How to choose the best healthy options from your favourite high street chain restaurant, whether you want to lose weight, stick to a diet or just ensure you’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Eating out at your favourite restaurants and staying healthy can feel like a challenge but it doesn’t need to be.
With so many of us watching what we eat, the most popular high street restaurants are increasingly offering low-calorie options as well as dishes which pack a real nutritional punch. It is now easier than ever to eat out if you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to make better lifestyle choices.
The healthy options on offer in UK chain restaurants go much further than simply salad. By choosing from the menu carefully, you can still enjoy favourite dishes like pizza and pasta, safe in the knowledge that you’re not compromising your diet.
So don’t turn down that invitation to eat out with friends or family – go and enjoy every last mouthful with our handy guide to the high street’s healthiest options.
Here’s our pick of low-calorie, high-nutrition dishes we think you’ll love:
What are the healthy options at TGI Friday’s?
When you think of TGI Friday’s, low-fat food probably isn’t the first thing which springs to mind. But the popular American diner chain now has a few options on its menu which come in at under 600 calories.
These include the Crispy Noodle Salad, which comes with either garlic chicken or shrimp, depending on which you prefer. The noodles are tossed in a spicy Thai dressing with red chillies and topped with chilli flakes, coriander and toasted sesame seeds.
There is also the Roasted Vegetable Alfredo Pasta, a vegan option which uses cauliflower to make the creamy alfredo sauce. As well as tomatoes and roasted vegetables, the penne pasta dish comes with edamame beans, a great source of antioxidants, iron, protein and calcium.
How can I stick to my diet and eat at Bella Italia?
Bella Italia may be famous for its hearty Italian food but it also offers plenty of lighter options for those paying attention to their diet. The menu is marked with red hearts for dishes that are 600 calories or less and green hearts if they come in at less than 300 calories.
The Spiralised Veg Pasta Gamberoni substitutes traditional pasta with spirals made from carrot, golden beetroot and courgette and comes with king prawns in a spicy garlic and tomato sauce. At less than 300 calories, it’s a great choice if you are trying to lose weight and is also packed with vitamins and minerals.
The Pollo Lenticchie – grilled chicken breast topped with tomato, onion, Granello cheese and rocket, is less than 600 calories and comes with a lentil and mushroom ragù, which will fill you up and give you a powerful protein boost.
What are Zizzi’s best healthy dishes?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that a trip to Zizzi could potentially throw a spanner in the works when it comes to healthy eating. However, don’t despair as there is plenty of the menu that you can enjoy without piling on the pounds, including the chain’s new range of skinny pizzas made with a wholemeal, white and spelt base.
All Zizzi’s skinny pizzas are less than 550 calories and one with an Italian naked slaw. The Skinny Pizza Primavera is topped with goat’s cheese, roasted aubergine, artichokes, peppers, slow roasted tomatoes, olives and fresh oregano so what it lacks in calories, it makes up for with fresh nutritious ingredients.
Seabass is an excellent source of Omega-3 and vitamin D so you can’t go wrong with Seabass Verde. The pan-fried fillets come with a lemon and herb salsa verde and if you have the dish with naked winter slaw and specialty tomato salad, instead of the fried herby potatoes, it is less than 600 calories.
These are the low-calorie dishes you can choose at Frankie & Benny’s
The American-Italian chain Frankie & Benny’s has unveiled a new Feel Good range, which offers healthier, lighter options to its traditional family favourites.
All the Feel Good main courses contain less than 650 calories and include Nashville Roast Chicken. These chicken skewers are marinated in a hot and spicy sauce and come with salad and sour cream.
You can also still indulge in a Frankie & Benny’s pizza without worrying about your waistline. The Feel Good Skinny Chicken Pizza uses half the amount of dough of the restaurant’s standard pizzas and it is served with salad to help make sure you pack in your five-a-day.
What are the healthiest things on the menu at Pizza Express?
There’s more to Pizza Express than dough balls as the restaurant chain’s Leggera range shows. With every dish in the Leggera selection coming in at under 600 calories, you no longer need to avoid Pizza Express if you’re trying your best to stick to a healthier lifestyle.
Topping the tables when it comes to fresh and nutritious ingredients is the Leggera Superfood Salad. As well as edamame beans, which are high in both protein and fibre, the salad contains kale, chickpea and red quinoa, which is believed to help lower cholesterol and stablilise blood sugar levels.
