Restaurant Choices

Chili’s: What To Eat And What To Avoid When Trying To Lose Weight

Shedding unwanted weight can often feel like an uphill battle. It isn’t easy, nor is there a quick fix that can yield long term results. True weight loss and health is about eating well and making sustainable choices that you can implement long term. Part of keeping weight off for good is knowing how to eat in a mindful way. That means choosing foods that aid in weight loss, while ditching those that can pack on the pounds.

While most of us can adopt new food habits when cooking at home, making healthy choices can be a bit more difficult when eating out at a restaurant. Tempting foods, social pressures, and even lack of knowledge on the right foods can all lead to less than stellar choices. Luckily, every restaurant has options that can help you to lose weight or maintain your current weight,  including Chili’s. It’s all about knowing which foods will pack a powerful punch in attaining your weight loss goals and which will prove detrimental to your diet.

So can you still eat at Chili’s without sabotaging your diet? Yes, but you’re going to have to be smart. Knowing how food can work with your weight loss goals is key. Even foods that may seem healthy on paper don’t pan out when it comes to helping you meet your ideal weight. Know which ingredients make your food powerful weight loss allies and which will leave you wanting more.

What To Eat For Weight Loss At Chili’s

Image by Larry Hoffman on Flickr

Ancho Salmon

You might be craving a crispy-battered chicken sandwich or a sizzling fajita, but those things won’t get you very far on your weight loss journey. Instead, opt for the Ancho Salmon, a seared chile-rubbed salmon served with steamed broccoli and a side of Mexican rice. While trying to lose weight, think of salmon as a turbo boost to meeting your goals.

Healthy Fish for Weight Loss

Salmon is an excellent source of protein, boasting just 13 grams of fat, and highly beneficial omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats that can actually improve insulin sensitivity in the body. According to research conducted by the American Diabetes Association, improved insulin sensitivity can lower the accumulation of body fat cells.


A side of steamed broccoli just adds to the weight loss benefits. Broccoli is a good carbohydrate that is seriously rich in soluble fiber. Eating broccoli aids in digestion and prevents constipation, and maintains blood sugar levels, discouraging overeating. Since broccoli can help you to feel fuller longer, it can keep you from snacking in between meals, a sneaky source of weight gain.

Mango Chile Chicken

Not in the mood for salmon? All is not lost. In fact, there are still plenty of menu options at Chilis that can help you meet your weight loss goals. It is all about mindful eating. Mango Chili Chicken boasts a grilled chicken breast seasoned with chile spices, cilantro, pico, and avocado. It is served with a side of Mexican rice and steamed broccoli. Right off the bat, you’re getting the benefits of the broccoli as mentioned above. Now instead of salmon, you’re working with grilled chicken, an excellent aid in losing weight.

Grilled Chicken Breast

Grilled chicken is an amazing source of protein and has been proven to aid in weight loss. As far as meats go, chicken is extremely low in fat. The average 4 oz serving contains just 1.4 grams of total fat, yet boasts a whopping 26 grams of protein. Calories are low, but you aren’t compromising on feeling satiated.

A study published by the Official Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that protein is key in shedding those pounds and keeping them off. The study also showed that keeping protein intake higher preserves lean muscle mass during periods of dieting or low-calorie eating. This can help you maintain muscle while burning fat. The goal is always to lose fat, not muscle.


The Mango Chile Chicken also throws in a hearty dose of avocado, an extremely important tool in losing weight. A recent study by Penn State University found that people who consume around 3 tablespoons of foods rich in oleic oils can lower their belly fat by 1.6 percent. A secondary study conducted by the medical journal Diabetes Care, also found that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats found in avocados can prevent fat distribution around the belly by downregulating the expression of fat genes. Your body needs good fats to feel full and nourished, avocados do just that.

What To Avoid At Chili’s For Weight Loss

Honey-Chipotle Crispers

Image by Clotee Pridgen Allochuku on Flickr

Breaded Chicken

Chicken fingers might seem healthy. After all, chicken is high in protein and protein equals lean muscle mass, right? Well, this isn’t true when they are breaded and deep-fried. High in calories, carbohydrates, sugar and fat, honey-chipotle crispers are a nutritional nightmare. Breaded chicken is loaded with carbohydrates. Deep frying the breading means that they are also soaked in bad fats, rather than healthy fats offered in foods such as avocados.

Refined Sugar

Many restaurants implement sneaky sugars to improve taste in barbecue sauces and keep you wanting more. Excess sugar is very high in calories, while offering little in the way of nutritional value. Sugar offers empty calories that interfere with your hormones and increase your overall appetite. Additionally, added sugar can increase your risk of chronic conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Boss Burger

This is where things get dicey. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re going to want to ditch most chain-restaurant or fast food burgers all-together. While lean red meat can be a healthy source of protein, the beef used in many chain-burgers is highly processed, fatty, and spiked with sodium. At Chilis, you’re going to want to avoid the Boss Burger in particular.

Processed Meats

This burger may be the end-all for burger enthusiasts, but it won’t be kind to your scale. Topped with brisket, rib meat, sausage, bacon, cheddar, and BBQ sauce, it is full of sneaky sugars, salt, and highly processed meats. Highly processed meat and ground beef can be very high in iron. Research suggests that excessive amounts of iron can increase the risk of weight gain.

According to the Journal of Clinical Investigation’s study, consuming too much red meat can suppress leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone that signals to the brain when you’ve had enough food.  When leptin levels drop, it causes us to overeat, never feeling fully satisfied. Processed red-meat can also contain a whopping dollop of fat, typically well above 2.5 grams, which is above the healthy range for one meal.

Refined White Bread

A burger also comes complete with a white bread bun. While carbs aren’t the root of all evil, a white bread roll is very highly refined and almost always contains added sugar. This makes a burger roll very high on the glycemic index, spiking blood sugar levels and causing you to eat more. One study examined found that eating two slices of white bread per day is linked to a 40% greater chance of weight gain.

French Fries

Think you can’t eat out without some fries? You’ll have to if you want to keep those pounds off. While potatoes alone aren’t entirely unhealthy, french fries are known, diet killers. Not only are french fries very high in calories, but studies show that consuming french fries have been linked to significant weight gain. Aside from the fatty oils, they are fried in, they are starchy and high on the glycemic index, making them a risk to overall metabolic health and a deterrent to weight loss. Additionally, french fries are very high in saturated fat, carbohydrates, and cholesterol. Next time someone asks you if you want fries with that, say no.

The Takeaway

When eating at Chili’s, always opt for meals that are grilled and full of nutritious sides, such as vegetables or even brown rice. Skip anything that is deep fried or rife with processed red meats. These are diet saboteurs looking to get you way off track on your diet journey.

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