- Eating out while on a diet can be difficult, as many restaurants have high-calorie foods.
- More restaurants have lately been offering a wider variety of low-calorie, diet-friendly options.
- From Starbucks’ spinach-feta wrap to The Cheesecake Factory’s Mexican lettuce wraps, here are 45 dishes under 500 calories.
- Visit Insider’s home page for more stories.
If you’re trying to watch your calories, you might think going out to eat is off limits.
Many restaurants pack their food with extra fat, sugar, and sodium – a single entree in a standard American eatery can contain enough butter, sauce, toppings, and sides to be considered two meals in one. This can make it seem impossible to go out for dinner without throwing your diet out the window.
But with the increasing public demand for healthier food options, many restaurants now offer a variety of low-calorie options. You just have to know what to order.
Though calories aren’t everything when it comes to eating healthy, having options can certainly make dining out a lot easier for people who do want to cut back on their caloric intake or lose weight.
So if you’re currently on a diet, or just looking to be more mindful of what you’re eating, here are 45 under-500-calorie options from your favourite chain restaurants:
Order a Chipotle salad bowl with chicken, salsa, pinto beans, fajita veggies, and cheese, and you’re looking at 460 calories.
Chipotle gets the No. 1 spot on this list because it’s the one of the easiest places to customise your meal. There are many combinations Chipotle offers that are under 500 calories.
Starbucks’ spinach, feta, and cage-free-egg-white wrap is only 290 calories.
Honorable mentions are the turkey bacon sandwich (230 calories), which features egg whites and a whole wheat English muffin, and the newly added sous-vide egg bites (310 calories for two).
Dunkin Doughnuts’ turkey sausage sandwich is only 450 calories.
Doughnuts aren’t the only food this chain has to offer. This sandwich is only one of several breakfast options that are under 500 calories.
Panda Express’ “Wok Smart” kung pao chicken is only 290 calories.
The “Wok Smart” logo has been guiding calorie counters at Panda Express for years. The stamp indicates that the dish has fewer than 300 calories, more than 8 grams of protein, and is made with some kind of vegetable.
As long as you see it on the menu next to what you’re ordering, you’re probably making a good choice.
A “hammie” sandwich from the “Skinnys” menu with broccoli-cheddar soup from Potbelly makes for the perfect light lunch at 480 calories.
Don’t feel like soup? You’re in luck. Potbelly offers plenty of tasty sandwiches under their diet-friendly “Skinnys” menu.
The “trim” “Famous Star” burger contains all the Carl’s Jr. taste with only 430 calories.
The “trim” version of the Carl’s Jr. burger is upgraded with a honey-wheat bun and nixes the mayo, while keeping the special sauce.
If you want to be even more health conscious, you can get the lettuce-wrapped version of the burger. That reduces the carbs to only 10 grams per serving.
Subway’s veggie sandwich is a diet-friendly staple with 230 calories.
Subway offers lots of options under 500 calories. The “Veggie Delite” stands out because it’s 230 calories for the entire 6-inch sub, 6 grams of fat overall, and vegetarian.
A Jimmy John’s “Totally Tuna Unwich” for 280 calories is the way to go when you’re watching your calories.
The “Unwich” takes all the best parts of a Jimmy John’s sandwich and wraps them in lettuce.
The best of the Panera pick-two deal is a chicken Caesar salad with 10-vegetable soup for 290 calories.
Panera has a ton of high-quality, healthy choices on its menu. The pick-two deal, which lets you get a half order of a soup, salad, or a sandwich, is the perfect way to treat yourself to a well-rounded light meal.
A McDonald’s hamburger is cheap, convenient, and only 250 calories.
You may be surprised to see a McDonald’s hamburger on this list, but it’s one of the lower-calorie fast-food choices. With the standard combination of the McDonald’s beef patty, onions, ketchup, pickles, and mustard, it’s the best way to get the familiar flavour without being too indulgent, as their bigger burger options can be.
The McDonald’s website has a nutrition calculator so you can plan out exactly what to eat beforehand – sauces and all.
Steak ‘n Shake’s single is the best burger you can get for under 500 calories.
The cheese single steakburger is your best bet if you’ve got a burger craving. It’s still high in sodium at 990 milligrams, but that’s much less sodium than other options, and it’s only 450 calories overall.
Another great thing about Steak ‘n Shake is that they offer shooters, which are smaller versions of their regular burgers. So if you’re having trouble deciding what to order, you can get a barbecue shooter and a chipotle shooter for only 400 calories total.
This mouthwatering “Checkerburger” from Checkers is only 320 calories.
The burger comes with all the traditional fixings: a seasoned beef patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayo, and onions. Not bad for 360 calories.
