Diet Friendly Dining: UNO Chicago Grill

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
8/6/2009 1:00 PM   :  48 comments   :  16,442 Views

Cincinnati has chili and Chicago has its own special style of pizza. In the early 1940's, people enjoyed pizza as a snack and not as the main course of their meal. Restaurant owner Ike Sewell desired to change that and in the process started what has become an American tradition -- the Chicago style deep-dish pizza. While the deep-dish pizza is an UNO feature, over the years the ever-expanding restaurant has seen additions to their menu, which include many diner and steak house favorites. When dining at casual dining restaurants, we encourage you to aim for a complete meal that is 500 calories and 15-20 grams of fat or less. Our ongoing Diet Friendly Dining series is intended to help you make informed decisions so you can meet that goal. The UNO Chicago Grill provides a very helpful website containing a nutrition kiosk of information that is also helpful in meeting this goal when dining at one of their 200 restaurants found in 31 states in the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the United Arab Emirates.

UNO Chicago Grill appears to provide full disclosure related to how they generate their nutrition information. Their website states, "the nutritional information is based on standard recipes that may vary based on portion size, regional and seasonal differences in products or substitution of ingredients." This indicates that the information shared is what they intend but not a guarantee of what you will receive when you get your order. I do not believe this to be any different at this restaurant chain from any other chain, but I applaud UNO's openness in sharing this fact. The company is wonderful about sharing complete nutrition and ingredient information as well for all of their menu items. It is interesting to note that most of the nutrition information for the entrées indicates the amount you receive on your plate is for two servings. Because of this, you may want to ask for a take home box when you order so you can immediately prepare half of the entrée for take home so you are able to stay within your intended nutrient range for your meal.

You can clearly find gluten and food allergy information, which makes planning easy before heading out to the restaurant. You will want to take special note if you or someone in your family has a shellfish allergy. Since they share the same frying oil and offer fried shrimp on the menu, there is a risk of cross contamination with any of the other fried foods. Of course, we encourage you to select items that are not fried, so hopefully this provides little to no inconvenience or worry for you when dining at this restaurant.

The restaurant website is proud to state that all UNO Chicago Grill items are "free of artificial trans fats per serving", however, it is important to take note of the 'per serving' notation. Since most entree sizes are intended to be two or more servings, you will likely get 1-2 grams of artificial trans fat if you consume the entire amount served since .5 grams of trans fat or less per serving can legally be reported as containing no trans fat. Ordering 'multi-grain' products typically tends to be a healthier option. At this restaurant, the multi-grain pasta used contains a mixture of grains such as oats, spelt, barley and durum wheat and legumes such as lentils and chick-peas.

Here are some specific entrée suggestions to consider when eating at UNO Chicago Grill. When selecting a salad, your best options would be the Watermelon Blueberry Salad which provides 240 calories, 7 grams of fat, 620 mg of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of protein or the House Salad with Grilled Chicken which provides 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, 390 mg of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates and 17 grams of protein per serving. The Fat Free Vinaigrette would be your best dressing choice for 30 calories, 0 grams of fat, 200 mg of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of protein. Another good option would be the Low Fat Blueberry Pomegranate Vinaigrette which provides 60 calories, 3 grams of fat, 110 mg of sodium, 8 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of protein.

When selecting a sandwich, your best choice would be the Grilled Chicken Sandwich which provides 380 calories, 13 grams of fat, 1010 mg of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates and 34 grams of protein per serving. A good vegetarian choice would be the Roasted Vegetable & Feta Wrap which provides 220 calories, 10 grams of fat, 620 mg of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of protein.

Your best chicken choice would be the Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa which has 110 calories, 3 grams of fat, 520 mg of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates and 21 grams of protein per serving. This dish also comes with an UNO breadstick, which provides 210 calories, 13 grams of total fat, 460 mg of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of protein.

Soups can be a good option eating at casual dining restaurants and the same is true at UNO as well. Many soup choices are low in calorie and fat content however, sodium can still be high so if that is of concern, use caution when making your selection. Beef Barley Soup provides 90 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 700 mg of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of protein per serving. Black Bean Lentil Soup contains 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 820 mg of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of protein per serving. Veggie Soup provides 90 calories, 1 gram of fat, 620 mg of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of protein per serving. Tuscan Pesto Minestrone Soup provides 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, 930 mg of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of protein per serving. Italian Wedding Soup has 120 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 730 mg of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates and 6 grams of protein per serving.

If you are really in the mood to boost your iron intake from a good steak, the 8 oz Top Sirloin cooked medium well might be just what you are looking for providing 200 calories, 7 grams of fat, 310 mg of sodium and 33 grams of protein per 4 oz serving. If seafood is more what you had in mind, give the Grilled and Skewered BBQ Shrimp providing 170 calories, 1 gram of fat, 690 mg of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates and 29 grams of protein per serving. The Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Mango Salsa with 120 calories, 1 gram of fat, 490 mg of sodium, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 21 grams of protein per serving is another good option to try.

A couple other things are important to note. Pizza, pasta and dessert choices will be hard to stay within our suggested guidelines unless you have a very small portion. Most of the chicken, steak or seafood choices listed above come with side items as well. Some of your better side choices include Steamed or Roasted Seasonal Vegetables, Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice with Cranberries and Mango. Remember that these will add to your meal nutrition totals as well although the side items portion are one serving each. It would still be a good idea to cut your entire meal in half to keep under the recommended 500 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Are there other tips you can share when eating at this type of casual dining restaurant?


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