Diet Friendly Dining: Chili's Grill

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There are nearly 1300 Chili's Grill casual dining restaurants across the country. Last week we learned they will no longer be serving their famous Awesome Blossom. The pile of deep-fried battered onion rings and side of spicy cheese sauce supplied a whopping 2700 calories and was listed as the worst starter in the "Eat this not that!" 20 worst foods in America list. Estimates suggest this one dish contained a fat content that would equal around 67 slices of bacon. Since there is no way this would ever fit into a healthy diet, it is good to see it disappear from the menu.

In our ongoing Diet Friendly Dining series, we encourage you to aim for a complete meal that is 500 calories and 15-20 grams of fat or less. Here are some healthier choice guidelines to follow when dining at Chili's Grill.

Chili's Tex-Mex flavored food tastes terrific but at a high calorie, fat and sodium price.
  • Every appetizer here is either fried or is served with fried chips. Skip these high-fat 'extras' and start your meal with a side salad or a Caesar salad with dressing served on the side.
  • Salads here are incredibly high in calories. The Quesadilla Explosion Salad has a whopping 1,270 calories and 76 g of fat. All the salads contain at least 600 calories and 40 g of fat. Your best choice is the Spicy Garlic and Lime Grilled Shrimp Salad (630 calories, 40 g fat, 1,850 mg sodium) with the dressing mixed in. You can slightly reduce this total by asking for dressing on the side and using the least amount necessary or substituting for low-fat vinaigrette or fat-free honey mustard dressing.
  • Chili's offers some great Guiltless Grill menu items, so stick with these. The best overall entree is the Guiltless Cedar Plank Tilapia (199 calories, 4 g fat, 689 mg of sodium). If you are looking for a lower sodium choice, the Guiltless Grilled Salmon (396 calories, 20 g fat, 420 mg of sodium) is for you. If you are looking for a low-fat choice, the Guiltless Chicken Platter (371 calories, 2 g fat, 1,937 mg sodium) tops the list.
  • A Sizzling Fajita skillet can be a great choice--if you skip the tortillas and most of the condiments and just enjoy the meat and veggies. The Classic Chicken skillet has 367 calories, 11 g of fat and 1,995 mg of sodium. If you decide to have the flour tortillas, a serving of 4 will add 480 calories, 13 g of fat and 1,290 mg of sodium. The condiments will add 210 calories, 18 g of fat and 320 mg of sodium.
  • The burgers and sandwiches contain the most calories, fat and sodium on the menu, with several boasting more than 1,500 calories, 100 g of fat and 4,000 mg of sodium. Try the Fajita Pita with Chicken (455 calories, 13 g fat, 1,401 mg of sodium) instead of a burger to save calories and fat.
  • Soup can be a good choice without breaking your calorie budget. The best bowls to choose from are the Southwestern Vegetable (210 calories, 8 g fat, 1,250 mg sodium) and the Chicken Noodle Soup with 120 calories, 1.5 g of fat and 1,150 mg of sodium.
It is important to remember that restaurants in general provide high sodium foods and Chili's is no different. We should all watch and limit our sodium intake whenever possible. However, if you have been instructed to follow a low sodium diet for health reasons, this restaurant is probably not one of your better choices because most offerings are extremely high in sodium.

Do you think Chili's was wise to remove the Awesome Blossom from their menu? What other advice would you offer that would help you enjoy your dining out experience at their restaurant?

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The telling statement is "most restaurant meals are high sodium" They have to do this to enhance the flavor of less expensive foods.

My go-to meal at a lot of restaurants is the fajita and eat it with a fork, no tortilla, no sour cream, no guac. Meat, peppers, onions, and salsa, Report
Good!!! Report
glad to know that when i went to chilis not that long ago i picked the fijita pita with chicken. now after reading this i know i made a good choice. Report
I guess it is good they scrapped the onion but what would be better is if ALL restaurants put nutrition information on the menu, then they could serve what they wanted and people would have to do their own thinking about what they wanted to eat.

There are very few restaurants that are "safe" for people watching their health or weight, especially chain restaurants.

The only "diet friend dining" available around here is at home.