In addition to the “Checkerburger,” the chain offers several options for under 500 calories, including their chicken wings and even their famous fries – but only if you order them alone.
Popeyes’ blackened chicken tenders with a large side of green beans and blackened ranch is a solid meal for only 455 calories.
Popeyes’ “Live Well” menu has a lot of food combinations that are less than 500 calories.
IHOP’s 380-calorie egg-white vegetable omelet is a tasty way to start your morning.
IHOP offers a variety of low-calorie omelets, scrambles, and oatmeal as part of their “Simple and Fit” selections.
This egg-white vegetable omelet is made with a combination of pepper-jack cheese, fresh spinach, and diced tomatoes, and it’s topped with three slices of avocado. For only 380 calories, this breakfast seems hard to beat.
Dairy Queen’s 280-calorie chicken-barbecue snack melt is a great option for when you’re on the go.
Other low-calorie Dairy Queen foods include pretzel sticks with cheese (330 calories), the chicken BLT salad (270 calories), and the grilled chicken sandwich (440 calories).
The egg-white and mushroom brioche from Pret-A-Manger tastes like brunch without all the extra calories.
The 330-calorie breakfast sandwich contains egg-white souffle, portabella mushrooms, spinach, Wisconsin cheddar, and roasted tomatoes.
The market salad is a healthier Chick-fil-A choice for 440 calories.
The Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich is only 440 calories, but that’s without any of their sauce.You can also give the salad a try instead. It’s got cabbage, chopped romaine, baby greens, blue cheese, apples, strawberries, blueberries, and best of all, Chick-fil-A chicken.
The bean burrito “fresco” from Taco Bell is so good you barely notice it’s only 350 calories.
Foodbeast named Taco Bell one of America’s healthiest fast-food chains. You can modify nearly all of their options to make them diet friendly.
The 276 calorie jalapeno kielbasa slider from Dickey’s is the key to a low-calorie barbecue meal.
The beef brisket, pulled pork, polish kielbasa, and turkey slider are all also between 173 and 276 calories per serving.
A bowl of Wendy’s chilli will keep you warm and full for only 260 calories.
The dish is also pretty low in fat. But it’s not the only low-calorie option. All of the junior versions of Wendy’s burgers are less than 400 calories, and the same goes for the chicken wraps.
You can eat three White Castle cheese sliders for 480 calories.
It’s an easy way to get your burger fix.
Marie Callender’s 460-calorie veggie tacos are a better option than the salad bar.
Although the unlimited soup and salad bar may seem like the best option, the buffet setup makes it a lot easier to overeat. However, these tacos are already perfectly portioned and come with black beans, poblano peppers, corn, zucchini, cheese, pico de gallo, and avocado.
The “Whataburger Jr.” with bacon from Whataburger is a tasty American classic for only 400 calories.
The Southwest burger chain also offers a grilled chicken melt and an apple cranberry chicken salad for less than 500 calories apiece.
This cheesy roast-beef sandwich from Arby’s is only 450 calories.
The classic sandwich comes with sliced roast beef between a melty cheese sauce and ranch on a warm onion roll.
Shake Shack’s “Shack-cago” hot dog is stuffed with flavour and less than 500 calories.
It may seem strange to order a hot dog at a place known for its burgers, but this isn’t an ordinary backyard hot dog. The “Shack-cago” is made with a Vienna Beef hot dog that’s been split down the middle and stuffed with onions, cucmber, relish, tomatoes, celery salt, mustard, and a pickle. And it’s only 410 calories for the whole thing.
You could get a plain hamburger for only 400 calories too.
The sirloin with avocado from Chilli’s “Guiltless Grill” menu is only 430 calories.
The dish features a seasoned, 6-ounce sirloin topped with a citrus chilli sauce and served with garlic-roasted tomatoes, avocado, and a side salad.
The Thai chopped salad at Dave & Buster’s is only 480 calories.
The salad features a mix of kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, scallions, cilantro, and fire-grilled chicken tossed in a ginger-peanut dressing.
The hickory bourbon chicken meal, as part of Ruby Tuesday’s “Fit and Trim” selections, is 462 calories, including the rice-pilaf side.
Other “Fit and Trim” options include the chicken bella and hickory bourbon salmon.
A bowl of Chevys Fresh Mex homemade tortilla soup (460 calories) is the best thing you can order if you’re watching your calories.
The Tex-Mex inspired soup is made with chicken broth, jalapenos, tomatoes, roasted corn, chicken, and topped with avocado slices.
The Waldorf salad from the Hard Rock Cafe makes for a filling, 484-calorie lunch.
Hard Rock Cafe makes their version with kale, spinach, chicken, sliced green apples, grapes, celery, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts.
