16 Restaurant Dishes Made Healthy

Your favorite restaurant dishes—lightened!

Lightened Restaurant Dishes

Photo: José Picayo

Lightened Restaurant Dishes

We took classic restaurant dishes, kept the meal appeal, and cut the calories by a huge amount. Here are the ingredients and techniques that make that possible.

Deli sandwiches can get ridiculously big—some piled so high they're impossible to eat. You don't need sodium-heavy corned beef layered 3 inches high to get plenty of savory flavor. So we shrank the portion size to reap significant nutritional savings.

The Classic:
860 calories per serving
15 grams saturated fat
4,186 milligrams sodium

The Makeover:
336 calories per serving
5.6 grams saturated fat
790 milligrams sodium

View Recipe: Reuben Sandwiches

Lightened Vegetable Lasagna

Photo: José Picayo

Creamy Lasagna

Lots of colorful, delicious baby veggies between pasta layers reduce the typical mounds of cheese. Red sauce often contains fatty meats like sausage, and standard white sauces rely on cream. Our white sauce is based on fat-free broth, and we add just a bit of cream and an egg to give it a silky texture. We boosted the amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Aged cheeses have rich, concentrated flavor, so you can get away with using less. We sprinkled the Parm within the layers to supplement the fontina that's used to give a crunchy-cheesy crust on top.

The Classic:
850 calories per serving
25 grams saturated fat
2,830 milligrams sodium

The Makeover:
401 calories per serving
7.5 grams saturated fat
802 milligrams sodium

View Recipe: Vegetable Lasagna

Lightened Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

Photo: José Picayo

Beef Enchiladas

You can make all of the components ahead and simply assemble the enchiladas just before baking.

The Classic:
730 calories two enchiladas; no garnish
22 grams saturated fat
2,155 milligrams sodium

The Makeover:
343 calories two enchiladas; no garnish
5.8 grams saturated fat
540 milligrams sodium

View Recipe: Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

Lightened Shrimp Fried Rice

Photo: José Picayo

Shrimp Fried Rice

This dish is best if you use day-old rice. Cook it and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet to cool completely. Then refrigerate overnight to allow it to lose any excess moisture.

The Classic:
1,154 calories per serving
4 grams saturated fat
3,352 milligrams sodium

The Makeover:
368 calories per serving
1.5 grams saturated fat
560 milligrams sodium

View Recipe: Shrimp Fried Rice

Lightened Beef Filets with Red Wine Sauce and Roasted Veggie Fries

Photo: José Picayo

Steak Frites

Coat potato wedges and baby carrots with a mixture of cornmeal and grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to add crunchy texture and golden-brown color to the plate.

The Classic:
1,560 calories per serving
36 grams saturated fat
2,080 milligrams sodium

The Makeover:
521 calories per serving
8.3 grams saturated fat
795 milligrams sodium

View Recipe: Beef Filets with Red Wine Sauce and Roasted Veggie Fries

Lighter Cheesesteak

Photo: Randy Mayor


What hot dogs are to Coney Island and wings are to Buffalo, the cheesesteak is to Philadelphia: iconic, tasty, and loaded with salt and fat. But, thanks to our lightened version, you'll be able to enjoy this meaty, gooey, and delightfully messy, sandwich all year.

The Classic: 
1,151 calories per sandwich
27.3 grams saturated fat
1,480 milligrams sodium

The Makeover:
397 calories per sandwich
4.9 grams saturated fat
637 milligrams sodium

View Recipe: Philly Cheesesteak

Lighter Eggplant Parmesan

Photo: Randy Mayor

Eggplant Parmesan

Talk about a dish that could stand to lose a few: The Italian-American favorite of eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese—spelled variously "Parmesan," "parmigian," or "parmigiana"—knows no nutritional boundaries. We've revamped this tasty casserole to help it lose the heaviness, not to mention the grease, of the old standard. You'll have room for dessert.

The Classic: 
1,053 calories per serving
30.4 grams saturated fat
1,965 milligrams sodium

The Makeover:
318 calories per serving
8.2 grams saturated fat
655 milligrams sodium

View Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

Lighter Gumbo

Photo: John Autry


This is certainly not a soup to disrespect. To build all that great flavor with lower sodium, we began by making a quick homemade shrimp stock reduction, drawing lots of shrimp flavor from the shells. We slashed more sodium by ditching the sausage and instead using meaty chicken thighs for richness. The briny shrimp needed just a light dusting of smoked paprika to take the flavor to a whole new level—no extra salt required. Canola oil replaced saturated fat--heavy butter in the nicely darkened roux.

• 890 calories per serving
2,501 milligrams sodium
14.8 grams saturated fat

• 334 calories per serving
539 milligrams sodium
1.6 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Smoky Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo

Lighter Crab Cakes

Photo: Randy Mayor

Crab Cakes

Our version of crab cakes is ideal for the season: a ­vibrant and light dish that pairs perfectly with a crisp salad and glass of wine. We lightly season sweet, premium crab and use just enough mayonnaise, low-sodium panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), and egg to bind it all together. We don’t add any salt to the mixture, to keep sodium in check. The cakes are cooked in a slick of oil instead of deep-fried. We love a good rémoulade but overhaul the condiment to add a flavor punch without as much sodium.

