So you’re working really hard on meeting your health goals, and then your coworker invites you out to lunch. Good news: It’s possible to stick to calorie and nutrition goals when eating out—even at fast food chain restaurants—if you make smart choices. To make it easy, we’ve put together a list of dietitian picks, tips and tricks for eating out on 400 calories or less.
Restaurant: Panera Bread
Healthiest pick under 400 calories: Turkey Sausage, Egg White & Spinach Breakfast Power Sandwich
Stats: 400 calories, 11g fat, 50g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 16g protein
Why it made the cut: Clocking in right at 400 calories, this breakfast sandwich contains 16 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and offers something that many people forget about at breakfast time—veggies!
Dietitian’s tips: Although this sandwich is made on a sprouted grain bagel flat, a closer look at the ingredient list reveals that unbleached enriched wheat flour is one of the main ingredients! Currently, Panera Bread does not offer any 100% whole-grain breads, which would be a healthier substitute.
- Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Chicken: This makes for a power-packed lunch or dinner option (that is, if you’re not watching your sodium intake, since it contains 1,370mg).
- Stats: 390 calories, 9g fat, 48g carbs, 8g fiber, 33g protein “You Pick 2” ½ Classic with Chicken Salad tossed in Reduced-Fat Balsamic
- Vinaigrette & Cup of Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup: This pick is low-calorie and high-protein; just make sure to pass on the side of baguette that comes with it.
- Stats: 360 calories, 13g fat, 42g carbs, 28g protein, 8g fiber
Healthiest pick under 400 calories: Double Chicken Chopped Salad
Stats: 220 calories, 4.5g fat, 10g carbs, 4g fiber, 36g protein
Why it made the cut: This 220-calorie option is packed with 36 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, all with only 4.5 grams of fat. This nutritional information is calculated assuming you’d order lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers and olives.
Dietitian’s tips: When picking a dressing, choose the 110-calorie Subway vinaigrette over the honey mustard. While honey mustard is nearly half the calories, it contains 11 grams of added sugar! Ordering the Subway vinaigrette will save you 9 grams of sugar. For a side, ditch the chips and cookies, and add a bag of apple slices to boost your fruit and fiber intake. Veggie-loaded, protein-packed, and complete with healthy fats and fiber-rich fruit— now that’s a balanced meal right at 400 calories.
- 6-inch Oven Roasted Chicken on 9-Grain Wheat Bread: While the 9-grain whole grain wheat bread contains whole grains, it’s also a sneaky source of enriched wheat flour (aka the white stuff).
- Stats: 320 calories, 5g fat, 45g carbs, 5g fiber, 23g protein
- Subway Club Chopped Salad: Boost the protein in this salad by ordering double meat.
- Stats: 140 calories, 3.5g fat, 12g carbs, 4g fiber, 18g protein
Healthiest pick under 400 calories: Salad Bowl with Romaine Lettuce, Chicken, Black Beans, Fajita Vegetables and Fresh Tomato Salsa
Stats: 350 calories, 8.5g fat, 33g carbs, 15.5g fiber, 42g protein
Why it made the cut: At 350 calories, this chicken salad bowl contains 42 grams of protein and 15.5 grams of fiber and only having 8.5 grams of total fat. While your taste buds might long for rice and guacamole, this option is the healthiest one for keeping calories in check.
Dietitian’s tip: If you’re aiming to eat less than 400 calories, your options at Chipotle become limited. If you have to add toppings like sour cream, cheese and guacamole, go light. These toppings quickly create fat-laden and calorie-dense meals. The burrito flour tortilla itself contains a whopping 290 calories! Instead, order a burrito bowl with a small portion of brown rice to boost your fiber and carbohydrate intake. Consider ordering your favorite burrito bowl, and only eat half of it. Box it up and take the rest home to use for another meal.
- Salad Bowl with Romaine Lettuce, Fajita Vegetables, Brown Rice, Black Beans and Fresh Tomato Salsa: Skipping out on meat and ordering fajita vegetables as your filling allows caloric room to add a base of brown rice. Although this option is lower in protein, it is a good meatless variation to the chicken salad bowl.
- Stats: 370 calories, 8.5g fat, 65g carbs, 17.5g fiber, 13.5g protein
- Kids Build Your Own Tacos (2): 2 soft corn tortillas, sofritas (tofu), fajita vegetables, romaine lettuce, and fresh tomato salsa. Ordering a kid’s meal at Chipotle is an easy way to stay under 400 calories. These tacos are loaded with fajita veggies and lettuce to add to your daily servings of vegetables.
- Stats: 335 calories, 11.5g fat, 50g carbs, 10.5g fiber, 13g protein
Restaurant: PF Chang’s
Healthiest pick under 400 calories: Buddha’s Feast – Steamed
Stats: 260 calories, 4g fat, 32g carbs, 10g fiber, 26g protein
Why it made the cut: This dish is filled with baked tofu, asparagus, shitake mushrooms, broccoli, carrots and soy sauce—all for only 260 calories! The low-calorie tofu provides you with 26 grams of protein, while the pile of veggies adds on 10 grams of fiber.
Dietitian’s tips: A high-protein, high-fiber, low-calorie option like the Buddha’s Feast will keep you feeling full, and fueled for longer. Be sure to choose a healthy side dish such as the Shanghai cucumbers—refreshing, nutritious and only 70 calories! Be wary of sauces too, as they are often laced with high levels of sodium and sugar.
- Dynamite Scallop Roll: California roll topped with scallops & sriracha sauce
- Stats: 400 calories, 12g fat, 52 g carbs, 5g fiber, 20g protein
- Chicken Satay: This is a small-plate option, 3 skewers of marinated chicken with Bibb lettuce cups and vegetable slaw
- Stats: 250 calories, 10g fat, 7g carbs, 1g fiber, 30g protein
Healthiest pick under 400 calories: Zesty Chicken & Black Bean Salad Bowl
Stats: 360 calories, 15g fat, 850mg sodium, 38g carbs, 8g fiber, 19g protein
Why it made the cut: This 360-calorie salad is a blend of grilled chicken, black beans, quinoa, corn, tomatoes, jicama and spring greens, and it provides 19 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. The diversity in vegetables and fiber content make this the best choice on the menu.
Dietitian’s tips: Many of the sandwich and panini options at Starbucks are high in fat—and not the good kind! Aim for an option with high protein and high fiber to keep you feeling satisfied with all the right stuff. Be sure to grab a Venti water with your bistro box instead of a sugar-filled specialty drink.
- Chicken & Hummus Bistro Box: Although the pita bread in this box is labeled wheat, a closer look at the ingredient list reveals that it still contains a small amount of enriched flour.
- Stats: 270 calories, 7g fat, 29g carbs, 4g fiber, 20g protein
- Chicken & Greens Caesar Salad Bowl: The fat in this salad is on the higher side from the Caesar dressing, but the grilled chicken, kale and tomatoes redeems it a bit.
- Stats: 340 calories, 25g fat, 10g carbs, 3g fiber, 19g protein