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By Ryan Williams

As someone who worked in the food industry for 6 years before joining The Plex, I feel I have a bit of insider knowledge on how to navigate eating out while trying to watch calories.

I have done the meal prepping thing and know how it can lead to burnout after a few weeks.

I also know cooking every meal is difficult to fit into a busy schedule.

Sometimes, whether it is convenience or just wanting to eat something different or social obligations, eating out is a part of almost everyone’s diet.

A lot of times that can be associated with less healthy options since you don’t have full control over the ingredients in your food.

However, I am here to tell you eating out should not discourage you while trying to lose weight.

And it should not even derail your progress if you know how to do it properly.

First off, I want to say this is a random list and no sort of ranking system.

I simply picked 13 various, popular restaurants from fast food to fine dining in the Texarkana area.

Most larger chains offer nutrition info on their website and for the mom and pop places, you can usually guesstimate using an app like MyFitnessPal or other nutrition calculators.

So beyond this resource, it is not difficult to plan your meals while eating out ahead of time.

Let’s get into it.

On The Border

I spent 2 years here and know what a guilty pleasure it can be to go out and have a couple drinks and eat chips and queso like it’s your last meal.

However, if you are trying to keep your calories in check, I’d recommend the…

Mexican Grilled Chicken

It is a Mesquite Grilled Chicken Breast topped with pico and their fresh salsa.

Keep the cilantro-lime rice and sautéed house veggies that come with it and you have a delicious, high protein meal for only 620 calories.

I can’t tell you to get a margarita on this list, but if you do, get a Herradura Margarita. Thank me later.

Texas Roadhouse

I may catch some heat, considering this is a steakhouse and I am recommending chicken, but this guide is about keeping calories down and not what the best thing on the menu is.

Portobello Mushroom Chicken

I promise not all these selections are going to be a variety of chicken breasts with various toppings, but the Portobello Mushroom Chicken is hard to beat. 

It is a marinated, grilled chicken breast topped with a portobello mushroom sauce, jack cheese, and parmesan. It comes in at 430 calories and almost 60 grams of protein. Stick to steamed veggies, corn, or green beans for your sides and keep this entree under 600 calories.

Try not to eat all the rolls!

Ironwood Grill

Honestly, Ironwood has several different options to keep your calories low, but for me, I like getting some fresh, high-protein Ahi Tuna when I can so go for the…

Sesame Ahi Tuna

They give a delicious, hefty 8 oz serving of seared ahi tuna with a sesame sauce running you around 350 calories and 60 grams of protein. 

Choose the grilled veggies and sautéed mushrooms for your sides and you’ve got a savory, protein packed meal to keep you full for hours.

Zapata’s Mexican Restaurant

Mexican restaurants can be difficult to navigate healthily, but long-time Texarkana staple, Zapata’s has you covered with…

Mahi Mahi Grilled Fish

It consists of grilled Mahi Mahi with Mexican rice and a cup of tortilla soup. 

As good as enchiladas smothered in queso sounds, this dish will satisfy your Tex-Mex cravings without you needing a siesta right after it.

Julie’s Deli

Another staple in Texarkana, Julie’s has been known for top notch ingredients and friendly service for as long as many can remember. 

What started as a sandwich shop has blossomed into a full-on bakery, market, catering business scooping up Best of Texarkana awards year after year. 

This will be dated as it is a current special but I would go with…

Moroccan Chicken with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This will run you somewhere around 600 calories, leaving some room for a piece of strawberry cake afterwards 😉

When Tex-Mex, fried chicken, and burgers are not doing it for your taste buds, come try this delightful African dish.

Naaman’s BBQ

Now to disclose a little bias, I worked at Naaman’s for 3 years while I was in college but I truly believe it is some of the best BBQ around. 

Darby, the owner, has put his heart and soul into every detail from the meat to the atmosphere. If you want to satisfy your BBQ desires, ask for a

1/3 lb. Meat Plate with Lean Brisket and Cole Slaw and Green Beans

Asking for lean brisket is going to seem a bit sacrilegious to some but a third pound of lean brisket is only going to run you around 250 calories. Add in a couple of lower calorie sides and you can enjoy some of the best BBQ in the nation for under 600 calories.

Benchmark American Brasserie

If you want to go out for a nice, fine dining option, look no further than Benchmark. 

Jason and Rebecca Williams are a culinary powerhouse and deliver an incredible French-American dining experience every time you go.

Their menu is always revolving with new, creative dishes but currently I’d go with the

Canard de Cassis

It is a seared duck breast topped with a sweet & savory red currant sauce, served with pommel dauphinoise and garlic-herb tai-color carrots.

Don’t let the big, French words scare you. 

This dish is sure to impress while staying under 700 calories.

Reggie’s

It may lead to a hard time from your buddies if you go out for lunch and order it, but when you are a man on a mission, you’ve gotta make sacrifices. Order a…

Bun-less Bacon Cheese Burger

Cutting out bread can save you a couple hundred calories leading you be able to enjoy a burger and fries for what I am figuring is roughly 700 calories.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

1 Grilled Fish Taco, 1 Grilled Shrimp Taco, and 1 Shredded Chicken Taco.

You don’t have to order rice and beans every time you have Mexican food. So if you are a hungry guy like me, order you these 3 tacos running between 220-240 calories a piece. 

If you are a lighter eater, opt for only 1 or 2 tacos. 

And if it is the weekend and you want to drink, swap a taco for a frozen margarita for roughly 50-100 calories more.

Chick-fil-A

We all know how busy Chick-Fil-A stays. Texarkana loves it some of God’s Chicken.

If you want to treat yourself to Chick-Fil-A and stay on track, try the…

Cobb Salad

Even with fried chicken and a dressing, you can keep it around 600-650 calories as long as you don’t drown it in ranch!

Chipotle

Similar to cutting out the bun when you have a burger, cutting out the tortilla can save you 200-300 calories when it comes to Tex-Mex. Chipotle even offers a nutrition calculator as you add on your ingredients on their website.

I get the…

Carnitas Burrito Bowl

which runs me around 700 calories.

A little caution: as much as I love guac, sour cream, and cheese, you may have to do some choosing as they can all rack up some calories, so I usually only add cheese.

Slim Chickens 

Another fast food option with beloved fried chicken is Slim’s.

If you want to get your fix, I recommend the…

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

This wrap will only run you right under 450 calories. 

So you can enjoy a delicious wrap and fries for about 700 calories.

Fuji Kim’s

When it comes to sushi, and eating Japanese food in general, there are some critical things to know to keep the calories low.

For one, I would suggest filling up a bit on some miso or mushroom soup or perhaps some high-protein edamame before the entree. 

There unfortunately isn’t a way to keep fried rice low calorie aside from portion control and if you crazies start trying to make it with cauliflower rice, I’m calling the cops.

When selecting sushi, stay away from tempura as good as fried shrimp is in a roll.

Try to opt for a Cucumber Roll or Spicy Crab Roll and you can still enjoy your sushi for under 700 calories.

Now that you have all this information, it is important to note that despite me giving advice on how to eat healthy, I stray away and binge eat and slip up all the time. 

So if you slip up, enjoy it, forgive yourself, and get back on track with the next meal.

Furthermore, we only have one life so I definitely encourage living a little and eating foods that make you happy, regardless of calories from time to time.

Look up menus ahead of time to have a plan before you go out to eat.

Don’t feel obligated to make a happy plate.

They make to-go boxes for a reason.

I hope this guide makes staying on track with your health and fitness goals easier!