Finding low-calorie meals when dining out can be a challenge, especially at major chain restaurants, where dishes often come in enormous portions laden with calories. However, eating out doesn’t have to derail your calorie goals. We did the legwork to help you navigate restaurant menus and identified the lowest-calorie options.

What qualifies as a low-calorie restaurant meal?

Calories are units of energy that your body needs to function. Consuming more calories than your body can burn leads to weight gain, so many people choose to cut calories to lose weight. However, determining the right number of calories can be tricky. There isn’t a universal number to aim for, so it’s best to consult a dietitian or doctor to ensure you meet your nutritional needs.

“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. “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.”

Read on for some ideas on low-calorie restaurant dishes from 15 popular chains. Then, check out the #1 Healthiest Order at 10 Major Chain Restaurants.

15 Low-Calorie Meals From Chain Restaurants

Olive Garden

olive garden
Olive Garden/ Facebook

Olive Garden may be known for its pasta and breadsticks. But if you want to stick with a low-calorie meal, you may need to find something else or at least limit yourself to one breadstick with your meal. Try something like the Herb-Grilled Salmon for a healthier option at Olive Garden.

“This dish is a good low-calorie option due to the high protein and low carbohydrate content, making it a great choice for those following a low-carb diet, as well,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements. “The salmon is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and improve heart health.”

For low-calorie ordering at Olive Garden, choose grilled or broiled proteins over fried options, stick to tomato-based sauces instead of cream-based ones, and start with a house salad using dressing sparingly to keep the calories down.

Low-Calorie Options from Olive Garden

 12 Healthiest Dishes To Order at Olive Garden

Chili’s

Chili's meal
Courtesy of Chili’s

Chili’s is a fan favorite of those who want to grab some free chips and salsa and take advantage of the famous 2-for-1 margarita deal. But if you’re on the lookout for meals that are lower in calories, be careful—their menu is full of calorie-heavy options.

The good news is that just because the Quesadilla Explosion Salad from Chili’s has over 1,100 calories, you can find some lower-calorie dinner options, like the classic sirloin or the Santa Fe chicken salad.

When ordering at Chili’s, request dressings and sauces on the side, choose steamed or grilled sides instead of fried ones, and consider sharing an entrée or appetizer to reduce portion size.

Low-Calorie Options from Chili’s

 8 Healthiest Dishes to Order at Chili’s

Applebee’s

applebees
Courtesy of Applebee’s

One of the benefits of chain restaurants like Applebee’s is that they are affordable and have an enormous menu compared to most other local restaurants. This gives you the option to select healthier options if need be. For example, Applebee’s offers dinners like the top sirloin for only 550 calories, or the blackened tilapia for a little less than 600. This leaves you room to order a cocktail or split an appetizer before your meal.

To ensure a low-calorie meal at Applebee’s, opt for vegetables or a side salad instead of fries or mashed potatoes, choose simple dishes with fewer ingredients, and avoid dishes with heavy sauces or gravies.

Low-Calorie Options from Applebee’s

 The 10 Healthiest Menu Items at Applebee’s

Red Lobster

red lobster shrimp feast
Courtesy of Red Lobster

Red Lobster offers a lot of delicious fish and steak options, but many of them are fried.

To lower your calories and still enjoy a night out, opt for one of their grilled or broiled dishes, such as the lobster-topped stuffed flounder or the Maine lobster tail duo. And, if you want to treat yourself to a famous Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuit, you can add one to these lower-calorie meals and still stay close to around 700 calories.

Low-Calorie Options from Red Lobster

 The 9 Healthiest Dishes to Order at Red Lobster

TGI Fridays

TGI Fridays Meal
Courtesy of Facebook via TGI Fridays

The menu at TGI Fridays is vast and contains something for everyone. However, it’s easy to go overboard on calories with things like burgers, wings, baby back ribs, and desserts.

Thankfully, you can find a few low-calorie restaurant meals at this chain, like a 6-ounce sirloin steak or salmon and vegetables. To keep your meal low-calorie at TGI Fridays, opt for dishes that are grilled or baked rather than fried, choose side salads with light dressing over creamy sides, and skip the appetizers and desserts to save on calories.

Low-Calorie Options from TGI Fridays

 10 Best & Worst Menu Items at TGI Fridays

Texas Roadhouse

people sitting at table full of food
Texas Roadhouse

It’s harder to find low-calorie meal options at Texas Roadhouse because they’re most famous for items like their Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs (900 calories), their Sirloin & Ribs Combo (890 calories), and their giant Smokehouse Burger (1,440 calories). But thankfully, there are a few fish and chicken options you can choose to keep your calories on the lower end.

When dining at Texas Roadhouse, choose dishes without added sauces or gravies, skip the complimentary bread or limit yourself to one roll (a basket of these is 1,200 calories), and add a side salad with a light dressing to increase your vegetable intake.

Low-Calorie Options from Texas Roadhouse

 The Best & Worst Menu Items at Texas Roadhouse

Longhorn Steakhouse

Longhorn Steakhouse
Courtesy of Facebook via Longhorn Steakhouse

Longhorn Steakhouse can be a relatively affordable way for steak fans to enjoy a sirloin or filet mignon. And the good news is that you can chow down on some of their delicious meals for under 500 calories, like the Renegade Sirloin or the salmon and rice. Just beware of items such as the full rack of baby back ribs, which come in at 1,270 calories.

