Chris Powell: How to pick healthy meals at popular restaurants

Dining at some of your favorite restaurants can be healthy, if you know what to pick on the menu. Don't let "today's special" and huge restaurant menus knock you off a healthy track.  

"When we go to a restaurant we are in control," explained Transformation Specialist Chris Powell.

The host of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" agreed to show ABC15 how to avoid the pitfalls of extra calories while dining out.

Our first stop: Applebee's .   

"Applebee's did a great job because they have this whole line of Weight Watchers menus," Powell said.

He feels a smart choice at any restaurant is fish.

"Most of the white fish you get at a restaurant they're a pretty safe bet," said Powell. "Check out the Blackened Talapia. This whole meal with fish, potatoes, broccoli everything is only 410 calories."

Applebee's Dijon Chicken with Portobello Mushrooms is also a good choice at 470 calories.

"If you say simply hold the cheese we can cut 70 maybe 80 calories off of that."

Powell thinks Applebee's best option is steak, broccoli & a baked potato with no sour cream or butter.

"Believe it or not this meal right here has less calories then all of these other meals," Powell explained.

Cheesecake Factory is our next stop. Portion sizes are so big, Powell suggested  ordering off the appetizer menu, like Thai Chicken Wraps at just a couple hundred calories and a few grams of fat.

"All of a sudden when we add in these sauces that come with the Thai Chicken Wraps and very quickly this appetizer goes to over a thousand calories, 1070 calories," said Powell.

The Asian Chicken Salad on the Cheesecake Factory's "Weight Management Menu" will set you back just a couple hundred calories. Remember, to hold the dressing or use just a tablespoon. And on the lunch menu, Powell's choice is a Half Turkey Sandwich and side salad at 440 calories.

"This is the perfect amount of food for the human body right here," smiled Powell.

Our last restaurant is Romano's Macaroni Grill .

"We can order off the kids' menu at most restaurants and you're going to get portions appropriate for adults," Powell stated.

If you're watching your waistline and your wallet, Powell suggests the Kids Chicken Strips with Broccolini at 380 calories and 25 grams of protein.

"All this spaghetti and we're talking almost 60 grams of carbs here and about 20 grams of protein for a total of 420 calories in this meal," explained Powell.

He's also a big fan of Macaroni Grill's Jumbo Shrimp Spiedini at just under 400 calories.

"It's our experience when we go to the restaurants," Powell said enthusiastically. "So we can have fun with it and we can remain in control and stay on our weight loss journey."

So bottom line: Don't be afraid to make substitutions which can help you shed hundreds of extra calories.

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