By Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor, EatingWell Magazine
Restaurant meals taste good and eating out sure is convenient. But some of the dishes we've come to love are costing our waistlines big-time. For example, the Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo serves up as many calories as some people should eat in an entire day and far more fat and saturated fat than is recommended in a day. Instead of cutting yourself off completely, try to make some of your favorite dishes at home. You may be surprised just how easy it is to make your fast-food and restaurant favorites at home and how many calories and grams of fat you'll save. EatingWell's healthy makeover of Fettuccine Alfredo, for example, has less than a third of the calories and reduced the amount of fat and saturated fat to a sixth of what is in the Olive Garden version.
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Below are 5 popular dishes at chain restaurants, recipes to make them healthier at home and a look at how many calories and how much fat you save by eating your homemade version instead of eating it at the restaurant. (You'll save money too!)
Fast-Food Favorite: Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo
Nutrition stats: 1,220 calories, 75 grams fat, 47 grams saturated fat
Recipe to Make It Healthier at Home: EatingWell's Fettuccine Alfredo
Nutrition stats: 379 calories, 11 g fat, 6 g saturated fat
What you save: 841 calories, 64 grams of fat, 41 grams of saturated fat
We replaced the copious amounts of butter and heavy cream used in traditional Alfredo sauces and instead we blend garlic-infused broth, reduced-fat sour cream and Parmesan cheese for a low-fat Alfredo sauce. With plenty of fiber from whole-wheat pasta and only 6 grams of saturated fat per serving, you can put Alfredo back into your pasta repertoire.
Fast-Food Favorite: Chipotle burrito with steak, beans and cheese
Nutrition stats: 700 calories, 25 grams fat, 13 grams saturated fat
Recipe to Make It Healthier at Home: EatingWell's Steak Burritos Nutrition stats: 471 calories 16 g fat, 6 g saturated fat What you save: 229 calories, 9 g fat, 7 g saturated fat
It's easy to get carried away with a burrito. There are just too many choices and too little room in that tortilla to squeeze in the meat, cheese, rice, beans, two kinds of salsa... you get the picture. And that's why burritos often end up swimming in calories -- they're just too darn big. EatingWell's healthier Steak Burrito was inspired by San Francisco's super burritos that come packed with meat, beans, rice, cheese, guacamole and salsa. We've made this home-style version a whole lot healthier with brown rice and whole-wheat tortillas and a much more reasonable serving size that still hits the spot.
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Fast-Food Favorite: Red Lobster New England Lobster Roll
Nutrition stats: 590 calories, 34 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat
Recipe to Make It Healthier at Home: EatingWell's Grilled Lobster Rolls Nutrition stats: 310 calories 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat What you save: 280 calories, 26 g fat, 3 g saturated fat
If you've ever been to the Maine coast, chances are you've had a run-in with a lobster roll. Lobster meat is sweet and mild and doesn't need tons of embellishments. The meat is coated in either butter or mayo, tossed with bits of celery and enjoyed on a hot-dog roll. What makes it great is the simplicity -- but it's easy to get carried away when two of the four ingredients are notoriously high in fat and calories. We offer a healthier alternative where we grill lobster tails and toss the meat with peas and only a touch of low-fat mayonnaise. It may not be traditional per se, but it saves you a ton of calories and fat -- and it's delicious. If you want to make it even simpler, skip grilling the tails and buy already-cooked lobster meat from your seafood counter.
Fast Food Favorite: P.F. Chang's Sweet & Sour Chicken with a side of white rice
Nutrition stats: 590 calories, 19 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat
Recipe to Make It Healthier at Home: EatingWell's Sweet & Sour Chicken with Brown Rice Nutrition stats: 469 calories, 10 fat, 1 g saturated fat What you save: 121 calories, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat
In about the time it takes to order and pick up Chinese takeout, you can make this much healthier version of sweet & sour chicken. Our version loses all the saturated fat that comes from deep-frying, along with the extra sugar and salt. We serve ours with brown rice, which gives you an added boost of fiber.
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Fast-Food Favorite: Macaroni Grill Caesar Salad
Nutrition stats: 420 calories, 39 grams fat, 8 grams saturated fat
Recipe to Make It Healthier at Home: EatingWell's Shrimp Caesar Salad Nutrition stats: 312 calories, 16 g fat, 4 g saturated fat What you save: 108 calories, 23 g fat, 4 g saturated fat
Salads may seem innocent enough in the nutrition department, but calories are lurking in them everywhere -- especially the dressings. Caesar salad is no exception. Its creamy, mayo-laden dressing can pack quite a punch calorically, but it's easy enough to make your own healthy version at home. Here we skip the mayo altogether and whip up a dressing from lemon juice, olive oil and flavorful Asiago cheese. We even add shrimp to our version and it still comes in around 100 calories less than a restaurant version.
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What favorite restaurant dish would you like a healthier version of?
By Hilary Meyer, EatingWell Associate Food Editor
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.
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