Nutritionists reveal what you should eat at McDonald’s and nine other fast food chains and restaurants if you’re on a diet
- High-street restaurants do offer some meals as little as 350 calories
- A pad Thai salad at Wagamamas is just 347 calories, nutritionists said
- Even at Burger King, you can get a filling vegetarian meal for 650 calories
- Three nutritionists pick the best choices so you don’t have to miss out
- The restaurants include Bill’s, Pizza Express, GBK and Wetherspoons
If you’re trying to lose weight, often the first hurdle is eating out.
Even if you go into the restaurant with good intentions, it can fall apart as soon as you the see the mouth-watering menu.
But look hard enough and you’ll spot nutritious meals that contain as few as 350 calories.
For MailOnline, three nutritionists have picked out low calorie options at 10 high street restaurants, including McDonald’s and Nando’s.
Nutritionists have picked out meals for high-street restaurants if you are on a weight loss drive
The Nando’s grilled chicken burger is a good source of protein
Plain PERi PERi Grilled Chicken Burger
Calories: 387 Protein: 37.6g Saturated fat: 6.2g
Pippa Campbell, a Jersey-based nutritionist and weight loss specialist, said: ‘Chicken is a good source of protein which balances blood sugars and provides essential amino acids.
‘Add a side of broccoli at only 12 calories which adds fibre to the meal and vitamin C.’
Chargrilled Veg, Roasted Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash, and Plain Grilled Chicken Breast
Chargrilled Veg from Nando’s
Calories: 399 Protein: 35.5g Saturated fat: 1.4g
Clare Thornton-Wood, a registered dietitian from Guilford, said: ‘The chicken provides a good source of lean protein, which will keep you feeling full.
‘The dish includes at least two of your five-a-day fruit and veg, and 8g of fibre, which is over one quarter of the recommended daily amount for an adult. The roasted vegetables are rich in vitamin A and C.’
Vegetarian option: Grains ‘n Greens Salad
Calories: 189 Protein: 10.4g Saturated fat: 0.9g
Rob Hobson suggests the Grains ‘n Greens Salad from Nando’s if you are vegetarian
Mixed grains, beans and corn, served on a bed of baby spinach, and topped with long stem broccoli.
Healthspan’s Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist based in London, said: ‘This is a great healthy dish that contains high amounts of fibre and protein both of which work to keep you feeling fuller for longer between meals.
‘It is light on calories so I would add the option of avocado (170 calories) which provides additional healthy fats (16.9g) to the dish.’
Naked Katsu Curry
Calories: 607 Protein: 43.9g Saturated fat: 6.4g
Grilled curried chicken on a bed of brown rice, with edamame beans, shredded carrots and Japanese pickles. Served with a side of katsu curry sauce.
Wagamamas Naked Katsu Curry is a take on their original, omitting white rice
Ms Campbell said: ‘Chicken is good source of protein and tolerated well by most people. The brown rice option is better because it is a whole grain, provides a slower release of energy that keeps blood sugars more balanced.
‘If you have the original Chicken Katsu Curry, which is double the calories, the panic breadcrumbs and white rice make it a high GI meal. Try omitting half the rice and asking for more salad.’
Pad Thai Salad
Wagamamas Pad Thai Salad has plenty of lean protein, Ms Thornton-Wood said
Calories: 347 Protein: 22.4g Saturated fat: 3.6g
Ginger chicken and prawns on a bed of salad, garnished with fried shallots and served with a side of peanuts and a nuoc cham and ginger miso dressing.
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘The chicken and prawns provide lean protein. The prawns are a good source of omega 3 and selenium. The dish includes a great range of salad items – mangetout, baby plum tomatoes, shredded pickled beetroot, carrot and red onion providing at least two of your five-a-day.’
Vegetarian option: Tofu harusame glass noodle salad
Calories: 437 Protein: 13.7g Saturated fat: 3.8g
Glass noodles mixed with tofu and salad has plenty of fibre, Mr Hobson said
Glass noodles mixed with tofu, kale, and salad, topped with fresh mint, crispy fried shallots and dressed with a spicy vinegar.
Mr Hobson said: ‘This dish contains a good source of protein from the tofu which is also a good source of calcium and iron.
‘There are plenty of wholesome veggies in this dish – edamame, adzuki beans, mangetout, blackened carrots and pea shoots. This will contribute to the fibre in the dish, which is about a fifth of your daily intake, and works with protein to help keep you full.
‘You could ask them to hold the crispy shallots. They are really tasty but could add unwanted calories to the dish if you’re trying to watch your weight. You could also ask for less noodles.’