Red Robin’s Ensenada chicken platter is totally filling for 490 calories.
The full dinner platter comes with two grilled chicken breasts topped with a housemade salsa and ranch, plus a side of mixed greens and tortilla strips.
An order of six marinated peri-peri wings from Nando’s is 425 calories.
Other low-calorie options at Nando’s include the chicken breast pita (426 calories) and the grilled corn and butternut squash side (326 calories).
The herb-grilled salmon dinner from Olive Garden is only 460 calories, complete with garlic butter and all.
The chain now offers several low-calorie options, especially if you lean in to the Mediterranean-style dishes.
The seafood-stuffed mushrooms feature a mixture of scallops, white fish, shrimp, and cheese and come at 370 calories per serving. And there’s always the soup and salad.
The grilled barbecue chicken (260 calories) with green beans (100 calories) at Texas Roadhouse is a delicious, balanced dinner.
There is a wide variety of meat options (like the 6-ounce Dallas filet, which is only 270 calories) and healthy sides, like green beans.
California Pizza Kitchen’s shrimp scampi zucchini entree features zucchini ribbons, a garlic white wine sauce, and a touch of fettuccine noodles for 480 calories.
If you’re looking for something vegetarian friendly, the shaved mushroom and spinach flatbread is the perfect 400 calorie lunch.
The Cheesecake Factory’s Mexican-style lettuce wraps are one of the tasty meals you could eat for 220 calories.
While The Cheesecake Factory is known for their gargantuan portions, these “tacos” from their “Skinnylicious” menu manage to make the cut for a super-low-calorie, scrumptious option without being a side salad.
If you’re looking for a lighter option at Yard House, go for the à la carte street tacos.
Depending on what tacos you get, you can generally fill up for under 500 calories. Two baja shrimp tacos, which come with pico de gallo and a spicy aioli, are only 460 calories. And if you get the blackened shrimp ones for 160 calories each, you can have three.
Red Lobster’s 480-calorie “Lighthouse” shrimp dinner is sure to satisfy any seafood lover.
It’s pretty hard to eat a full lobster dinner for under 500 calories, unless you’re willing to skip out on the buttery dipping sauces and sides altogether. Opt for their “Lighthouse” shrimp dinner. It comes with garlic-grilled shrimp, rice pilaf, and broccoli for just 520 calories. If you skip out on the rice pilaf (140 calories) and substitute for more veggies, that lowers the overall calorie count by quite a bit.
If you’re seriously craving lobster, during lunch hours you can enjoy a cup of creamy lobster bisque and a grilled-shrimp salad for only 480 calories total.
The Buddha’s feast at P.F. Chang’s is a flavorful main dish that’s only 380 calories.
The restaurant offers several other dinner options under 500 calories, including dumplings, spring rolls, and sushi.
A snack portion of Buffalo Wild Wings’ traditional hot barbecue wings is 450 calories.
The key to enjoying wings for less than 500 calories is to order a traditional-style snack portion. These come in at 360 calories dry, versus the 660 calories for the boneless variety. And while the above picture features pre-sauced wings, dry seasoning ranges between 5 and 25 calories.
But if you’ve got to have your hot barbecue sauce, get it on the side – it’s 70 calories for 2 ounces.
Bonefish Grill’s 480-calorie Chilean sea bass is packed with protein and omega-3s.
For the most part, seafood is pretty diet friendly. The individual portion of fish in this 480-calorie Chilean sea bass dinner contains more than 20 grams of protein and zero carbs, making it a win for calorie counters and keto followers alike.
The chain also offers a full menu that features several dinner options under 500 calories, including an ahi tuna steak, sea scallops, and an Atlantic salmon entree.
BJ’s 440-calorie kale and brussel sprouts salad is filled with superfoods.
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill side salad. It’s got cucumber, cranberries, goat cheese, grapes, blueberries, red onions, kale, romaine, and candied pecans. It’s even got pepitas to add crunch.
You could also get the quinoa bowl (430 calories) or the lemon thyme chicken (490 calories.)
Outback Steakhouse’s “sirloin and grilled shrimp on the barbie” dinner is only 380 calories.
Not entirely sold on the sirloin? The steakhouse has a guide on their website that teaches you how to customise your order to make it healthier.
Denny’s 490-calorie “Fit Fare” loaded veggie omelet is filling and delicious.
The omelet is stuffed with zucchini, squash, mushroom, and cheese and comes with fruit and an English muffin.
- Read more:
- 12 reasons you aren’t losing weight on the Mediterranean Diet
- I lost 35 pounds in 6 months without going on a diet, and it taught me 7 lessons about eating for healthy fat loss
- 10 scary things that happen to your body when you eat too much sugar
- 8 myths about sugar that you need to stop believing
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