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Are Low-Calorie Restaurant Menus Making Us Unhealthier?

Are Low-Calorie Restaurant Menus Making Us Unhealthier?



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The menu may say it doesn't sacrifice taste, but according to this recent study, consumers don't believe the fast-casual restaurant industry and go for higher-calorie options.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to right the wrongs of super-sized fast food meals and 1,000-calorie TGI Friday’s potato skins by banning trans-fats and making restaurant chains post calorie contents on menus.

Fast casual restaurants have generally responded by offering separate low-calorie or Weight Watchers’ icons on their menus, but despite good intentions, a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that restaurants that have low-calorie sections on their menus can inadvertently cause people to eliminate healthy foods right off the bat.

“Because most restaurant menus are quite complex, diners try to simplify their decision,” wrote Jeffrey R. Parker of Georgia State University and Donald R. Lehmann of Columbia University, authors of the study. “People have come to expect low-calorie food to taste bad or not fill them up.”

So what’s the solution? The study found that consumers are more likely to eat healthier when they are presented with calorie labels, but not when low-calorie options are grouped together.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi


People Think Handwritten Menus Are Healthier, Study Says

Personal touch plays with our perception when dining out.

In the restaurant biz, creating an artisanal perception for potential diners is crucial to winning business. That’s why buzzwords like �rm to table," 𠇏ree range,” and “GMO-free” that make it sound like the food is healthily and ethically sourced play a starring role on so many menus.

As it turns out, it’s not just the words on your menu that matters, but how you write them. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Business Research, the personal touch of a handwritten menu can improve consumer perception of a restaurant and even lead eaters to believe that its food is healthier.

Watch: How to Make Restaurant Style Salsa

The team of researchers at Ohio State found that menus with a (seemingly) handwritten typeface “[convey] a sense of human touch, which subsequently induces the perception that love is symbolically imbued in the restaurant&aposs offerings.” Essentially, the more consumers believe that a real person is writing the menu, the more inclined they are to believe that this same level of care extends to how the food is sourced and prepared. Think about it: would the restaurant that lovingly handwrites its menu be more likely to source its proteins from factory farms than the chain restaurant that types out its entrees in comic sans? When judged solely on this criteria, you𠆝 probably think not.

These loving, hand-scrawled menus don’t just make restaurants seem healthier to diners “in both social and solo dining contexts.” That personal touch also generates higher social media engagement, because food that seems like it’s been labored over is probably more Instagrammable. However, it’s important to note that these effects are only observed for restaurants with an existing health-oriented brand. After all, it’s not like you𠆝 suddenly believe a fast food joint is magically nutritious just because they forced someone earning minimum wage to write out the day’s menu.

So next time you’re headed to a healthy-ish restaurant, pay attention to how the menu’s presented. The handwriting may look nice, but it won’t magically reduce that calorie count.


Low-calorie restaurant menus: Are they making us fat?

Depending on our food cravings, the number of items served, and even the time of day, ordering a meal at a restaurant often requires a "narrowing down" decision making process. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, restaurants that now provide "low-calorie" labels on their menus can inadvertently cause people to eliminate healthy foods right off the bat.

"Because most restaurant menus are quite complex--offering numerous dishes composed of multiple ingredients--diners try to simplify their decision. People have come to expect low-calorie food to taste bad or not fill them up," write authors Jeffrey R. Parker (Georgia State University) and Donald R. Lehmann (Columbia University). "We propose that by calorie organizing a menu, restaurants make it easier for people to use the general 'low-calorie' label to dismiss all low-calorie options early in the decision process."

In four online studies, the authors asked participants to order food from menus similar to what they might encounter at well-known chain restaurants. Some participants were shown traditional menus that listed available dishes in food-type categories (with no calorie information on the menu). Another set of participants was given the same menus, but with calorie information provided by each dish. A third group was given the calorie-labeled menus with the low-calorie dishes grouped together and given a low-calorie section label.

Study results showed that the participants who were given the traditional menus without any calorie information and the menus with the low-calorie food grouped together ordered food with similar amounts of calories. Interestingly, the participants who ordered from the calorie-labeled (but not grouped) menus ordered meals with fewer calories overall.

"When a menu is calorie posted but not calorie organized, it is less likely that the caloric-content of the dishes will be used as an initial filter for eliminating large portions of the menu," the authors conclude. "For the consumer, this means you are more likely to consider ordering a low-calorie dish and also more likely to eat it too."