Ms Campbell recommends the Bacon and Egg McMuffin if you are having breakfast at McDonald’s
Bacon and Egg McMuffin for breakfast
Calories: 348 Protein: 21g Saturated fat: 6.1g
Bacon with a free-range egg, a slice of cheese and a toasted English muffin.
Ms Campbell said: ‘Eggs provide healthy fats and choline which help cell membrane. It is a low sugar breakfast option.’
Original Hamburger with Side Salad and Apple and Grape Bag
Calories: 314 Protein: 14.3g Saturated fat: 3.4g
Beef patty with onions, pickles, mustard and a dollop of tomato ketchup, in a soft bun.
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘This provides two of your five-a-day and the burger meat is a good source of iron and zinc. The dressing only adds 23 kcals and less than 0.5g fat.’
Vegetarian option: The Spicy Veggie One
Calories: 364 Protein: 8.9g Saturated fat: 1.4g
The Spicy Veggie One from McDonald’s isn’t a bad option if you are watching your weight
Red pesto veggie goujons with spicy relish, tomato, lettuce and red onion in a soft, toasted tortilla wrap.
Mr Hobson said: ‘This wrap is one of the few veggie dishes in the menu but is an okay option as it does have a good source of protein.
‘It isn’t a bad option if you are watching your weight and looking for something other than a burger but more exciting than a salad.
‘The plain salad from McDonald’s adds very few calories to this dish is you ask for no dressing and just a wedge of lemon so this could be another addition to your meal to up your vegetable intake and help to fill you up on fewer additional calories.’
Zizzi’s Spiedini Pescatoreis a good source of Omegan 3
Calories: 560 Protein: N/A Saturated fat: 11g
A Mediterranean hanging skewer with smoked salmon fillet, shell-on king prawns, courgettes and peppers with a lemon butter & white wine sauce.
Ms Campbell said: ‘This meal is a great source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 with the fish as well as the vegetables it’s served with – herby potatoes and a baby gem salad. It’s an almost perfect choice so you could only make it slightly better by adding some folate rich rocket.’
Calories: 585 Protein: N/A Saturated fat: 4g
Lightly smoked salmon fillet, with a warm salad including new potatoes, green beans and pea shoots with a lemon butter and white wine sauce.
Ms Thornton-Wood recommends the Pan-seared Salmon as a main at Zizzi, which provides a range of vitamins and minerals from its high vegetable content
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘The salmon is a good source of omega 3 which is a nutrient we often miss out on.
‘The vegetables, such as artichoke, rocket and baby sunblush tomatoes, provide a range of vitamins and minerals and the new potatoes provide fibre and vitamin C.’
Vegetarian option: Rissotto Funghi
Calories: 439 Protein: N/A Saturated fat: 9.3g
With mushrooms, rosemary, sage and riserva cheese.
Mr Hobson said: ‘This is one of the few veggie options that isn’t pizza on the menu. It is high in saturated fat and this may be due to the addition of cheese or cream in the making of the dish. It is fairly good on the calorie front compared to other veggie dishes in the menu.
‘You could ask for this option without any cheese and I would also request a small plain salad without dressing to add some vegetables to your meal.’
Calories: 674 Protein: 28g Saturated fat: 10g
Penne pasta baked in a beef Bolognese sauce with garlic and fennel seeds, finished with shaved Gran Milano cheese.
Ms Campbell said: ‘Beef is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, including haem iron which is only found in meat and fish. Many women suffer with anaemia, which is an iron deficiency.’
Ms Thornton-Wood recommends the Nicoise Salad – but without dressing or dough sticks
Nicoise Salad no dressing or dough sticks
Calories: 366 Protein: 39.1g Saturated fat: 3.6g
Tuna, white anchovies, black olives, free-range egg, and salad.
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘Opting for this without the dressing and dough sticks saves 454 calories. You could add light house dressing for an additional 135 calories and perhaps only use half or ask for extra lemon juice/vinegar and use this with a tiny amount of oil (one teaspoon maximum).
‘The meal provides two of your five-a-day and iron and B vitamins from the egg.’
Vegetarian option: Leggera Giardiniera on a wholemeal base
Mr Hobson said if you are going to go to a pizza restaurant, you may as well order a pizza
Calories: 556 Protein: 6.1g Saturated fat: 5.7g
Artichoke, closed cup mushroom, black olives, with tomato, vegan mozzarella alternative, with a hole in the middle filled with salad.
Mr Hobson said: ‘If you’re going to a pizza restaurant then what is the best one to choose to keep on track with your diet instead of a salad?
