Meal prep, planning, and cooking your dishes at home throughout the week can help you achieve your health goals by giving you control over the ingredients and, in turn, the total amount of salt, sugar, fat, and calories you end up with in your final meal. While cooking your food at home is a great way to stick to your specific goals, when it comes to your diet and health, everyone needs a break from time to time.
When you don’t have the time or energy to cook a meal, taking the family out to eat can be a fun way to enjoy delicious food together. And thankfully, even though restaurant food is often higher in calories, sodium, and fat, there are some low-calorie restaurant meals you can try at your favorite chains.
Calories are essentially just units of energy, and your body needs them through food to function. Throughout the day, your body also naturally burns calories through the energy it uses, which is why it needs food to replenish the calories burned. Some of the main reasons why you may hear people discussing low-calorie foods or wanting to eat fewer calories in order to lose weight has to do with what happens to your body relative to how many calories are consumed; eating more calories than your body can spend can lead to weight gain.
What qualifies as a low-calorie restaurant meal?
“While there really isn’t a perfect definition for what a low-calorie dish entails, if it contains less than 700 calories, you are in good shape,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our Medical Expert Board. “So many restaurant meals contain 1,000–1,500 calories for just one dish, so steer clear of these or share it with 1–2 people.”
For some ideas on low-calorie restaurant dishes you can try next time you’re dining out, check out our dietitian-recommend list of options from 10 popular chains. Then, for more healthy eating tips, head to one of these 7 Healthiest Fast-Food Restaurants next time you’re in a rush.
When you and the family are in the mood for pizza, California Pizza Kitchen can be a delicious option. When compared to other pizza chains like Uno’s, Pizza Hut, or Domino’s, California Pizza Kitchen’s pizza is already lower in calories, which is helpful when you want to make some healthier choices.
10 low-calorie meals from chain restaurants
Another good thing about this pizza chain is that they offer a variety of other menu options aside from pizza. According to Young, the Bahn Mi Power Bowl is a low-calorie choice that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
“This dish contains healthy ingredients like quinoa, kale, bean sprouts, carrots, radish, cucumber, avocado, scallions, and boneless, skinless chicken breast,” says Young, “and the ingredients in this dish contain healthy fats, whole grain carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables.”
Low-Calorie Options from California Pizza Kitchen
Bahn Mi Power Bowl: 490 calories
Wild Mushroom Pizza (3 slices): 510 calories
California Cobb Salad: 510 calories
P.F. Chang’s may be famous for its menu items, like the chicken lo mein or the Great Wall of chocolate, but this chain restaurant also offers some healthier, more nutritious options, as well.