In my opinion. Report
I commend them for removing such an unhealthy menu choice. Report
Wow. I didn't realize that chili's was making an effort. Granted, everything else on their menu would still probably RUIN my DAY, but it's good to know they have a few options I could enjoy next time mom wants to meet at Chili's "for a special treat." :/ Report
I like Chili's and the few times we ate the Awesome Blossom it was with several people so we werent getting all the calories and it was a treat once or twice a year. Report
I think they could have left it on the menu. Its up to the individual to make the smarter choice not to order it. It may be harsh but we are all adults and should be informed enough to make healthy decisions. I can't imagine that there is one person out there who convinced themselves that onion was even remotely good for them. While its all well and good that restaurants are trying to set a healthier example at the end of the day we are all ultimately responsible for what we put in our bodies. Report
Definitely a wise marketing strategy to offset some of the negative publicity generated by 'Eat This, Not That.'

BTW, while Outback does still have a Bloomin' Onion on their menu, if that's the kind of thing that spins your wheels, Texas Roadhouse has a 'Mini Blossom' on its menu, perfect for two people. Report
First of all. I think the Outback does something like this ...still. I gave up all fried foods for Lent this year, lost about 7 pounds and joked about sharing one of these with my naturally thin twin boys, we never got around to it. But I can always find something on a menu that is healthy. Even if I have to ask for it. Report
I agree that no one would eat it by themselves, but split four ways that onion is still over 600 calories per serving, more than most whole meals for me! Restaurants reformulate their recipes all the time. I think Chili's R&D ought to test out different recipes for their awesome blossom, and try to create a better option. Maybe baked with a light oil spritzing instead of drenched in grease? Different batter? More onion and less crunchy stuff? It will never be a diet food, but it doesn't HAVE to be 2700 calories. Report
I think the Blossum was one of things we really liked there.
People are still better off to eat at home in my opinion if they are worried about calorie and fat intake.
It's not like most people would eat the blossum everyday all by themselves,it was a once in awhile splurge for most people I think. Report
I like Chili's; they cater to my food sensitivities. I can special-order when I need to there, but I have more options available to me than I have at other restaurants. I do wish they would offer baked potatoes though. Report
I think a wiser choice would be to include nutritional information in every menu so it is up to the patron to decide what is "right" for them. Report
I think it is great that they removed this obviously unhealthy food from their menu.
If they good use less salt type seasonings in all of their food that would be great too. Report
I've eaten there a couple of times but wasn't that impressed. That Onion Rings dish would be shared with a group, I'm sure and no one person would be having 2700 calories worth of it. Report
While I have not been to Chili's in years, I think they should have kept the option of the Awesome Blossom on the menu. It's called self-control. You don't have to order it if it's on the menu, but other's should not be deprived if they want the item. Report
Really, I loved the awesome blossom! Then again, I always shared it with at least a group of 4 and I NEVER eat out. Yeah, it was wise of them to get rid of it, but still ... it's not like I had any illusions that I was getting my daily dose of veggies eating that thing. :P

The best advice I can give for Chili's is this - stay away from their margaritas! If you must have one, order a house regular on the rocks with no salt. I was amazed at how many calories their margarita syrup was, even more so if you are partial to the fruity margaritas.
We got a gift card to Chili's and I scoped out the nutritional info online before we went. I got the Spicy Garlic and Lime Grilled Salad - it was great but I agree with the article - there was not a lot of items to choose from. Report
I never ate the Awesome Blossom, but I saw a recipe somewhere online for a baked version - why didn't Chili's try to do that, instead of deep-frying the onion?

Anyway, I don't like Chili's. In fact, when we dine out as a family, I always veto Chili's. Their Guiltless Grill is so blah - I can make better chicken and fish at home! So I'd rather go some place where I can eat healthier and enjoy a meal that I don't normally make at home.

