Diet Friendly Dining: Romano's Macaroni Grill

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Nine months ago Romano's Macaroni Grill made some changes that included a new Chief Executive. Brad Blum's goal is to revitalize the dwindling Italian-food focused restaurant by changing a calorie-rich menu while maintaining happy customers.

Earlier this year we highlighted the unhealthiest restaurants in America as outlined by Eat This, Not That. At that time, Roman's Macaroni Grill rated a D- because it did not offer one dinner entrée with less than 800 calories and 60 menu items contained more than 2,000 mg of sodium. So how do they stack up now?

Since making the leadership shift some items have been removed from the menu while others are in the process of being reformulated to reduce fat and calories. A new menu focus is taking shape as well with a focus on Mediterranean-Italian cuisine. According to Mr. Blum, the new focus will include "lean meats, light pasta, fresh herbs, seafood, extra virgin olive oil and lemon." This focus will replace the previous focus on pizza, cream sauces, and rich desserts like tiramisu. The typical yearlong cycle from idea to rollout has been shortened and new items continue to appear on the menu so what we highlight today will likely grow in the coming months. As we take a closer look at healthier options at Romano's Macaroni Grill, remember our ongoing goal with our Diet Friendly Dining series is to aim for a complete meal that is 500 calories and 15-20 grams of fat or less.

Cautions to Consider
  • Frequently lunch portions provide a lower calorie, lower fat option compared to the dinner portions. The Mediterranean Grill and Signature Handcrafted Pasts both offer the same nutritional breakdown regardless of whether you select them at lunch or dinner.
  • This will not be your best restaurant choice for pizza with most containing over 1000 calories and 3000 mg of sodium for an individual serving.
  • Be aware of the Due & Trio options. Although individually they may not be outside our recommended guidelines, several together can blow them out of the water.
  • Soups and Salads can be good options but they can also trick you. The newScallop & Spinach Salad at 420 nutrient rich calories with only 4 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates and 1510 mg of sodium can be a great choice if it is your entire meal. On the other hand, you would want to avoid the Chicken Florentine that will set you back 1020 calories, 17 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbohydrates and a whopping 2830 mg of sodium. Your best soup choice as a meal would be a bowl of Tomato & Cheese Tortellini Soup with its 440 calories, 9 grams of fat, 51 grams of carbohydrates and 2180 mg of sodium.
  • If you are starting your meal with a salad, it is interesting to note that while you will get more nutrition from the Warm Spinach Salad compared to the Side Caesar Salad, you will also get more calories and double the fat and sodium. Your best salad choice as a meal starter surprisingly is the Side Caesar Salad with dressing offering 240 calories, 4 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbohydrates and only 510 mg of sodium.
  • If you do not find a Handcrafted Pasta dish that meets your taste and style, consider making your own. Select from great lower calorie, nutrient rich options like Sautéed Shrimp (45 calories/0 grams fat/560 mg sodium), Grape Tomatoes (5 calories/5 grams fat/0 mg sodium), Fresh Broccoli (10 calories/0 grams fat/10 mg sodium), and Fresh Mushrooms (10 calories/0 grams of fat/5 mg sodium). Select the Pomodoro (160 calories/2 grams fat/580 mg sodium) or Arrabbiata (180 calories/2 grams fat/650 mg sodium) sauces as your lowest calorie options.

Best Entrée Options

Grilled Chicken Spiedini
Calories – 360
Fat – 1 gram
Carbohydrates – 26 grams
Sodium – 895 mg

Jumbo Shrimp Spiedini
Calories – 290
Fat – 1 gram
Carbohydrates – 26 grams
Sodium – 1075 mg

Simple Salmon with sides
Calories – 420
Fat – 5 grams
Carbohydrates – 6 grams
Sodium – 770 mg

Capellini Pomodoro
Calories – 390
Fat – 2 grams
Carbohydrates – 55 grams
Sodium – 980 mg

Were you aware Romano's Macaroni Grill was making an overhaul of their menu? Will you give them an opportunity to meet your nutritional and palate desires and give their new menu items a try?

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This article written in 2009 and I think the Macaroni Grill we had in Wichita was long closed by then. The one in Branson was open a little longer and was not as good that last year we went before they closed. I'm not even sure if there are any Romano Macaroni Grills anywhere in the USA?? Their food was so salty - I guess to get you to wash it down with their sugary wine?? Report
Good to know Report
Interesting Report
Still high in sodium and your list only shows a few options for a lower cal meal. My desire is to find a restaurant someday where they REALLY are dedicated to lighter eating.