• 734 calories per serving
1,285 milligrams sodium
8.6 grams saturated fat

• 292 calories per serving
571 milligrams sodium
1.6 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Crab Cakes with Spicy Rémoulade

Lighter Chicken Fingers

Photo: Johnny Autry

Chicken Fingers

Instead of batter-coated, deep-fried chicken drowning in fatty sauce, our chicken gets a crunchy exterior from cereal and is served with just enough spicy mayo for dipping. Use less hot chile sauce (or none at all) if serving to children.

• 703 calories per serving
1,000 milligrams sodium
10.7 grams saturated fat

• 414 calories per serving
495 milligrams sodium
1.5 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Pan-Fried Chicken Fingers with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Lighter Chicken Parm

Photo: Jason Wallis

Chicken Parm

Chicken Parm can become a real doorstop three ways: The chicken portions are too large, then breaded and deep-fried, then placed on a giant pillow of pasta. By splitting chicken breasts lengthwise, we maintain maximum surface area for lots of crispy coating satisfaction while using half the meat. Sayonara, though, to most of the high-calorie pasta: It now plays a supporting role. This recipe also shows that bypassing the deep fryer and minimizing the oil in the sauté pan can still give you crispy cutlets, with a lot less fuss. A sizable serving of high-flavor broccoli rabe fills out this delicious plate.

• 1,422 calories per serving
62 grams fat
18.9 grams saturated fat

• 503 calories per serving
16.5 grams fat
5.2 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti

Fried Chicken

Photo: Jason Wallis

Fried Chicken

We love fried chicken. But that bird won't fly in a half-cal/full-plate world. Instead, we begin with the rich flavor of thigh meat and use simple pan-fry techniques to achieve the savory satisfaction of fried chicken without the oil bath. Both the skin and the heavy breading are gone from the bird, as is the cream from the creamed corn (we use flour-thickened milk; it's really good). Our stewed greens contain no bacon fat (or even oil)—just tender greens in a bit of stock. This is no stingy imitation; it's a plate of chicken, corn, and greens that sticks to the ribs, lightly.

• 1,170 calories per serving
78.5 grams fat
31.6 grams saturated fat

• 493 calories per serving
18.8 grams fat
5.4 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Savory Pan-Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce

Fish Curries

Photo: Jason Wallis

Fish Curries

Traditional fish curries of this type rely on fatty-fat coconut cream and coconut milk for thickness, richness, and creaminess. We love all that coconut goodness, but start instead with light coconut milk, reducing it down by about half: As the water evaporates, the flavor gets concentrated and the texture thickens up nicely. Rather than drown the fish in a pool of sauce, we drape our intense curry over the fish and cashew rice. This wise calorie cutting leaves room for a big handful of chewy, rich cashews. A pile of stir-fried veggies rounds out the meal.

• 1,701 calories per serving
75.2 grams fat
45.5 grams saturated fat

• 483 calories per serving
20.4 grams fat
7.3 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Coconut Curry Halibut

Meat Loaf

Photo: Jason Wallis

Meat Loaf

Mushrooms replace half the beef in our meat loaf, where they not only slash calories but also add deep, earthy flavor while keeping the mix moist. Cauliflower stands in for much of the starchy potatoes in a delicious cauliflower mash. Even the peas and carrots side is lighter: Sugar snaps are a bit less caloric than starchier green peas.

• 928 calories per serving
59.1 grams fat
27.5 grams saturated fat

• 451 calories per serving
19.6 grams fat
8.3 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Cremini Mushroom Meat Loaf


Photo: Jason Wallis

Tomato Sauce Lasagna

Most vegetable-based lasagnas lean heavily on cream sauces. Go with tomato sauce instead, as we do here, and loads of fat and calories fall away. That rewards the cook with a large but light portion. We also use fewer noodles—only 2 layers—and add heft with earthy kale and mushrooms. The fresh orange side salad is lightly dressed and uses juicy oranges—not an oil slick—to keep the leaves moist.

• 1,098 calories per serving
78 grams fat
39 grams saturated fat

• 510 calories per serving
16.9 grams fat
5.8 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Kale and Mushroom Lasagna

Po' Boy

Photo: Jason Wallis


This dramatic po'boy makeover results from two strategies: a reasonable portion approach and oven-frying. Our sandwich is a wonderfully messy handful, just nowhere near a foot-long monster that in a traditional recipe can deliver an entire day's worth of calories and more than a day's worth of fat. Calorie cutting begins with keeping the shrimp and baked pickle chips away from the deep fryer, yet there's still the required crunch and yum because high-heat baking crisps things up mighty fine. You get a heap of garlicky kale on the side.

• 2,161 calories per serving
89.5 grams fat
12.6 grams saturated fat

• 456 calories per serving
8.6 grams fat
1.1 grams saturated fat

View Recipe: Shorty Shrimp Po'boys

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