Jeffrey R. Parker and Donald R. Lehmann. "How and When Grouping Low-Calorie Options Reduces the Benefits of Providing Dish-Specific Calorie Information." Journal of Consumer Research: August 2014. For more information, contact Jeffrey R. Parker or visit http://ejcr. org/ .

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


Low-calorie restaurant menus: Are they making us fat?

Depending on our food cravings, the number of items served, and even the time of day, ordering a meal at a restaurant often requires a “narrowing down” decision making process. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, restaurants that now provide “low-calorie” labels on their menus can inadvertently cause people to eliminate healthy foods right off the bat.

“Because most restaurant menus are quite complex — offering numerous dishes composed of multiple ingredients — diners try to simplify their decision. People have come to expect low-calorie food to taste bad or not fill them up,” write authors Jeffrey R. Parker (Georgia State University) and Donald R. Lehmann (Columbia University). “We propose that by calorie organizing a menu, restaurants make it easier for people to use the general ‘low-calorie’ label to dismiss all low-calorie options early in the decision process.”

In four online studies, the authors asked participants to order food from menus similar to what they might encounter at well-known chain restaurants. Some participants were shown traditional menus that listed available dishes in food-type categories (with no calorie information on the menu). Another set of participants was given the same menus, but with calorie information provided by each dish. A third group was given the calorie-labeled menus with the low-calorie dishes grouped together and given a low-calorie section label.

Study results showed that the participants who were given the traditional menus without any calorie information and the menus with the low-calorie food grouped together ordered food with similar amounts of calories. Interestingly, the participants who ordered from the calorie-labeled (but not grouped) menus ordered meals with fewer calories overall.

“When a menu is calorie posted but not calorie organized, it is less likely that the caloric-content of the dishes will be used as an initial filter for eliminating large portions of the menu,” the authors conclude. “For the consumer, this means you are more likely to consider ordering a low-calorie dish and also more likely to eat it too.”


Low-calorie restaurant menus: Are they making us fat?

Depending on our food cravings, the number of items served, and even the time of day, ordering a meal at a restaurant often requires a “narrowing down” decision making process. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, restaurants that now provide “low-calorie” labels on their menus can inadvertently cause people to eliminate healthy foods right off the bat.

“Because most restaurant menus are quite complex — offering numerous dishes composed of multiple ingredients — diners try to simplify their decision. People have come to expect low-calorie food to taste bad or not fill them up,” write authors Jeffrey R. Parker (Georgia State University) and Donald R. Lehmann (Columbia University). “We propose that by calorie organizing a menu, restaurants make it easier for people to use the general ‘low-calorie’ label to dismiss all low-calorie options early in the decision process.”

In four online studies, the authors asked participants to order food from menus similar to what they might encounter at well-known chain restaurants. Some participants were shown traditional menus that listed available dishes in food-type categories (with no calorie information on the menu). Another set of participants was given the same menus, but with calorie information provided by each dish. A third group was given the calorie-labeled menus with the low-calorie dishes grouped together and given a low-calorie section label.

Study results showed that the participants who were given the traditional menus without any calorie information and the menus with the low-calorie food grouped together ordered food with similar amounts of calories. Interestingly, the participants who ordered from the calorie-labeled (but not grouped) menus ordered meals with fewer calories overall.

“When a menu is calorie posted but not calorie organized, it is less likely that the caloric-content of the dishes will be used as an initial filter for eliminating large portions of the menu,” the authors conclude. “For the consumer, this means you are more likely to consider ordering a low-calorie dish and also more likely to eat it too.”


Pros and Cons of Calorie Counts on Menus: Should Your Restaurant Provide Nutritional Information?

Providing calorie counts on menus builds trust among customers and provides information for those with special dietary concerns. Image credit: Unsplash user Dan Gold.

Jenn, the owner and chef of a small cafe serving breakfast and lunch fare in the Bay Area, knew things were changing. In the past six months, dozens of customers had requested calorie counts for her menu items—something she’d never been asked before in her ten years of business. Thinking it would be smart to give her customers what they wanted, Jenn began exploring the options for performing nutritional analysis on her recipes.

Her restaurant industry friends warned her the nutrition analysis process could be complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. Discouraged by her friends’ bad experiences but determined to satisfy her customers, Jenn found herself unsure whether or not to go ahead with adding calorie information to her menu.