The salmon meal looks promising, though. Report
I love Macaroni Grill, this article is very helpful and an eye-opener. Report
Funny, I used to work there. I cannot believe how many meals were spent on Sugo Bianco (bowtie pasta with pancetta, asiago cream sauce and onions), Kid's Mac and Cheese and the Chicken Caesar Calzonetto (filled with cheese and caesar dressing). And I was skinny when I worked there. Guess all of the running around delivering food burned off the calories... I hope they have changed their practices because let me tell you, ordering the Arrabbiata was NOT a good choice because they always added a big chunk of butter. Made it taste great but also makes me wonder just how many claories were in a dish... Report
I tried the Chicken Spiedini the other night. It was delicious!!
Thanks for the info! Next time I'll try the shrimp. Report
The Macaroni Grill by us, closed down. But it does sound like the new dishes are great! Report
It's a start. They would probably get more customers if they changed or updated the name to reflect the new menu.. or maybe just advertised it. I am still working off the 5 plus pounds I put on on vacation last month .. mostly due to sneaky restaurants.. and no kitchen. Report
I'm happy to see a restaurant make such positive changes. It's hard enough going out to eat and not knowing that something will blow apart your diet. Macaroni Grill is making this easier, and we will try them out! I want to reward restaurants who make this kind of changes. Kudos to the new CEO! Report
I am not sure we still have any of those here in the OKC metro area, but, even if so, prob. not! I suffer greatly form oral ulcers from the least bit of anything salty,
peppery or spicy! That's a prob I have these days w/pre~made lo~cal meals: way too spicy/salty! So, I either make it myself or choose the lesser of the evils! Report
I', glad to hear of the changes. It will make it easier to eat healthy. Report
I did not realize they were overhauling the menu, but I am happy to hear of it. I love the restaurant and the atmosphere. I regularly choose the Cappellini Pomodoro but I will try some of the other options also. Report
If they would cut down on the sodium I would like it! Report
Seriously, it still is to much sodium for me. I know most places are very high in sodium, so I now try not to eat out as often. My husband has high blood pressure and it is helpful for him if we eat at home. In the past, I have been there two times. Once in Texas and once in Va. Beach. I found that they were on the expensive side for something I can fix at home very easily, If I spend the money, I prefer it to be something I can't fix at home. Report
This is wonderful. I will plan on going there this weekend. Report
Of course, these changes come AFTER the Macaroni Grill in our area closed! Report
Didn't know they were making changes. Will have to check it out next time I go, which isn't very often. I like their "make your own" pasta dish. I usually get the penne pasta, with garlic olive oil, artichokes, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes. Yummy!! I love Mediterrainian-Italian dishes. Report
The sodium content is WAY TOO HIGH! Ugh. I have a hard enough time in my normal diet to keep sodium low, there's no way I could eat there unless the only other things I ate that day were apples, bananas, pears, and grapes. No thanks!
But, the best 'healthiest' soup in the house is 2180mg of sodium? I'd be dizzy for three days and looking like I'd od'd on champagne. No thanks. Report
This is wonderful news. I love the Macaroni Grill but don't go because of the calories. I will try the new menu. Thanks for letting us know. Report
I just want to say that these comparison articles are, in my opinion, the most useful things on Sparks. To say "I had no idea" is an understatement and Sparks continues to contribute valuable nutritional information helping me make better choices. Report
Yes, I would try them again. I used to eat there all the time until I started trying to lose weight. Report
i never trust any food at any restaurant.. you never know how much butter, oil, salt, "seasoning" they put into their stuff, even if they call it "healthy" i promise you from knowing chefs in chain restaurants...they are using not healthy ingredients!

i just consider going out to eat a treat and dont do it very often.. its best to make your own and know what youre getting! Report
We frequently used to patronize the Macaroni Grill near us and were very disappointed when it closed. I always tried to choose the healthiest options anyway. Their spinach-orzo salad was wonderful! Report
We should applaud every effort to make it easier to eat healthier. However, I agree that the sodium content is still too high. More effort should be made to season with herbs and other flavors instead of fat and salt. Report
I never liked Marconi grill, always thought I could make better pasta dishes at home. (And I can!) Report
the sodium seems so high, at least to one who is trying to stay under the 2300mg a day. it is even worse if on a low sodium diet. Report
Wish we had one i would love to try it out it sound great .. I also like that restrants are putting healthy things on the menu Report
Do not have one near me that I know of & I will not be seeking this one out!! I love Olive Garden better!!! Report
Interesting to note! I pretty much gave up Italian food out unless it was a very very special occasion splurge - but maybe I'll check out the new menus here. Report
I have been avoiding Macaroni Grill like the plague for a long time. DH and I ate lunch there a couple of times and not only was it next to impossible to find a diet-friendly meal, I thought the entire menu was quite pricey for lunch. DH just this past Saturday wanted to have lunch there and I nixxed the idea. Next time he asks, I might just give the new, lighter fare a try.

