published Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Restaurants offer light menus for dieters

More and more area restaurants are focusing on healthy fare. Dining out is such a big part of the culture that restaurants must be responsive to customers trying to control their waistlines.

Here are a few restaurants in Chattanooga with special menu items for calorie counters.

Mount Vernon: The menu at this popular South Broad Street restaurant includes a selection of diet-friendly entrees prepared with olive oil to make them lower in fat. Among the dishes on the “lighter side” menu are: herb-grilled shrimp, seasoned grilled chicken breast and filet of mahi mahi. Off the sandwich menu, the Mount Vernon Grouper sandwich is a good choice.

Olive Garden: A trip to an Italian restaurant doesn’t have to be a calorie-fest. At Olive Garden, low-fat entrees are highlighted on the menu. Seafood selections include Capellini di Mare (shrimp, clams and muscles sauteed in white wine), and Seafood Brodetto (scallops, shrimp and tilapia in marinara-saffron broth). A healthier poultry dish is Venetian Apricot Chicken, a grilled breast served in an apricot citrus sauce.

Chili’s: This popular bar and grill with several local locations features a Guiltless Grill menu. For example, the regular grilled chicken sandwich can be adapted — no bacon, no cheese and a wheat bun — in Guiltless Grill mode. The lower-calorie option is served with steamed vegetables and a lower-cal honey-mustard dressing. The grilled salmon entree can be served with steamed vegetables and butterless rice for a healthier dish.

Red Lobster: Seafood, when not served with carb-packed bread, pastas and potato dishes, is often quite diet-friendly. Live Maine lobster has only 145 calories and two carbs per portion. Garlic-grilled jumbo shrimp at Red Lobster has only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat. Don’t go overboard with the dipping sauces, though. Even the healthiest dish changes character when dipped in melted butter.

Panera Bread: This popular chain of bakery/sandwich cafes has been in the vanguard of the healthy eating movement — an apple instead of chips as a side order, anyone? Low-fat items on the Panera menu are highlighted. Try the wild berry smoothie. At 300 calories, it’s a viable meal substitute. Healthier soups include low-fat chicken noodle and garden vegetable soup with pesto.

Source: Online menus

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