Eating out with friends can be a real dilemma. What restaurant do you choose if one friend is a "baby back ribs and deep-fried onion rings kind-of-eater," and another dining partner is a "lowfat, chicken or vegetarian" type?
That's when Chili's Grill & Bar comes to the rescue. Chili's offers a diverse menu that runs the gamut when it comes to fat and calories.
You'll find hefty starters and main dishes, like Philly cheese steak sandwiches, fried chicken strips, and homestyle fries, but Chili's also offers lower-fat salads and sandwiches, as well as its Guiltless Grill menu.
Grilled chicken is the common ingredient in all of the lowfat Guiltless Grill menu items, however, the chicken can be omitted from these dishes for a vegetarian meal.
The Guiltless Chicken Salad, made with grilled chicken, pico de gallo (a mild salsa), black beans, corn, bell peppers, green onions and lowfat Southwest dressing, contains about 5 grams of fat.
The Guiltless Chicken Platter consisting of grilled chicken breast, rice, corn on the cob, and steamed veggies with Parmesan cheese has approximately 9 fat grams.
The Guiltless Chicken Sandwich, made with grilled chicken, nonfat honey mustard, lettuce, pickle and tomato, is served with black beans and steamed fresh veggies topped with Parmesan cheese. The Guiltless Grill Pita has grilled chicken, lettuce, pico de gallo and lowfat Southwest dressing stuffed into warm pita bread. Each of these menu items contains about 9 grams of fat.
At most Chili's locations, you will also find a Guiltless Chicken Pasta Primavera made with grilled chicken breast, steamed fresh veggies, penne pasta, tomato basil marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. This pasta dish weighs in at approximately 15 fat grams.
Unfortunately, Chili's does not give out its recipes. However, you can create dishes at home that are similar.
The Guiltless Grill menu items contain very basic ingredients. Begin by grilling your own chicken breast. Or for a speedier version, use Tyson-brand, fully-cooked and seasoned, frozen Grilled Chicken Strips (120 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving). Purchase canned black beans and fresh or frozen corn. Steam whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. We recommend Safeway Select Verdi Marinara sauce if making the penne pasta dish. And, be sure to choose a lowfat or nonfat salad dressing.
Chili's is in Waikiki, Waikele, Mililani and Kahala.
The following recipe for Pico de Gallo is quick to make and versatile. This lowfat condiment may be served with a variety of dishes in place of high fat dressings and sauces.
Combine ingredients and toss lightly. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Makes about 4 cups.
Pico de Gallo Salsa1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1-2 tablespoons minced jalapeno pepper
2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
3 cups rough chopped firm ripe tomatoes
Approximate nutritional analysis per 1/4 cup serving: 15 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 70 mg sodium.*
Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who has been teaching
and writing about food and nutrition since 1975.
Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a food and nutrition consultant
and owner of Exploring New Concepts, a nutritional consulting firm.
She is also responsible for the nutritional analyses
indicated by an asterisk in this section.