One of the most popular pizzas on the menu is the Pollo ad Astra and there’s no need to miss out just because you’re being careful about what you eat. The Leggera version of this Pizza Express favourite is prepared in the same way as the classic but with a hole cut in the centre where the dough is replaced with a fresh salad. The standard base has also been replaced with a wholemeal one which is higher in fibre and contains less salt.
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What should I choose at Prezzo if I am watching my weight?
Prezzo has tapped into the trend of offering vegetable pasta to appeal to its health-conscious diners.
Its Mediterranean Vegetable Pea Fusilli is just 328 calories and is a colourful green pasta made using pea flour. It comes with peppers, aubergine and tender stem broccoli so it is a great source of folic acid, potassium and vitamins C and K.
Also low in calories but high in the nutrition stakes is Prezzo’s Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Gnocchi. Gnocchi are small Italian potato dumplings and this case, they have an added magic ingredient – beetroot. Filled with goat’s cheese and served with basil pesto, this main course is 381 calories.
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The best health-conscious choices at Wagamama
Wagamama is known for its long wooden benches, its informal atmosphere and its tasty Japanese cuisine but many of its dishes are also quite high in calories.
You don’t need to say no to noodles though as there are some great options available for those wanting to make sensible choices. The Wagamama staple Chicken Ramen is actually one of the lowest in calories at 516 and the protein-rich noodle broth is low in fat and a great source of glutamine, an important amino acid which plays a vital role in our immune system.
The Harusame glass noodle salad, at 441 calories per serving, boasts an impressive list of ingredients including kale, edamame, adzuki beans, mangetout, blackened carrots and pea shoots. Adzuki beans are viewed by many as a Asian superfood hero as they are a high-fibre, high-protein source of so many vitamins and minerals, including manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin B6 and calcium.
Are there any healthy options at Pizza Hut?
Pizza Hut doesn’t have to be a no-go area if you are on a diet. The popular chain offers a range of flatbread pizzas which are lower in calories than its standard options and come in a tasty selection of flavours. With each main course, you can also take unlimited trips to the salad bar so there are plenty of opportunities to fill yourself up on fresh, nutritious vegetables.
The Virtuous Veg flatbread pizza is the lightest option on the menu at 375 calories. The flatbread base is topped with fresh spinach, mixed peppers, red onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and rocket.
If you prefer your meal to contain meat, the Chicken Delight flatbread is 440 calories and has sliced mushrooms, red onions and rocket as well as the sliced chicken breast.
What are the lowest calorie options on the Carluccio’s menu?
This well-loved Italian chain doesn’t have a specific range for those on a healthy eating kick but there’s still plenty to choose from if you’re careful. Picking tomato-based pasta sauces over cream ones will help keep the fat content down.
The Seafood Linguine is 484 calories and a great way of making sure you are getting some Omega-3 in your diet. The usual prawns, mussels, and squid come with bottarga – a salted and cured fish roe which is popular in Italy. The linguine arrives in a tomato, crab and chilli sauce with baby plum tomatoes and basil.
If you’re looking to pack in as many healthy foods as you can while eating out Carluccio’s vegan Riso Nero ticks all the right boxes. The nutty black rice comes with tenderstem broccoli, golden beetroot, pickled carrot, yellow courgette, mixed leaves, soya beans, peas, chick peas, basil and chilli vegan mayonnaise. You can also choose to add chicken if you want some extra protein.
Does Café Rouge have low calorie dishes?
French cooking is famed for its use of wine, butter, cream and cheese but there’s no reason it has to be high in calories. Café Rouge has some really tasty salads on its menu which will allow you to enjoy eating there if you’re on a diet without feeling deprived.
The Salade Nicoise is a winner when it comes to nutrition and is less than 600 calories. The Omega-3-rich chargrilled yellow fin tuna steak is accompanied by new potatoes, green beans, avocado, heirloom tomatoes, shallots, anchovies, black olives and a soft-boiled free range egg.
If you’re more concerned with calories than superfoods, the Chicken Caesar Salad is 489 calories and includes nutrient-dense avocados, baby gem lettuce, anchovies and homemade sourdough croutons.
Written by Catherine Ball
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