The Best Diet-Friendly Meals at Chain Restaurants

What's the toughest part about losing weight? Eating out! Finding something to chomp on that won't blow your diet is nearly impossible. Yet with almost all chain restaurants publishing their nutritional information online, you can now plan ahead so you'll be more prepared when it comes to order.

We checked out three of the major chain restaurants and put together some of the best options that are less than 400 calories. Sometimes it's a lot of food-and sometimes, you might leave the restaurant a little hungry. (Surprising tip: At some restaurants, the salads pack as many calories as the entrees!)

Chili's Diet-Friendly Favorites

Grilled SalmonGrilled Salmon

It's best to stay away from the appetizers if you're counting calories. The Chicken Crispers and Fried Cheese are a little less than 400 calories, but that doesn't include any dipping sauces and leaves no extra calories for the rest of the meal. All other appetizers start at around 500 calories and go up to 2,120. (That's the Texas Cheese Fries.)

Where you can really get some bang for the buck is in the Soup & Chili section of the menu. A cup of Broccoli Cheese is only 110 calories. A cup of Terlingua Chili is only 180. Chicken Enchilada soup rings in at 200 per cup.

But when it comes to entrées, the choices are limited. But while there are only a few options, they're tasty ones:

Classic Sirloin (no sides) 360
Fried Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce 270
Grilled Salmon With Garlic & Herbs 310
Margarita Grilled Chicken 260
Spicy Garlic & Lime Shrimp 150

Best bet: Cup of Broccoli Cheese soup and Margarita Grilled Chicken

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Outback Steakhouse Options

Grilled Chicken on the 'BarbieGrilled Chicken on the 'Barbie

Sadly, on your next trip to Outback, you'll have to skip the Bloomin' Onion if you're watching your weight. But don't fret! There are other delicious options from which to choose. If you want to nosh on some apps, the Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie, Coconut Shrimp and the Seared Ahi Tuna all have less than 300 calories per serving. Not into seafood? The Mediterranean Chicken Flatbread has 343 calories per serving but that doesn't leave much room for your entrée.

If you want some soup, the Chicken Tortilla has 174 calories per cup. But you might want to stay away from the other choices-the Potato Soup packs 413 calories a cup and the French Onion boasts 465 calories a serving.

Here's a peek at some of the lower-calorie entrees:

Chicken on the Barbie With Veggies 401
6 oz. Sirloin With Broccoli, No Butter 403
Simply Grilled Tilapia With Veggies 323
Simply Grilled Mahi With Veggies 388

Best bet: Chicken on the Barbie with Veggies

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Olive Garden Best Bets

Steamed MusselsSteamed Mussels

Skip the Artichoke-Spinach Dip and Calamari and instead try the Mussels di Napoli. They only have 180 calories for the entire dish. Not too shabby for an appetizer. The stuffed mushrooms are less than 400 with 280 calories but that still seems high for a pre-dinner taste. One breadstick with garlic-butter spread is only 125 calories-we found a winner!

All four soups register less than 400 calories-and two are low enough to leave room for an entrée: Minestrone only has 100.

Italian restaurants are always heavy on the pasta so ordering is a bit tricky. Here are the only options that come in around 400 calories:

Venetian Apricot Chicken 400
Angel Hair With Five-Cheese Marinara 370
Angel Hair With Meat Sauce 370
Orecchiette With Marinara 380

Best bet: Venetian Apricot Chicken (and one breadstick if you must!)


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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.