‘This pizza with a hole in the middle is high in protein to help with satiety and the wholemeal base is high in fibre. There is a good amount of vegetable topping on this pizza.
‘You could ask for your pizza without the cheese or you could share the pizza with a friend and order the superfood salad between you.’
Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK)
Classic Chicken Burger
Calories: 982 Protein: 35.1 Saturated fat: 3.2g
Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s Classic Chicken Burger doesn’t have a lot of saturated fat compared to a beef burger, Ms Campbell said
Chicken burger with mayo and relish. Choose from chargrilled or panko crumbed and fried.
Ms Campbell said: ‘This is a healthier option because it has less saturated fat than a beef burger. Opt for the chargrilled version instead of the panko crumbed which is fried.’
Falafel Bites and Caesar Salad
Calories: 497 Protein: 39.1g Saturated fat: 6.7g
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘The best option here is falafel from the starter menus and a Caesar salad.
‘The dish provides one of two of your 5-a-day and the fat and calories are lower than many of the main meal choices, with a little fibre from the falafel.’
The vegetarian Jack-in-a-bun from GBK is a good source of protein, Mr Hobson said
Vegetarian option: Jack-in-a-bun
Calories: 590 Protein: 11.6 Saturated fat: 1.5g
Handmade butternut squash and quinoa patty, beetroot mayo, Korean pulled jackfruit and pickled onions.
Mr Hobson said: ‘This is the best option available for veggies in terms of the calorie count. It is low in saturated fat and does contain a good source of protein. You can also ask for this burger without the mayonnaise which will make it a little less calorific.’
Naked Hamburger with Salad and no dressing
Calories: 566 Protein: N/A Fat: 12.8g
A beef burger with lettuce, tomato, red onion and spiced mayo.
Ms Campbell said: ‘This is a healthier no carb option than with the burger bun.
If you’re going to Bill’s, Ms Thornton-Wood recommends the Pan-friend Seabass meal
‘Add long stem broccoli and sugar snap peas with seeds to add fibre, vitamins and minerals and healthy fats and ask for some balsamic and olive oil for a salad dressing. Olive oil provides good anti-inflammatory fats.’
Calories: 523 Protein: N/A Saturated fat: 4.4g
Served on a bed of crushed rosemary and garlic potatoes, with pea and basil pesto, finished with pea shoots.
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘The seabass is a good source of lean protein and the vegetables provide fibre and vitamins and minerals.’
Vegetarian option: Halloumi and Hummus Mezze Plate
Calories: 377 Protein: N/A Saturated fat: 7.1g
Fried halloumi, smashed avocado, tzatziki and toasted focaccia.
Mr Hobson said: ‘Although this is a sharing plate it is one of the only “mains” under 400 calories. It does have a good source of protein from the halloumi and the hummus and other veggies on the plate offer essential micronutrients and fibre.’
Mr Hobson recommends looking at the sharing plates, such as the Halloumi and Hummus Mezze Plate, while ordering a main meal, as this may be less calories
Burger King sells Chicken Fries coated in a light crispy breading which are recommended by nutritionists over burgers
Chicken Fries (nine pieces), Garden Side Salad and Apple Slices
Calories: 335 Protein: 28g Saturated fat: 3g
Ms Campbell said: ‘A better choice than the high saturated fat burgers and lower in carbs are the Chicken Fries.
‘They have a good amount of protein per serving and protein is satiating.
‘Add a side salad which has 0g of trans fats and provides some vitamins and minerals, and fruit for the sweet tooth instead of the ice cream and milkshakes on offer.’
Crispy Chicken Salad and Chicken Strips
Calories: 590 Protein: 42g Saturated fat: 8g
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘The salad on its own is a very low calorie option (210 calories), with some lean proteins from the chicken and at least one of your five-a-day.
‘You could add more protein with the Chicken Strips, however be aware that the chicken is breaded. There are no trans fats or sugars in this meal which is good.’
There’s not much to choose from that will help with weight loss at Burger King, but Ms Thornton-Wood recommends the Crispy Chicken Salad for its vegetable content
Vegetarian option: Mozarella Sticks (three pieces) and King Fish Burger
Calories: 650 Protein: 27g Saturated fat: 9g
Mr Hobson said: ‘There is very very little to chose from on the Burger King menu in terms of calorie content and vegetable content.
‘However, there are some options on the menu which are low in sugar and fat. The King Fish Burger, although the fish is breaded, is low in saturated fat. The Mozarella Sticks have barely any sugar, 0g of trans fats and still 9g of protein.’
