Dining out is a pleasure we all enjoy but, while there’s no such thing as a free lunch, are there any places that make eating out on a diet easier where we can still go to grab a guilt-free lunch?

You’ll be surprised at how what seems to be a simple, innocent salad can play host to a multitude of mistakes when it comes to your diet and nutrition. TRAIN magazine asked the experts to give us the lowdown on what we should and shouldn’t order at some of the American’s favorite eateries.


Eating out on a diet in the US

Olive Garden

The classic eatery is a staple for family life nationwide. NYC nutritionist Lauren Minchen’s top tip is to avoid the breadsticks and head for the Lighter Fare menu.

persons-0106Citrus chicken sorrento

“I like to order the Citrus Chicken Sorrento,” she says. “It’s very flavorful and only has about 400 calories. It’s also high in protein, has a low-carb profile and comes with a healthy serving of antioxidant-rich veggies.”

persons-0107Chicken Alfredo pizza

“Most of the pizzas on the menu aren’t too bad, but avoid this at all costs. Packed with more than 1300 calories, 46g fat, 3200mg sodium and 164g of carbs, it’s a nutritional disaster.”


P.F. Changs

“There’s not a lot on the menu that comes in at under 500 calories,” says Dr Tim Harlan, of drgourmet.com. “Many of the dishes are well over 1000 calories.”

persons-0106Oolong chilean sea bass

“The best by far. It has a light taste of tea infused into the fish and is served over a generous serving of wilted spinach with a light tea-infused soy sauce. Order the sauce on the side as it can make the dish too salty.”

persons-0107Coconut curry vegetables

“With well over 1000 calories and 77g fat, this is one vegetarian dish that’s not on your side.”


Red Lobster

Beyonce’s franchise restaurant of choice serves “fresh-caught seafood.” Sounds healthy enough, but is it really? Here’s how seafood can be both good and bad.

persons-0106Snow crab legs

“A 600-calorie-or-less favorite,” says NYC food blogger Martha McKittrick (citygirlbites.com). Ask for a side of veg. Thanks to the shells, this meal slows down your rate of eating, to help avoid having more than you need.”

persons-0107Create your own combo platter

Dana Leigh Smith at eatthis.com says: “Whatever you do, stay away from the Create Your Own combination platter. It delivers 2710 calories and four days’ worth of salt!”



“If you’re looking for some lighter dishes, the Pub Diet menu is the place to look, with options all under 600 calories,” says the Food Network’s Toby Amidor.

persons-0106Pepper crusted sirloin

“It’s a perfect way to take in your daily dose of whole grains and vegetables, including sautéed spinach and fire-roasted tomatoes.” It’s just 370 calories, contains 4g of saturated fat and 43g carbs.

persons-0107Hand-battered fish & chips

“The worst offending dish is the fried white fish fillets served with fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce.” The dish has almost 2000 calories and 136g fat (24g of which is saturated) and more than 4000mg of sodium.”


Ruby Tuesday

“When it comes to guilt-free meals out, Ruby has some spectacular options. But not everything here is safe,” says hungry-girl. com. “There are some serious shockers.”

persons-0106Blackened tilapia with mango salsa

“Tilapia is a top protein pick. We love seeing it with flavorful ingredients instead of heavy sauces. We think this would go great with the grilled green beans and the tomatoes.” All for just 362 calories and 13g fat.

persons-0107Carolina chicken salad

Even without the dressing, this packs in 1181 calories, 52g fat, 1152mg sodium and 58g carbs. “What are the culprits here? Fried chicken tenders, cheddar cheese, bacon and croutons.” Of course.


Using these tips, you can maintain your physique and have a social life eating out on a diet with friends and family. Remember that your fitness lifestyle should enhance, rather than place restrictions on your life. Enjoy your food.

Not from the States? Click here for the UK version.


For more content on eating out on a diet, nutrition tips and workouts, get TRAIN magazine direct into your inbox every month for free by signing up to our newsletter