Dining out is not always easy for the health-conscious, and Chili’s Bar and Grill is no exception. Many a diner has walked past that cheerful pepper logo determined to eat healthy only to end up seduced by the Chili’s menu. Give in to what “looks good” and you could end up consuming a full day’s calories before even looking at the dessert selections. What can be done to prevent this? Ordering what “looks healthy” isn’t a good option (many healthy-sounding entrees are actually loaded with fat and calories), nor is grilling some poor overworked waiter (many are forbidden to disclose calorie information even if they happen to know it).
While the Chili’s nutrition facts are available on the company’s website (which can be viewed here), squinting at rows of numbers just to find something to eat for dinner is about as much fun as a college course in tax law. With that in mind, we here at Bright Hub have taken it upon ourselves to do some of the work. Here are some of the pitfalls to watch out for when eating at Chili’s Bar and Grill, as well as some specific recommendations.
Pitfalls to Avoid when Eating at Chili’s Bar and Grill
Chili’s has caught on to the fact that there’s money to be made from those who don’t want to throw dietary common sense out the window as soon as they walk through the door. However, a quick look at the Chili’s nutrition facts reveals not all is at seems. Many dishes seem healthy, but are not.
Take, for example, the seductively-titled Asian Salad with Salmon. While this sounds like a great choice (Asian cuisine is among the healthiest on earth), the Chili’s entree contains 1120 calories and a whopping 69 grams of fat. The Chicken Fajitas, after factoring in condiments and 3 flour tortillas, contains 970 calories and 41 grams of fat. Also, the health-conscious diner needs to watch out for meal “add-ons”, such as sides and appetizers. The Chili’s appetizers are particular insidious.
Another example from the menu is Boneless Buffalo Wings, which weigh it at a hefty 1200 calories and 81 grams of fat (more than the Mayo Clinic says the average American should eat in a single day) or the Artichoke Dip, which (despite being named after a vegetable) packs 1130 calories and 90 grams of fat.
Recommendations When Eating at Chili’s Bar and Grill
Just as the Chili’s nutrition facts can help weed out some dishes, the same information can help steer the health-conscious toward better choices. Some of the best choices are found on the Chili’s Guiltless Grill Menu. All the options on this menu are under 600 calories, with the majority falling in the 300-400 calorie range. Though some are a bit heavy on the fat (the Guiltless Grill Caribbean Salad, for example, has 24 grams), most have a manageable 6-12, and the majority of the fat content is heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
Another good way to go is the Create Your Own Combo, which allows customers to pair any protein and any side. Healthy protein options include Grilled Salmon with Herbs (370 calories), Shrimp with Tequila Lime Sauce (400 calories), Margarita Grilled Chicken (110 calories) and even a classic Sirloin Steak (310 Calories). Paired with a serving of seasonal vegetables (80 Calories), or a side salad with fat free honey mustard dressing (210 total calories), these make a complete meal even a dietitian could love, and enable even the most calorie-obsessed diner to enjoy an evening at Chili’s Bar and Grill.
Information for Vegetarians and Those with Food Allergies
Not every health-conscious diner is concerned solely with fat and calories. There are those who avoid meat for social or religious reasons, as well as those who suffer from food allergies and could end up in the Emergency Room if they consume the wrong thing. The basic Chili’s nutrition facts aren’t so helpful to these kinds of customers. For them, Chili’s provides a vegetarian menu and an allergen information sheet.
Though a discussion of the allergy information menu is beyond the scope of this article, it is worth noting that while Chili’s has the word of suppliers that specific allergens are not included in the ingredients of listed foods, cross-contamination (meaning when foods touch each other during the preparation process) is a possibility.
Chili’s Bar and Grill. (2010). Chili’s Nutrition Menu. Retrieved 15 March 2010 from https://www.chilis.com/EN/Nutritional%20Information/Chilis_Nutrition_Menu_Generic.pdf.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (13 February, 2009). Healthy diet: End the Guesswork with These Nutrition Guidelines. Retrieved 15 March, 2010 from https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-diet/NU00200.