How to Order a Weight Loss Friendly Lunch at 10 Popular Chain Restaurants

Unbelievable.

You did everything right.

The healthy lunch you packed for work is sitting right there on your desk. But you won’t be eating it, at least not today. Your boss just announced the noon meeting will be held at the pizza place down the street.

Surprise, surprise. It seems like some friend or co-worker is always dragging you to a restaurant no matter how much you protest. How are you supposed to lose weight when you have to eat out so much?

If only there were a guide of weight loss friendly lunches you could find at your neighborhood restaurants.

We hear you. That’s why we’ve analyzed the nutritional information of over 50 restaurants and come up with 10 recommendations. 

10 Restaurant Lunches that Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals

When it comes to meals that help you shed unwanted pounds, calories are only one indication of a good meal.

Another factor is fat, a number not generally shared at most restaurants. Why? Because most restaurant meals start out with 20+g of fat. For reference sake, most women need to limit fat intake to 30-40g per day in order to lose weight.

Here is the criteria we used for choosing the most weight loss friendly lunches:
Less Than 600 calories - If you’re trying to lose weight you need to eat at least 1200 calories to keep your body from going into starvation mode and holding on to fat.
Less Than 18g of fat - Limiting fat intake to 30-40g per day will help your body burn fat and achieve weight loss.
At Least 8g of fiber - The more fiber a food has, the faster you fill up and the longer you stay full. This reduces the need for snacks, which are like speed bumps on your weight loss journey.

Foods naturally high in fiber are also full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients - all the nutrients your body needs to function better.

Panda Express - String Bean Chicken Breast

Calories: 390, Fat: 13.5g, Sodium: 1840mg, Carbohydrate: 47g, Fiber: 11g, Protein 23g, Carb Choices: 3 3/4

The weight loss power of the String Bean Chicken Breast lunch comes from the Mixed Veggies, so make sure you eat them first. They will help you fill up faster, and stay full longer.

Total meal cost: $7.36

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • a Panda Bowl with:
    • one serving of String Bean Chicken Breast
    • two sides of Mixed Veggies
    • two Veggie Spring Rolls

Watchouts: This meal looks pretty healthy but is extremely high in sodium. If your doctor is worried about your blood pressure, heart health, or has you on blood pressure medication(s), we do not recommend this lunch or Asian restaurants in general.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
390 13.5 47 11 1840 23 3 3/4

TGI Fridays - Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

Calories: 530, Fat: 17.5g, Sodium: 1595mg, Carbohydrate: 60g, Fiber: 10g, Protein: 18g, Carb Choices: 3 ⅓

This meal was a pleasant surprise. It’s nice to be able to indulge with the mashed potatoes without feeling guilty. The meal hero is definitely broccoli. Chock full of fiber - as well as a fairly good source of protein, it helps you feel satisfied earlier in the meal. And the fruit adds a sweet ending to a wonderful meal.

Keep in mind that the chicken portion is actually two servings. You can split it with a meal companion or take half of it home for lunch the next day.

Total meal cost: $16.40

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • 1 serving of All Natural Chicken From the Grill with:
    • one side of Fresh Broccoli
    • one side of Mashed Potatoes
    • one Fruit Cup

Watchouts: This meal is high in sodium. If you are on medication(s) for high blood pressure or have any other heart condition, we do not recommend this meal.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
530 17.5 60 10 1595 19 3 1/3

Baja Fresh - Original Chicken Tacos

Calories: 592, Fat: 11g, Sodium: 912mg, Carbohydrates: 86g, Fiber: 15g, Protein: 34g, Carb Choices: 4 3/4

Beans are a powerful ingredient in this lunch (as well as any lunch meal). The amount of fiber found in beans as well as their unique nutritional make-up help beans to blunt the amount of insulin your body produces after the meal. Since insulin is a fat storing hormone, this also helps you lose weight.

Total meal cost: $8.07

 

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • 2 Original Chicken Tacos with:
    • 1 serving of Pinto Beans instead of rice

Watchouts: This meal is on the higher end of carb counting, so if you struggle controlling your blood sugars this is not the best choice, although the beans will help blunt the post meal sugar spike.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
592 11 86 15 912 34 4 3/4

Chili’s - Margarita Grilled Chicken and Veggies

Calories: 355, Fat: 9.5g, Sodium: 1900mg, Carbohydrate: 45g, Fiber: 16g, Protein: 29g, Carb Choices: 2

The broccoli, spinach, and black bean sides provide the right amount of fiber to make this meal both filling and weight loss friendly. And the avocado adds a bit of healthy fat your body can use. However, the serving of chicken is twice as big as what you need, so ask for a to go box, and pack half of it to enjoy at home.

Total meal cost: $12.04

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • Margarita Grilled Chicken with:
    • one side of Steamed Broccoli
    • one side of Black Beans
    • one side of Spinach Garlic Roasted Tomatoes
    • and one order of Avocado Slices

Make it vegetarian by asking for rice instead of chicken.

Meal Badges: Gluten Free, Diabetic Friendly

Watchouts: This meal is extremely high in sodium. We do not recommend consuming this if you have high blood pressure or another heart condition.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
355 9.5 45 16 1900 29 2

Carrabba’s - Spaghetti with Pomodoro Sauce

Calories: 452, Fat: 8g, Sodium: 1652mg, Carbohydrates: 82(g), Fiber: 21(g), Protein 19(g), Carb Choices: 4

Because most of the fiber in this meal comes from pasta, which isn’t a weight loss food, add a side of veggies and eat them first. Then stop eating when you’re no longer hungry. Less pasta, more weight loss.

