (it would me), you can also have that same sole Baked With Crab and Seafood Stuffing for just an extra 40 calories. Or try Shrimp Your Way with Fried Shrimp and Scampi for 320 (a Garden salad is 70 more) or, the Ultimate Feast is 430 with no sides.
The Cheesecake Factory
The Seared Tuna Tataki Salad is 440 calories or try Grilled Mahi with a side of green beans for 530. If you don’t want fish or salad, the next lowest calorie dish is the Shrimp with Angel Hair Pasta at 850 or California Cheesesteak (no sides) for 850.
California Pizza Kitchen
From the Lite Adventures section, Fire Roasted Chile Relleno is your best bet at 420 calories. For salads, interestingly, as it’s normal evil, Half a Classic Caesar with Shrimp is 320 calories. If you’re here for pizza, The Wild Mushroom is lowest at 1030 for the whole thing. Take half home and order a plain half Caesar for 785 a meal. For pasta, Spaghetti Bolognaise is lowest at 830 calories
The lowest calorie whole meal is not surprisingly from the Weight Watchers menu and its the Thai Shrimp Salad at 390 calories. Or the Chicken Freshcado is 440. On the normal menu, the Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp including its sides is 620 calories.
This one is tricky to work out as they list each item separately but from what I can fathom, your best bet is a two combo of two Salsa Chicken Enchiladas (210 each), Rice (150), Black Beans (160) and Tamalito (30 per tbsp) adding up to 760 calories. Or, go for an Original Chicken Fajitas – 390 calories for the meat and veggies and add two tortillas for 278 – giving you a total of 668 (1tbsp of sour cream is an extra 25, one of gauc 20 and a Pico de Gallo is 5.
NB: Confession time: Chevys is my favourite restaurant ever. And, on the rare chance I get to go there nothing, but nothing, would stop me ordering the Smothered Chicken Burrito not even the fact that I know now it’s 1440 calories! I love Chevys.
Now I know I’ve missed a heap of restaurants – possibly your favourite, so if there is somewhere you’d like me to check out the choices in pop over a comment (tap on the little speech bubble). If I get enough suggestions I’ll do a part two.