How to Dine Out Without Blowing Your Diet: 3 Skinnier Chain Restaurant Picks

By ABC News

May 27, 2014 7:19am

A meal at the average chain sit-down restaurant today contains 56 percent of a person’s daily calorie intake, according to the Journal of The American Medical Association. So how can you enjoy dining out at your favorite restaurants without blowing your diet?

It’s all about making smart choices, says Dave Zinczenko, ABC News Nutrition and Wellness editor and author of “Eat It to Beat It!”

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Zinczenko appeared on “Good Morning America” today with three smart restaurant swaps to make for your appetizer, entrée and dessert, to avoid packing on the pounds while eating out. By dodging some of the most caloric foods on the menu, you’ll slash nearly 5,000 calories. That’s like dropping more than a pound of body weight, Zinczenko says, and about four days’ worth of calories for a woman on a 1,200 calorie weight-loss diet.

Appetizer

BEAT IT!: Olive Garden, Lasagna Fritta

1030 calories, 63 g fat, 1590 mg sodium

For that same number of calories you could eat almost 22 Chicken McNuggets.

What makes it so caloric? These mini lasagna rollups are stuffed with two different types of cheese, alfredo sauce and then fried and topped with a shaving of — you guessed it — more cheese.

EAT IT!: Olive Garden, Chicken Meatballs

260 calories, 9 g fat, 910 mg sodium

SAVE: 770 calories, 54 g fat, 680 mg sodium

Entree

BEAT IT!: Cheesecake Factory, Chicken & Biscuits

2260 calories, *68 g sat fat, 2870 mg sodium

That’s like eating the same number of calories in 65 Cocoa Glazed Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts!

What makes it so caloric? It’s hard to find the chicken under a mound of buttery mashed potatoes and pool of gravy—which is basically pure fat, thickened with white flour or cornstarch. Plus you have an oversized lard-laden biscuit.

EAT IT!: Cheesecake Factory, Tuscan Chicken (SkinnyLicious Menu)

585 calories, 11g fat, 2 g sat fat, 3g fiber, 750 mg sodium, 24g protein

SAVE: 1,675 calories,  66g sat fat,  2,120 mg sodium

Dessert

BEAT IT!: Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Mega Size Deep Dish Sundae

2,700 calories, 130 g fat (76 g sat fat), 244 g sugar

That’s the caloric equivalent of just under 12 Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Bars

What makes this so caloric? What DOESN’T. Imagine baking off a large batch of cookie dough in a single pan, topping it with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. You’re looking at the mega monstrosity that is the deep dish sundae.

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EAT IT!: Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Mini Hot Chocolate Brownie Sundae

320 calories, 16 g fat (7 g sat fat), 34 g sugar

SAVE:  2,380 calories, 114 g fat (69 g sat fat), 210 g sugar

TOTAL SAVINGS: 4,825 calories and at least 234 grams of fat!!

That’s about 4 days’ worth of calories for a woman on a 1,200 calorie weight loss diet.

Statements from Uno’s, Olive Garden and the Cheesecake Factory

Below is the official UNO statement from Dee Hadley, Chief Marketing Officer

“UNO’s menu items are intended to offer great flavor as well as choice, which is why we provide our guests with a wide variety of tasty as well as nutritious options. We are proud that our dishes are enormously popular with our customers thanks to creative recipes, fresh ingredients and great variety, and we provide 100% nutritional transparency via Nutrition Information Centers in the lobbies of our restaurants and online at unos.com.”

Olive Garden

Our menu is all about providing the choice, variety and value our guests want, from Italian classics to Lighter Italian Fare, featuring entrees with less than 575 calories each. We continually evolve our menu based on guest feedback and recently launched more than 20 new items, expanding our lighter fare
options, featuring more vegetable-forward entrees and sauces, and introducing a new imported gluten-free pasta.

Cheesecake Factory

“With more than 250 menu items and more than 50 legendary desserts, The Cheesecake Factory has always been about choices.  Many of our guests come in and want to celebrate without being concerned about calories.  Others want to share their meals and their desserts – and we love it when
guests share – that’s a great sign that our portions are generous – and a large percentage of our guests take home leftovers to enjoy the next day. For our calorie conscious guests we have our award-winning SkinnyLicious® Menu featuring more than 50 delicious choices with 590 calories or less – which is actually larger than many restaurants entire menus.  We believe there is truly something for everyone on our menu.”

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