If you’re an independent restaurant owner like Jenn, you may also be wondering if it is a good idea to provide calorie counts on your menu. While it will become mandatory in 2018 for chain restaurants with more than 20 locations to provide calorie counts on their menus, small, independently owned restaurants will not be obligated to do so. For those who can decide for themselves, it is important to consider the pros and cons of using calorie counts on menus so you can make the best choice for your restaurant.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Calorie Counts on Menus

More and more independently owned restaurants are including calorie counts on their menus, especially after the FDA’s delay in enforcing mandatory labeling laws for chain restaurants. A large number of Americans were disappointed with the slowdown, and when small businesses caught wind of the public’s desire for greater transparency from restaurants, many took voluntary action to provide calorie counts on their menus. But some restaurants—especially the ones for whom calorie labeling will be mandatory—were relieved they didn’t yet have to concede.

As a small, independently-owned restaurant, it’s important to be aware of both perspectives so you can make an educated decision about whether to provide calorie counts on your menus.

Some of the benefits of featuring calorie information on your menu include:

  • Building trust among customers: Providing calorie counts on menus signals to customers that there is a level of transparency in your restaurant, making those who are concerned with calorie counts more likely to return and become loyal customers.
  • Aiding in preventing and reversing obesity: More than one-third of American adults are considered obese. Providing calorie counts on menus will make consumers more aware of how much they are consuming and can aid them in their efforts to stick to a restricted or reduced-calorie diet.
  • Meeting consumers desires: A number of consumer reports have consistently revealed that more than half of the American public is in favor of having calorie counts on menus and boards in restaurants. And with this growing interest in health and wellness, we can only expect this number will increase.

Of course, there are two sides to every argument. Many restaurants also complained of the potential drawbacks to putting calorie counts on their menus, including:

  • Limited nutrition information: Calorie counts alone don’t indicate how nutritious a meal is. Some nutrient-rich foods, like nuts and seeds, are high in calories but aren’t bad for your health. Furthermore, healthy whole grains are more calorie-dense than refined grain products. Diners may not consider this when making a selection and could mistake the lowest calorie option as necessarily being the healthiest.
  • Potential financial output: Having dishes nutritionally analyzed can be pricey, especially when using a food lab or independent consultant. Restaurants may also need to reprint their menus and food boards, which contributes to costs.
  • Time investment: If you send your food to a lab, use a labor-intensive CD-ROM software, or contract out to a consultant, it can take up to a month to get nutrition analysis results. The time spent completing this work could take away from important daily tasks.

These drawbacks of providing calorie counts on your menu are valid concerns if you use food labs, independent consultants, or CD-ROMs to perform your nutritional analysis. However, online nutritional analysis software debunks many of these potential downsides.

The Benefits of Online Nutrition Analysis Software

Firstly, while it is true that calorie information isn’t necessarily a good indicator of whether a meal is healthy, online nutrition analysis software provides other extensive nutrition information you can also include on your menu. Software like MenuCalc produces vitamin and mineral values as well as protein, fat, and carbohydrate content. These values are automatically generated along with the calorie count, so you can provide your diners with all the necessary information to make a choice that suits their dietary needs. Nutrient content claims (i.e. low fat ) and allergy statements are also generated for each of your menu items.

Secondly, food labs and independent consultants can be incredibly pricey (usually between $400-$800 per recipe analysis), but online analysis software costs a fraction of that price. Software such as MenuCalc typically has a few pricing options to choose from , but a monthly membership that lets you analyze as many items as you want is as little as $249 a month, and much less if you don’t have as many items to analyze. This makes online software an accessible option for independent restaurant owners.

Lastly, when it comes to time investment, there can be a significant turnaround time with food labs and independent consultants. And for CD-ROMs, the ordering, installation, and training it takes to be able to navigate the complex system can really add up. With online nutritional analysis, however, you can set up your account in a few minutes and start entering your recipes immediately. Results are instantly generated, so there is no wait time.

Because it provides extensive nutrition information while being inexpensive and easy to use, online nutritional analysis software is a great choice for independent restaurant owners, like Jenn, who are interested in voluntarily adding calorie counts to their menus. In the end, Jenn did decide to provide calorie and nutrition information on her menus. Thanks to online nutrition analysis software, it was a quick, affordable, and simple process. And since implementing calorie counts and nutrition information on her menus, she’s expanded her clientele and strengthened her existing customer base. I guess you never truly know what benefits you could reap until you try.

Are you ready to take your restaurant to a new level with calorie counts and detailed nutritional information? MenuCalc provides easy-to-use, affordable nutritional analysis to help you satisfy your customers. Contact us today to learn more.