One thing I would suggest about dining out is to exercise portion control. Get a take-out box prior to eating your entree, and scoop half of your meal (or more) into the box before eating. You can feel good about saving money by having another meal for another day, and about not eating 1800 calories per sitting! Report
I love Chili's unfortunately. Never indulged in the fried onion dish myself, but that just sounds sinful. I usually get the chicken tacos with black beans or the chicken quesadilla. I didnt see any information about either of those so Im assuming they arent quite the healthy option either. I eat there probably quarterly so hopefully it doesnt make too much of a difference. Report
My son used to work at Chili's...they have the most unhealthy menu of any restaurant I've visited. I hate to admit I used to eat the chicken crispers (dripping in oil!) I do not go there anymore! Report
Aha ha ha - I just read Kessler's description of this dish in THE END OF OVEREATING - good to see it go! I hope it went because of this book and people demanding more healthy options?!? Chili's, like so many other casual dining places, uses so many processed ingredients that my body revolts if I eat there - I'll cook and eat at home, thanks. But I'm soooooooooooo glad to see this news - thanks for posting! Report
I was a big fan of the Awesome Blossom, but that was in my pre-diet days. Also I usually shared it with about 3 other people, and we always had some left over, so I never felt incredibly guilty about it. It's been off the menus at both the Chili's I go to for over a year, now, though. Recently they've added a fried onion and jalepeno stack, though, so it's not like they've completely changed their ways.
Mind you, the fried onion and jalepeno stack is DELICIOUS. But no way is it healthy.
I usually order the Guiltless Grill Buffalo Chicken Sandwich with no low-fat ranch dressing. The sodium content is frighteningly high, but otherwise itís a pretty good option. Especially if you forgo the cheese on the side of steamed veggies. I usually try to substitute the side salad with no cheese and dressing on the side if at all possible. Report
YES - the onions were never cooked right & very gross - making our friends fat & unhealthy. We used to carried the Chili's nutrition guide with us for the past few yrs. to help family & friends make healthy choices.

Since we dined there so often we got to know a lot of it by memory. I always wish they would have some healthy potato vs just the loaded mashed & french fries - neither are healthy. I also wish they would have more vegies than just the broccoli & carrots - although those are really yummy & always prepared fresh and Chili's side of black beans is great.

My favorite starter is the Southwestern Soup - only 100 calories in a cup!
BTW: The Guiltless Menu is fantastic, but surprisingly to me, the black bean burger is the highest in calories! I imagine that is due to the bun.

We just learned that our favorite Chili's is 1 of 13 chosen to test a new menu & we can't wait to see what they come up with! Report
I really like the guiltess buffalo chicken sandwich. The side of brocoli is great! The black bean burger is a little higher in calories than I would like, but it is delicous. I order it and only eat half. Report
i rea;;y am not a chillies fan i wont be too upset that i cannot go there... Report
Never been to one, but I think that was smart of them to remove it. If only all eateries responded to negative criticism that way! Report
I love Chilli's & love the fact that it's reporting the nutritional value. Don't mind losing the onions. Not something I need. Report
Didn't know they had a famous Awesome Blossom. I don't order appetizers since I find they're usually high calorie items, plus most restaurant entrees are more food than I'm use to eating at one sitting. (Love the "doggie" bag for lunch the next day.)

As for taking the Awesome Blossom off the menu, that is Chili's decision. It's common for restaurants to change their menus periodically. People tastes change, fad foods come and go.

