Eat Smart: Simple Swaps to Save Calories at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Eating out is fun, but some dishes can wreak havoc on your diet.

— -- Eating out is fun, but some dishes can wreak havoc on your diet.

The University of Toronto conducted a 2013 study in which it looked at 26 dine-in chain restaurants and came up with the average calories for every meal: 1,126 for breakfast, 1,025 for lunch and 1,153 for dinner.

ABC Nutrition and Wellness Editor Dave Zinczenko appeared on “Good Morning America” today to share recipes from his new “Zero Belly Cookbook.” He shared a sample breakfast, lunch and dinner and showed people how to reduce calories by making simple ingredient swaps.

The Dishes

(Scroll down to see the recipes)

Breakfast: Eggs Benedict

The traditional dish contains protein, fiber and healthy fat, but the Hollandaise sauce and English muffins aren’t so great. Zinczenko recommends switching the heavy Hollandaise sauce for homemade mayonnaise and, instead of traditional white bread, use gluten-free English muffin. These swaps, he said, can take this from a decadent brunch to a daily breakfast.

Average Chain Restaurant breakfast: 1,126 calories

Zero Belly breakfast recipe: 207 calories. Substitute the gluten-free English muffin for a Portobello mushroom cap and that would reduce it to 148 calories.

Lunch: Grilled Chicken Fajitas with Bibb Lettuce Wraps

Most people think wraps are healthier than traditional sandwiches, but flour tortillas are packed with unhealthy fat and each contain about 350 calories or more, Zinczenko said. He offered his grilled children fajitas served in Bibb lettuce wraps. If you have a busy work week, get your grilling done on a Sunday, he said.

Average Chain Restaurant lunch: 1,025 calories

Zero belly lunch recipe: 257 calories

Dinner: Classic Beef Burger

Just like with the breakfast, Zinczenko recommends going gluten-free with the burger bun and swap the cheese for vegetables and a homemade black pepper marinade for even more flavor.

Average Chain Restaurant dinner: 1,153 calories.

Zero belly dinner recipe: 343 calories, with 25 grams of protein, 41 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber.



Serves: 4 | Cook Time: 15 minutes

2 gluten-free English muffins, split in half *

4 eggs

Olive oil spray

2 cups packed spinach leaves

2 tbsp Zero Belly Mayonnaise (page 242), or store-bought

Smoked paprika to taste (optional)

Toast the English muffin halves until golden brown.

Poach 4 eggs (see page 73 for instructions).

While the eggs are poaching, heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat; spray with olive oil spray, and add the spinach. Use a rubber spatula to stir the spinach until wilted. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess water.

Top each toasted English muffin half with one-quarter of the spinach mixture, and one poached egg. Top with ½ tablespoon mayonnaise and a pinch of smoked paprika, if desired.

* For a lower-calorie option, substitute English muffins with four portobello mushroom caps. To prepare the mushrooms, preheat the oven to 300°F. Wipe the portobello caps clean of dirt with a damp paper towel, and remove the stems with a paring knife. Place the mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet, spray the mushrooms lightly with olive oil spray, and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until soft.

PER SERVING (with English muffin): 207 calories / 11 g fat / 9 g carb / 3 g fiber / 9 g protein

PER SERVING (with portobello mushroom): 148 calories / 10 g fat / 6 g carb / 2 g fiber / 9 g protein


Serves: 4 | Cook Time: 30 minutes

20 oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts

2 tbsp Mexican Spice Blend (page 240)

1 large white onion, cut into ½-inch-thick rings

2 large red bell peppers, cut into ½-inch-thick strips

2 heads Bibb lettuce leaves

½ cup Salsa (page 245), or store-bought

1 cup Guacamole (page 243)

Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Rub the chicken with the spice blend. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Place the chicken breasts on the grill using a pair of tongs and let sit until marked, 3 to 4 minutes.

Quarter-turn the chicken on the same side and repeat. Turn the chicken breasts over and let sit on the grill, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the onion rings and bell peppers on the grill.

Quarter-turn the chicken on the same side and let cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Pull the chicken off the grill and let rest.

Turn the onions and peppers a few times, until tender.

Cut the grilled chicken breasts into strips. Place the grilled chicken and vegetable strips on a platter and serve, family style, with Bibb lettuce leaf “wraps,” salsa, and guacamole.

PER SERVING: 257 calories / 10 g fat / 17 g carbs / 6 g fiber / 29 g protein


Serves: 4 (about 8 cups total) | Cook Time: 5 minutes

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil

¼ cup popcorn kernels

2 oz semisweet chocolate (chips or bar, chopped)

½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan (at least 4 quarts) over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn, and cover with a lid. Shake the pot every 5 seconds until the popcorn starts to pop. Once the popcorn starts to pop, shake constantly back and forth until the popping slows to one pop every 2 seconds.
Remove from the heat and take off the lid.

Place the chocolate chips in a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring with a small heatproof spatula to ensure that the chocolate does not burn.

Add half the chocolate and half the flaked coconut to the popcorn and stir. Repeat with the remaining chocolate and flaked coconut and stir for even coverage.

Serve warm or cooled.

PER SERVING: 183 calories / 13 g fat / 17 g carb / 5 g fiber / 5 g protein


Serves: 4 | Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 lb extra-lean ground beef (at least 90%)

3 tbsp Black Pepper Marinade (page 239)

1 tsp kosher salt

4 gluten-free English muffins or burger buns, toasted

1 beefsteak tomato, cut into ½-inch slices

8 leaves Bibb lettuce

2 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, marinade, and salt and let sit for 10 minutes. • While the beef is marinating, heat an outdoor grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Form the beef mixture into 4 patties and grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.The center should be pink and juicy.

Spread each toasted burger bun top with 1½ teaspoons ketchup and 1½ teaspoons mustard. Place a burger on each toasted burger bun bottom and top with slices of red tomato, 2 lettuce leaves, and a burger top.

PER SERVING: 343 calories / 9 g fat / 41 g carb / 2 g fiber / 25 g protein

From the book "Zero Belly Cookbook" by David Zinczenko. Copyright © 2015 by David Zinczenko. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.