How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthier in a Restaurant

Sure, they may be picky eaters out to destroy your dinner, but the truth is, most of the kids&rsquo menu tastes terrible. Here are some tricks to being honest about food with your kids, while not letting them off the vegetable hook.

You know the scene, you are sitting in a restaurant, maybe you are on vacation, maybe, say at the Happiest Place on Earth. So much sugar has already been consumed that you all just need a good, balanced meal. Your kid orders something from the kid’s menu, now new and improved with veggies and fruit and brown rice choices, and the kid picks green beans with their pizza! The plate comes and you silently say to yourself, “That looks gross.” When your kid refuses to eat it you say, out loud, “It’s perfectly fine, just eat it.”

Stop it! No it’s not and lying isn’t going to help.

The truth is, despite the newly embraced healthy choices on kid’s menus, there are still major culinary issues keeping your kids from actually eating those healthier foods. A general lack of seasoning and overcooking are prevalent. Subpar ingredients abound. Sometimes, it’s not even cooked. I can’t tell you the amount of times my son’s dad whispers to me, “It really doesn’t taste good,” after some frustrated moment of plate rejection. “Here, eat mine instead,” I say and glory be, he does.

I know kids in general are lying manipulators out to get you, but occasionally, give them the benefit of the doubt. And do not lie to them about food. Ever. Telling a kid something tastes good when it doesn’t is the parenting equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me.” You are gaslighting them—why the hell would they believe you when you distinguish something as good or bad when you say everything is edible. You are training their taste buds to eat crap. You are letting the sugar and salt win!

Speaking from many, many meals of experience, here’s what you can do:

1. Taste it before you say it is fine.

No really, eat it yourself. This will be life changing. If you make a face, well, get ready to share your plate and agree with your kid—yep, tastes gross. They will learn to trust you when you say a food is good or bad.

2. Fix it.

Most times, the veggies on the plate just aren’t seasoned (lord knows why, as if salt and pepper aren’t things kids can handle). Truly one of the great mysteries of life: Why steamed, unseasoned broccoli is served to kids is beyond me. True story. I once salt and peppered some rejected green beans and then, the kid ATE THEM.

3. Order it correctly.

Yes, your little pain-in-the-um-apple-of-your-eye only likes his/her carrots cooked medium-soft. If they are mushy, forget the beta carotene burst. So first, ask how the veggies are cooked. Once you have an answer, you’ve got two paths: Order them specifically the way you know your kid likes 𠆎m or change the order if they’re coming in a manner you know the kid just ain’t gonna eat. Wasting food is also a bad habit to teach them. Same deal with fruit. Ask what fruit is in the 𠇏ruit cup” before defaulting to it.

4. Get off the damn kids menu.

Do they like shrimp? Does that shrimp come with properly cooked and prepared side dishes? Great, order it and share it or let them order it, eat shrimp to their heart&aposs content, and take the rest home for the next day. It will be cheaper, I promise you, than the two dinners you will end up buying/making alternatively.

5. Don&rsquot lie.

When it’s bad, say yep, that doesn’t taste good and see the above steps. If it tastes good and they are just being difficult, well then, I got nothing. Hand them the iParent device of your choice and enjoy your meal.


35 Quick and Healthy Low-Calorie Lunches

When it comes to eating healthy, some of us count carbs, others count fat, and a lot of us (still) count calories. The key to success is making sure those calories are full of nutrients.

After all, by the time noon rolls around, it’s way tooeasy to head to the nearest pizza joint. But hold up: We have 35 healthy lunches that are 400 calories or less and can be made in no time!

And for folks who need a little more fuel to keep on going, each meal also includes an optional side snack, which still keeps the grand total under 500.

So say sayonara to takeout or spending hours in the kitchen — with these options, nobody will go hungry (or unhealthy) again.

1. Caesar salmon wrap: 307 calories

Why it rules: Low-cal dressing and heart-healthy salmon make this a winning wrap.

  • 1 small whole-wheat pita: 80 calories
  • 3 ounces canned salmon: 110 calories
  • 2 tablespoons low-calorie Caesar dressing: 32 calories
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese: 22 calories
  • 1 cup raw spinach: 7 calories

Side snack: ¼ cucumber sliced with 2 tablespoons hummus (56 calories)

2. Crunchy tuna wrap: 384 calories

Why it rules: Greek yogurt makes this tuna salad just as creamy as the classic mayo would, but with a nice dose of extra protein and some probiotics to boot.