Chili's isn't my choice for an evening out. Maybe for an occasional lunch. I find their food a bit on the salty side. By the same token, I'm not opposed to going there if that's where others in the party want to go. Report
I haven't been to Chili's for many years, and from what was described here, I'll be smart to stay away. With high blood pressure, I need to watch my sodium intake, and it sounds like Chili's doesn't have any choices that are low in sodium. I'm beginning to think that I shouldn't go out to any restaurants until they lower their sodium content.
We can't remove sodium from the food we order, but other customers can always add salt if they think their food isn't salty enough. If restaurants want to serve people who are trying to eat healthier, they will reduce the amount of sodium in the foods they serve. Report
I LOVE the Chili's Grilled Guiltless Chicken sandwich. Frequently I'll go there just to get that. I also love their broccoli that comes with it. While there are a ton of unhealthy things on their menu, I appreciate that they have several, clearly marked healthier options with basic nutrition information. Report
I feel like Chilis is one of the worst restaurants out there...but maybe that is because they are one if few who post their nutrition. I think It was great to take that blossom off the menu! However, wh can't they make small changes to otherfoods as well. They said the awesome blossom eas one of the worst restaurant foods bit what about the 1,000 calorie burgers?? I would eat here more often if they offered other healthy foods (besides mostly chicken and fish). Report
I love Chilli's. I was astounded to see the calories in the Quesadilla Explosion Salad. I don't eat it with any dressing but I thought it was good for me. Funny how a sald can be a whole days worth of food. I think restaurants should start making more lower calorie items so people on diets would like to go there. I am very limited to where I will go eat. After seeing my favorite salad that high in calories that is another place I don;t want to go eat at. Report
My friends love Chilis, so I find myself there often. But it's only been since I've started watching my eating that I have really noticed how high in fat/calories most of the menu items contain. Last week, I wanted something yummy, but knew I needed to keep myself in check. I ordered the steak and mushroom fajitas, and just ate the meat, lettuce, and tomato. It was really good and I didn't have to do extra crunches in the morning! Report
Other people have a right to eat what they want, you don't have to order it if you don't want to eat it....... I think they call that will power........ We all have to use this at one time or another. I have never had one from Chili's, but I did split an Awesome Blossom with 2 friends back in 1994... Report
I agree with Shrinking_Momma! Report
I think it was a good idea to remove the Awesome Blossom from the menu. In this sue happy world, I am sure they didn't want a wrongful death suit on their hands....not that it would be valid or anything.... Report
Wow! A good move for a change. What persuaded them? All the bad publicity? Report
The Chili's nearest us closed 2 years ago. I would always ask that the vegetables and meat were unseasoned and they would do that for me. It certainly cuts down on the sodium that way. I loved their Guiltless Chicken Platter and the Guiltless Chicken Sandwich. Report
Though it all sounds good, there are WAY too many calories for me. PLUS way too much sodium! Report
I'm surprised it took them THIS LONG to remove such a horrible item from their menu. They should toss out several other items, too. As a vegan, I cannot eat at this restaurant because their entire menu is filled with meat, butter, and cheese. I'd rather go to other restaurants that have better selection for those following a vegan lifestyle. Report
I've only eaten at a chilis twice in my life, I HATE CHAINS. The very first chilis I encounter was in Harvard Square. This was before they began to pop up every where. I loved the building. I'd look at the menu and walk on by as it didn't look like anything to write home about. The 2 story building on the corner was interesting but with all the good places to eat why waste your time at a place like chilis? Report
That's sad that they took it off the menu. My husband and I used to have a small appetizer plate full each and then would not eat the rest. We are all adults and can make our own choices. Why does everyone have to pay for a few peoples' bad choices. Report
Chili's should come up with some other onion dish...maybe rings prepared the "hungry girl" way? Report
It's not even a question of eating reasonable portions or splitting things with friends, you cannot eat some of their stuff and not go way over on calories. Their chicken crispers (just the chicken, without any kind of sauce, sides, or drinks) are 1800 calories, for 5 or 6 smallish chicken tenders. How do you moderate that? I stay far away from chilis. Report
You couldn't pay me to eat at Chili's! ! ! This place has unhealthful food all over the place. The sodium alone is off the charts, sheesh. I wouldn't spend the time trying to figure out the lowest calories, sodium, grams of fat or whatever. This whole restaurant is a bad choice for people trying to get healthy & lose weight. Holy smokes! ! ! Report
Last time I was there, I had the Spicy Garlic and Lime Grilled Shrimp Salad just because it seemed like a "better" choice... Go me! However, the dressing came on the side without me having to ask. I wonder if enough people in my area ask for dressing on the side, they just starting doing it by default! LOL! Anyway, the shrimp were very, very yummy! :) Report
I don't think they should have removed the food, we are adults and should be able to make our own choices. I think that those people who are on diets (even though I hate that word) would know what they should and should not eat. If worse came to worse, put the calories and so forth on the menu so that we as consumers will be a little more educated with what we are getting, but there is no reason why they should take it away, or better yet let it come in different portion sizes so we can choose how much of it we want. Report
While the blossom may be an offender. No one was expected to eat it all by themselves. I usually had split it with about five or six people. Everyone got a taste, but no bad damage done. If anyone still wants this kind of a side, which I only split with others maybe once every other year, the Outback Steakhouse still has it.

Everyone is responsible for their own choices when dining out. If they choose to eat hazardous, then so be it. Doesn't mean everyone has to follow suit either! As for me, I cannot eat that way and choose not to. Chilli's while having a few good options on things, is still one of the highest counts of sodium, fried foods, etc. of any place I have seen. There are still tons of bad choices on the menu, but you don't have to pick them. Knowledge is power.

As for this being the worst offender. I thought the book stated that the chili cheese fries at Outback was the worst offender. Though Chili's took away their blossom and replaced it with the chili cheese fries!!! Just something for thought! Their version is a whooping 1920 calories with 3820 mg sodium. As you know, too much sodium retains water, inhibits weight loss, increases blood pressure, and so on!
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