As for the folks who commented on the high sodium levels, the reality is that restaurant food is almost always high in sodium, so I'm not sure Romano's Macaroni Grill is any worse in that regard than other places. Report
Never heard of this restaurant before. They must not be available along my "beaten path." According to this article, I don't think I'll be seeking it out either. Thanks for this information.
I would definitely give them a try I think we need to show restaurants that we appreciate them trying for healthier menu options! Report
I will definitely look forward to new healthier choice menu items. I've always been very pleased with both the service and the food at Macaroni Grill. While it isn't food a person eats every week, I enjoy splurging on occasion and treating myself to some of their pasta dishes. Report
I won't go out of my way to go there, but it's good to know there are some options if I do find myself there. Report
With those sodium levels, I could have a can of Campbells soup at home. Forgive me for being negative on this, but I'd rather spend $15-$25 in groceries then spend it on one meal. When I eat out, its a salad from my grocery store's (totally kick-butt yummy) salad bar, or its a stop at subway. Where I live, the nearest Mac Grill is a 5 hour drive. Maybe they will switch the kind of salt they use to natural sea salt, which takes a small fraction the regular table salt needs to flavor. The cool thing is the more the customer base demands healthy choices, the more they have to change their menus or they close their doors. Report
I have always eaten the Capellini Pomodoro at Macaroni Grill. It is the only thing I think I've ever had there. I chose it the first time because the description made it sound fantastic....And it was so I keep ordering the same thing. It is nice to see I made a wise choice based solely on personal preferences. Report
Were you aware Romano's Macaroni Grill was making an overhaul of their menu? No, I did not know, but it sounds like the new chef will make some positive changes.

Will you give them an opportunity to meet your nutritional and palate desires and give their new menu items a try? No, probably not. Being post-op gastric bypass, I try to avoid going to Italian restaurants. I have to focus on eating a protein-rich meal, and I'm too tempted to get my favorite meal - fettucine alfredo! I'd get sick if I ate that. If I eat pasta, I make whole wheat pasta at home, only have half a cup, and top it with a Bolognese red sauce. It fills me up and doesn't leave me craving more pasta. Report
I ate at our local Macaroni Grill a few times before making my switch to a "healthy lifestyle" 2-1/2 years ago. No matter what I ordered, I didn't enjoy their food; even when I wasn't "dieting", it was a total waste of money for me. After I joined SparkPeople and started researching the calorie/fat content content of their foods, I swore I'd never go back there, even if just to sit and watch my friends eat. It was obscene. I certainly wouldn't have wasted a single calorie of my "calorie bank" eating there ever again.

So they were definitely due for an overhaul of their entire menu, IMO. I'm skeptical, but open to giving their revamped menu a try if the nutritional specs for their new dishes seem reasonable.

-- Jeannette Report
I've never heard of this place. There isn't one near me, then again there aren't many restaurants mentioned that are actually in Canada. This isn't really an issue for since I feel that restaurant food isn't terribly healthy anyway. Report
I tried Macaroni Grill once...I wasn't happy with the choices and once my meal came, it wasn't very good........the only thing I liked about the restaurant was the paper tablecloth and crayons. Report
It's a start, but to a well informed consumer, the SODIUM levels are INSULTING.

I would like to say that I am an Italian American who fancies herself a pretty good cook. I realize that "salt" does enhance the flavor of a dish when preparing.....but come on, these numbers are ridiculous.....

Let's shoot for under 200 mg per serving, and let the patron add his or her own salt preference at the dining table Report
I am happy to hear of the changes. We always really enjoyed the place. I hope that they add some gluten free menu itmes to the menu. Our daughter is celiac. Many Italian restaurants are add gluten free pasta and pizza to the menu. If so...we would be ack for sure. Report
My Aunt and I went there once. After waiting over 10 minutes and not a single sole acknowledging that we were even there and needed to be seated we walked out. I have refused to even consider going back since.

I have heard they have whole wheat pasta's and other healthier choices but I would much rather cook for myself at home than be made to feel not worthy of acknowledgment in order to pay someone else to cook!! Report
We went there a few months ago and I noticed some of the changes were coming to the menu. My local one isn't my favorite, as the waitstaff is always really terrible. Add in the lack of a healthy option and it often falls off our list. (I do believe in moderation - that once in a great while a terrible meal won't kill you, but when I can go somewhere else for that with not terrible waitstaff, I usually end up there) However, the new changes are really encouraging! Report
I didn't know they were revamping their menu. I usually go there when I go to St. Louis. We discovered it one day when trying to find a place to eat. My family really likes it and we've gone back to it. This is good for us since we all watch our calories when we can. Report
I most certainly will, the dish above look so inviting. Report
You forgot to mention Pollo Magro (Skinny Chicken). It's one of the healthiest choices they have and it is delicious! Report
I only ate at the Macaroni Grill once. We don't have any nearby. We do have an Italian restaurant in town. I think they could also use a menu revamp. They have salads, but when cheesy goodness is their specialty, it's hard to pick a boring salad. It would be nice to see some more gourmet salads. I know, from making them at home, that salads can be satisfying and delish. I think it's great that many restaurants are starting to see that people want healthy options....that taste good! Report
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