  • 1 whole-wheat wrap: 130 calories
  • 3 ounces canned tuna: 90 calories
  • ¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt: 30 calories
  • ½ celery stalk, chopped: 5 calories
  • 3 slices roasted red peppers: 30 calories
  • 1 cup raw spinach: 7 calories
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice:

6. Herbed cheese and tomato sandwich: 398 calories

Why it rules: Cottage cheese is an awesome source of calcium and protein!

  • 1 English muffin: 120 calories
  • ¼ cup low-fat cottage cheese: 40 calories
  • 2 slices tomato: 10 calories
  • ¼ avocado, sliced: 68 calories
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard: 5 calories
  • 1 leaf butter lettuce: 5 calories
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped: Share on Pinterest

13. Ham, pear, and Swiss sandwich: 395 calories

Why it rules: Deli ham is leaner than Christmas dinner baked ham but still packed with protein. Choose a low-sodium version.

  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread: 180 calories
  • 3 slices deli ham: 100 calories
  • 1 slice Swiss cheese: 70 calories
  • ½ pear, sliced: 45 calories
  • 1 teaspoon honey mustard: 5 calories

Side snack: ¾ cup apple chips (80 calories)

14. TBLT: 375 calories

Why it rules: Turkey bacon is leaner than traditional pork bacon, but it’s still full of crispy deliciousness.

  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread: 180 calories
  • 3 slices turkey bacon: 130 calories
  • 2 slices tomato: 10 calories
  • 1 leaf romaine lettuce: 5 calories
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat mayo: 50 calories

Side snack: 2 pretzel rods with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (100 calories)

15. Roast beef and horseradish sandwich: 385 calories

Why it rules: Your co-workers will envy this tasty and hearty lunch that has a boost of calcium. (Thanks, mozzarella!)

  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread: 180 calories
  • 2 slices deli roast beef: 100 calories
  • 1 thick slice fresh mozzarella cheese: 70 calories
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish sauce: 30 calories
  • 1 leaf romaine lettuce: 5 calories

Side snack: 1 large peach (70 calories)

16. Better PB&J: 390 calories

Why it rules: Make it an AB&J! Almond butter is a great swap for peanut butter if you’re allergic or not a fan — or just for a change of pace.

  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread: 180 calorie
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter: 190 calories
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sugar jelly: 20 calories

Side snack: ½ cup plain Greek yogurt with ¼ cup fresh blueberries (91 calories)

17. Pizza burger: 360 calories

Why it rules: Say “so long” to cravings for greasy pizza, thanks to this protein-filled veggie burger.

  • 1 whole-wheat bun: 90 calories
  • 1 veggie burger patty: 100 calories (Note: Amounts vary according to brand)
  • 2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese: 140 calories
  • 2 tablespoons marinara sauce: 40 calories

Side snack: 1 orange (85 calories)

18. Hawaiian veggie burger: 475 calories

Why it rules: Avocado is a great swap for mayonnaise because it’s full of fiber and monounsaturated fats.

  • 1 whole-wheat bun: 90 calories
  • 1 veggie burger patty: 100 calories (Note: Amounts vary according to brand)
  • ¼ avocado, mashed: 57 calories
  • 1 slice pineapple: 28 calories
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce: 53 calories
  • 1 cup alfalfa sprouts: 8 calories

Side snack: 1 ounce sweet potato chips (139 calories)

19. Mediterranean burger: 400 calories

Why it rules: Subbing turkey for the traditional beef cuts calories without sacrificing flavor.

  • 1 whole-wheat bun: 90 calories,
  • 1 turkey burger patty: 140 calories
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese: 50 calories
  • 2 slices tomato: 10 calories
  • 1 round slice red onion: 5 calories
  • 1 handful spinach: 5 calories

Side snack: 5 Kashi 7-grain crackers with 1 stick reduced-fat string cheese (100 calories)

20. Veggie patty with over-easy egg: 390 calories

Why it rules: Filled with protein and healthy fats, this veggie and cheese combo will satisfy even the heartiest of appetites.

  • 1 veggie burger patty: 100 calories (Note: Amounts vary according to brand)
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese: 70 calories
  • 1 large egg, over-easy, cooked with olive-oil spray: 80 calories
  • ¼ avocado, sliced: 60 calories

Side snack: 1 medium apple (80 calories)

21. Greek pita salad: 368 calories

Why it rules: Protein-packed chickpeas and naturally lower-fat feta cheese spice up this salad.