Total meal cost: $ 14.12

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • the lunch portion of Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Pomodoro Sauce with
    • a side of Grilled Vegetables

Meal Badges: Vegetarian

Watchouts: Because most of the fiber comes from the pasta, this meal is not diabetic friendly. If you struggle controlling your blood sugars and still want to try the pasta, eat only half of the pasta and ask for a side of Primavera Roasted Vegetables along with the Grilled Vegetables. This meal is extremely high in sodium. Not recommended if you are on high blood pressure medication(s).

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
452 8 82 21 1652 19 4

Jason’s Deli - Southwest Chicken Chili Soup

Calories: 367, Fat: 10g, Sodium: 1272mg, Carbohydrates: 43g, Fiber: 7g, Protein 26g, Carb Choices: 2 1/4

Unlike beef chili, this southwest chicken chili is packed with beans. The beans in this meal help you stay full longer, even though you’re consuming only 367 calories. Which means you won’t need that afternoon visit to the vending machine.

Total meal cost: $ 9.78

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • 1 Bowl of Southwest Chicken Chili Soup with
    • 1 Fruit Cup with no Dip

Meal Badges: Diabetic Friendly

Watchouts: This meal is high in sodium We don’t recommend this lunch if you have a heart condition.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
367 10 43 7 1272 26 2 1/4

Panera - Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl

Calories: 455, Fat: 12g, Sodium 1292mg, Carbohydrates: 71g, Fiber: 13g, Protein: 18g, Carb Choices: 4

The Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl is chock full of superfoods - from quinoa to kale and even spinach. All of those are also high fiber foods which help you fill up faster and stay full longer, which makes this soup more filling than others. If you’re too full to eat the apple take it with you and eat it next time you’re tempted to visit the vending machine.

Total meal cost: $ 9.42

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • 1 Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl with Egg with
    • 1 Apple as the side

Meal Badges: Diabetic Friendly, Vegetarian, Vegan without the egg

Watchouts: Though this meal may look gluten free, it contains traces of wheat, so if you have celiac disease or are allergic to wheat, skip it. The high amount of sodium also makes this meal a challenge for someone with high blood pressure.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
455 12 71 13 1292 18 4

Macaroni Grill - Make Your Own Pasta

Calories: 380, Fat: 1g, Sodium: 1000mg, Carbohydrates: 57g, Fiber: 10g, Protein: 11g, Carb Choices: 3

The Make Your Own Pasta Menu at the Macaroni Grill encourages you to create your own meal. Adding lots of veggies and cutting the amount of pasta in half guarantees a weight loss friendly meal while still enjoying the comfort of pasta.

To make it easier for you to divide your pasta and sauce in half ask for them to be brought out separately from the veggies. You can pack up ½ of the pasta and sauce and take it home for another meal, or share it with a meal companion.

Total meal cost: $ 12.45

How to Order This Meal

Ask for a Make Your Own Pasta Menu.

On the menu, add check marks for the capellini pasta and pomodoro sauce. Check mark broccoli, roasted tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, and roasted peppers. Then be sure to write 3 servings next to the broccoli.

When the server comes to pick up your order form, be sure to ask him to bring the pasta and the sauce in a different bowl than the veggies.

Meal Badges: Vegetarian, Diabetic Friendly

Watchouts: This meal is moderately high in sodium. Though it’s not ideal for someone with high blood pressure, it’s better than most restaurant fare.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
380 1 57 10 1000 11 3

Einstein Brothers - Hummus Veg Out Sandwich

Calories: 545, Fat: 12g, Sodium: 811mg, Carbohydrates: 99g, Fiber: 14g, Protein: 20g, Carb Choices: 5 2/3

This sandwich meal combines the awesome heart healthy fat of hummus with the power of fiber found in the veggies and whole wheat to provide a lunch that’s both weight loss friendly and good for your heart.

Total meal cost: $ 7.03

How to Order This Meal

Ask for: One Hummus Veg Out Sandwich with a side banana

Meal Badges: Heart Healthy, Diabetic Friendly (without the banana | 4 carb choices), Vegetarian

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
545 12 99 14 811 20 5 2/3

Chipotle - Vegetarian Burrito Bowl

Calories: 425, Fat: 17g, Sodium: 1061mg, Carbohydrates: 61g, Fiber: 21g, Protein: 14.3g, Carb Choices: 2 ⅔

Here’s why Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl is the most weight loss friendly meal out there - every single food you add into the bowl is a naturally high fiber food - perfectly tailored for weight loss. Additionally, Chipotle is trans fat free as well as GMO free.

Total meal cost: $ 7.04

How to Order This Meal

Ask for:

  • 1 Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with:
    • ½ serving brown rice,
    • a full serving of black beans,
    • a full serving of fajita veggies,
    • a full serving of Pico,
    • ½ serving of corn salsa,
    • full serving of lettuce, and
    • ½ serving of guacamole.

Meal Badges: Vegetarian, Vegan, Diabetic Friendly, GMO Free

Watchouts: This meal is high in sodium, but you could make it heart healthy by skipping out on the pico.

Calories Fat (g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sodium(mg) Protein(g) Carb Choices
425 17 61 21 1061 14.3 2 2/3

That's how to craft a tasty Full Plate meal at 10 restaurants you probably have nearby. So you can keep moving toward your weight loss goals on those busy days we all have.

Want more weight loss restaurant options? Check out our picks at The Olive Garden, Qdoba, IHOP, Pei Wei and Quiznos.

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