To keep your meal low-calorie at Longhorn Steakhouse, choose lean cuts of meat like sirloin or filet mignon, avoid heavy sauces and gravies, and opt for sides like steamed vegetables or a house salad with a light dressing.

Low-Calorie Options from Longhorn Steakhouse

 The 14 Best & Worst Menu Items at LongHorn Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse meal
Courtesy of Outback Steakhouse

When thinking of low-calorie restaurant meals, you may not consider Outback Steakhouse at first, especially when you’re sure to be tempted by Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion appetizer.

To order low-calorie meals at Outback Steakhouse, avoid fried appetizers, choose grilled entrees, and request dressings and sauces on the side. Stick to water or unsweetened beverages and opt for a side of steamed vegetables or a salad with light dressing.

Low-Calorie Options from Outback Steakhouse

 The #1 Unhealthiest Outback Steakhouse Order (& What To Eat Instead)

Cracker Barrel

plate of Cracker Barrel breakfast on the table
Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel serves up famous calorie-laden meals daily, like their Bacon N’ Egg Hashbrown Casserole (980 calories), Barrel Cheeseburger (960 calories), and Southern Fried Chicken (1,640 calories).

When you’re looking for a low-calorie meal, there are quite a few options to grab—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Choose grilled or broiled items over fried ones, opt for vegetable sides, and skip the biscuits and cornbread to keep your calorie intake in check.

Low-Calorie Options from Cracker Barrel

 The 12 Absolute Worst Dishes to Order at Cracker Barrel

IHOP

ihop
Shutterstock

For some, it may feel weird to venture to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) without actually getting pancakes, but you may need to be a bit choosy with their menu items if you’re looking for lower-calorie options. Most of their menu is full of calorie-dense choices, especially their breakfast menu, but IHOP also offers salads, fish, and steak dishes for lunch and dinner that can help you stick to a lighter meal.

To keep your meal low-calorie at IHOP, avoid dishes with sugary toppings, heavy syrups, or whipped cream, and choose salads with light dressings, grilled proteins instead of fried ones, and veggie-packed breakfast foods.

Low-Calorie Options from IHOP

 The 10 Best & Worst Orders at IHOP

California Pizza Kitchen

california pizza kitchen pizza
@calpizzakitchen/Twitter

California Pizza Kitchen can be a delicious option when you and the family are in the mood for pizza. 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 healthier choices.

Another good thing about this pizza chain is that it offers a variety of other menu options in addition to 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

 The Best & Worst Menu Items at California Pizza Kitchen

Red Robin

table with Red Robin food
Red Robin/Facebook

Red Robin is best known for its juicy burgers, fries, and diner-style menu items, so people don’t often associate this chain restaurant with having lower-calorie options. Surprisingly, there are quite a few to choose from.

At Red Robin, the key is finding grilled chicken-based options like their Ensenada Platter or the Grilled Chicken Salad or a bunless burger like the Wedgie Burger, which is wrapped in lettuce. If you want one of their regular burgers with the bun, order without fries to lessen your calorie intake.

Low-Calorie Options from Red Robin

P.F. Chang’s

PF Changs
Courtesy of Facebook via PF Changs

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.

“The Spicy Tuna Roll from P.F. Chang’s contains rice, ahi tuna, cucumber, spicy sriracha, dynamite sauce, and chives,” says Young, “This dish is low in calories and offers other nutritional benefits, like the ahi tuna that contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.” If tuna isn’t your thing, you can try dishes like the Mongolian beef or the crispy honey shrimp, both of which are under 550 calories.

To keep your meal low-calorie at P.F. Chang’s, choose steamed or grilled dishes, avoid fried items, and opt for vegetable-based dishes. Ask for sauces on the side and use them sparingly to control your calorie intake.

Low-Calorie Options from P.F. Chang’s

 The Best & Worst P.F. Chang’s Orders

Cheesecake Factory

chicken tacos on a plate from cheesecake factory
Courtesy of Cheesecake Factory

To order smartly at The Cheesecake Factory, avoid dishes with heavy sauces or gravies, and share a dish to control portion sizes. Skip the cheesecake or opt for a smaller portion to satisfy your sweet tooth without overindulging. We also recommend sticking to the SkinnyLicious menu, which has options like the SkinnyLicious Chicken Soft Tacos.

“Cheesecake Factory’s SkinnyLicious Chicken Soft Tacos are made with corn tortillas filled with spicy chicken, avocado, onions, cilantro, and crema, and served with an escabeche vegetable salad,” says Young. “This is a great option to choose because it is low in calories and high in nutrients, making this a nutrient-dense meal.”

Low-Calorie Options from Cheesecake Factory 

 The Best & Worst Menu Items at The Cheesecake Factory

Bonefish Grill

table at Bonefish grill
Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill has one of the largest low-calorie meal selections of any of the other restaurants on this list. Sure, they have their fair share of calorie-dense meals, like their Bonefish Signature Pasta with Chicken (1,080 calories) or their Crab-Topped Bang Fries (1,280), but many of their menu items are grilled and served with rice and veggie sides.

To order low-calorie meals at Bonefish Grill, avoid fried seafood options, choose grilled or broiled dishes, and opt for lighter sides like vegetables or a house salad with a light dressing. Skip heavy sauces or ask for them on the side to control your calorie intake.

Low-Calorie Options from Bonefish Grill

This story has been updated since its original publish date to include additional entries and remove outdated information.

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