  • 1 cup romaine lettuce: 8 calories
  • ½ whole-wheat pita, sliced: 40 calories
  • ¼ cup feta cheese: 100 calories
  • ¼ cup chickpeas: 70 calories
  • ½ cucumber, sliced: 30 calories
  • ¼ small red onion, chopped: 10 calories
  • 2 tablespoons Greek dressing: 110 calories

Side snack: 10 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons hummus (100 calories)

22. Strawberry spinach salad: 382 calories

Why it rules: Strawberries are filled with antioxidants and can sweeten up a tangy salad.

  • 1 cup spinach: 7 calories
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced: 50 calories
  • 1 thick slice fresh mozzarella cheese: 70 calories
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts: 110 calories
  • 1 cup blanched broccoli: 30 calories
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil: 110 calories
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar: 5 calories
  • 1 squeeze lemon juice: Share on Pinterest

23. Garden pasta salad: 395 calories

Why it rules: Whole-wheat pasta is a higher-fiber substitute for regular pasta.

  • ½ cup whole-wheat pasta: 110 calories
  • ½ chicken breast, sliced: 100 calories
  • 1 thick slice fresh mozzarella cheese: 70 calories
  • 4 Kalamata olives, sliced: 60 calories
  • ½ green pepper, sliced: 10 calories
  • ½ carrot, shredded: 30 calories
  • 2 tablespoons low-calorie Italian dressing: 15 calories

Side snack: 1 whole-wheat pita, toasted and rubbed with a garlic clove (80 calories)

24. Lentil salad with poached eggs: 390 calories

Why it rules: Lentils are a superfood thanks to their hefty dose of protein and antioxidants!

  • ½ cup canned lentils: 120 calories
  • ½ cup spinach, sautéed with 1 teaspoon olive oil: 50 calories
  • 2 large eggs, poached: 150 calories
  • ¼ avocado, sliced: 60 calories
  • 2 slices tomato: 10 calories

Side snack: 15 mini pretzel sticks with 2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese (100 calories)

25. Sprout ’n’ spinach salad: 381 calories

Why it rules: This salad is packed with two of our favorite superfoods — spinach and avocado.

  • 2 cups baby spinach: 14 calories
  • ½ avocado, diced: 120 calories
  • 1 handful alfalfa sprouts: 5 calories
  • ½ orange bell pepper, diced: 12 calories
  • ½ carrot, grated: 30 calories
  • 2 tablespoons hummus mixed with 1 tablespoon olive oil: 170 calories

Side snack: ½ apple and 1 low-fat cheese stick (110 calories)

26. Tarragon chicken salad: 400 calories

Why it rules: Walnuts are filled with good fats that can help boost brainpower.

  • 1 cup spinach: 7 calories
  • ½ chicken breast, sliced: 100 calories
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt: 30 calories
  • ¼ cup walnuts: 160 calories
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries: 90 calories
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped: 5 calories
  • 2 slices tomato: 10 calories
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped: Share on Pinterest

31. Mediterranean platter: 370 calories

Why it rules: Baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant) is a tasty alternative to fatty dips.

  • 1 whole-wheat pita, sliced: 80 calories
  • ¼ cup hummus: 150 calories
  • ¼ cup baba ghanoush: 100 calories
  • 5 black olives: 40 calories

Side snack: ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt with a dash of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon honey (120 calories)

32. Healthy stir-fried rice: 365 calories

Why it rules: DIY fried rice with olive oil is way healthier than any Chinese takeout, especially if you use brown rice.

  • ½ cup ready-made brown rice: 100 calories
  • 1 egg, scrambled with 1 teaspoon olive oil: 115 calories
  • 4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced: 40 calories
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped: 30 calories
  • ½ carrot, chopped: 30 calories
  • ¼ small red onion, sliced: 10 calories
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil: 40 calories

Side snack: Tropical fruit salad with 1 kiwi and ½ large orange (90 calories)

33. 3-bean salad with kale: 350 calories

Why it rules: Fiber-filled beans and vitamin-rich kale make this a winning meal.

  • 1 cup kale, massaged: 30 calories
  • 1 squeeze lime juice:


Tips for a Healthier Chipotle Order

We recommend that you pick and choose your favorite meat/tofu. Sacrifice the sour cream, and opt for cheese instead. Rely on the fresh salsa and fajita vegetables to provide ample flavor without tons of fat or calories.

We’ve created a list of our favorite Chipotle combinations that are under 500 calories yet are still packed with flavor and protein to keep you satisfied�use no one should have to go without Chipotle.