Beef Lasagne at Wetherspoon is a good option on the menu because it has haem iron, Ms Campbell said. (Stock photo)
Calories: 756 Protein: N/A Fat: N/A
Ms Campbell said: ‘This meal has a good source of haem iron which many people are low in – especially women.
‘An iron deficiency can make you feel tired, lacking in energy and give you brittle nails and hair.
‘Don’t add the chips or garlic pizza which is loaded in unrefined carbs and unhealthy fats.’
Jacket Potato with Five Bean Chilli and a Side Salad
Calories: 477 Protein: N/A Fat: N/A
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘The beans count as one portion of vegetables and are a good source of soluble fibre, which can help decrease your blood cholesterol. The jacket potato skin increases this even further and the entire dish is low in fat.’
Vegetarian option: Quinoa Salad
Calories: 498 Protein: N/A Fat: N/A
The quinoa salad has plenty of nutritious vegetables which contribute to fibre intake, Mr Hobson said. (Stock photo)
Mr Hobson said: ‘This is a really healthy salad made with quinoa then additional nutritious veggies including cabbage and avocado.
‘There are not a huge amount of veggie options on the menu other than a burger or pizza but this high protein and fibre option is great.’
For a vegetarian option, Mr Hobson recommends Peri-peri Tofu Skewers
Garlic and Chilli Prawns starter with garlic bread
Calories: 358 Protein: 17.9g Saturated fat: 15.3g
Prawns in a garlic and chilli butter, with a slice of garlic bread on the side.
Ms Campbell said: ‘Prawns are a good source of protein. They also contain selenium, which supports a healthy thyroid function.
‘The B12 in prawns is an important nutrient often lacking in vegetarian diets. Try omitting the garlic bread to reduce unrefined carbs and opting for the salad bar instead.’
Fish Pie with Chargrilled Broccoli and Steamed vegetables
Calories: 554 Protein: 31.6g Saturated fat: 11.4g
Salmon and white fish in a creamy leek sauce, topped with Smoked Applewood Cheddar mash.
Ms Thornton-Wood said: ‘The fish is a good source of lean protein and omega 3, particularly in the salmon. Adding the vegetables provides fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals such as A, C, calcium and iron.’
Vegetarian option: Peri-peri Tofu Skewers
Calories: 544 Protein: 23.2g Saturated fat: 2.8g
Roasted butternut squash, quinoa, chargrilled Tenderstem broccoli and soya beans, topped with peri-peri tofu skewers and dressing.
Mr Hobson said: ‘This is option contains a good source of protein from the tofu skewers and also comes with quinoa, squash and broccoli that offer a good source of fibre.
‘The calories may still be on the high side for some people so you could ask for the dressing on the side or request a smaller serving of the grain element of the salad.’
Some restaurants did not list data for each nutritional measure.
|Restaurant||Meal||Calories||Protein (g)||Saturated Fat (g)|
|Nando’s||Plain Grilled Chicken Burger||387||37.6||6.2|
|Chargrilled Veg, Roasted Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash, and Plain Grilled Chicken Breast||399||35.5||1.4|
|Grains ‘n Greens Salad||189||10.4||0.9|
|Wagamamas||Naked Katsu Curry||607||43.9||6.4|
|Pad Thai Salad||347||22.4||3.6|
|Tofu harusame glass noodle salad||437||13.7||3.8|
|McDonald’s||Bacon and Egg McMuffin||348||21||6.1|
|Original Hamburger with Side Salad and Apple and Grape Bag||314||14.3||3.4|
|The Spicy Veggie One||364||8.9||1.4|
|Nicoise Salad no dressing or dough sticks||366||39.1||3.6|
|Leggera Giardiniera on a wholemeal base||566||6.1||5.7|
|Gourmet Burger Kitchen||Classic Chicken Burger||982||35.1||3.2|
|Falafel Bites and Caesar Salad||497||39.1||6.7|
|Bill’s||Naked Hamburger with Salad and no dressing||566||N/A||12.8|
|Halloumi and Hummus Mezze Plate||377||N/A||7.1|
|Burger King||Chicken Fries (9) Garden Side Salad and Apple Slices||335||28||3|
|Crispy Chicken Salad and Chicken Strips||590||42||8|
|Mozarella Sticks (3) and King Fish Burger||650||27||9|
|JD Wetherspoon||Beef Lasagne||756||N/A||N/A|
|Jacket Potato with Five Bean Chili and side salad||477||N/A||N/A|
|Harvester||Garlic and Chilli Prawns starter with garlic bread||358||17.9||15.3|
|Fish Pie with Chargrilled Broccoli and Steamed vegetables||554||31.6||11.4|
|Peri-peri Tofu Skewers||544||23.2||2.8|