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Dining out? 7 Fat Loss Lunches

We get clients all the time at JillFit who have hectic lifestyles, eat lunches out at work and have very little time to cook, prepare and bag meals every day (even though that is the ultimate “ideal”).  I had a client like this recently who eats lunch out every single day at work, out of convenience, social necessity and just plain old preference. I made her send me the names of the restaurants where she most frequently ate at, and I scoured the menus on their websites and gave her a list of JillFit-approved options, at least 2 from each place :) She is getting great results with ease because she doesn’t haver overhaul her lifestyle, she just needed some key ground rules for what to get at her usual haunts.

Beautiful salad made and photo taken by our friends Will & Deni McIntyre at

Here is a list of my top lunch option at common take-out places, so that perhaps the next time you are caught without your prepared lunch cooler from home, you have some JillFit-approved options too!

1) Panera Bread: Don’t get too excited! No baguettes for you! :) Pretty much all of the salad options at Panera are ok, though some are better than others and once you make a few adjustments, they can get even better.  The best option is the classic mixed greens salad, add extra grilled chicken, no croutons. Do a balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side, and choose the apple as your side.

2) Chipotle (or Qdoba, etc): Salad bowl, no rice, no beans, extra chicken, 2 scoops chunky salsa, optional fajita veggies, optional guacamole. It is easy to get in trouble at these places…the buffet-style has us adding things like crazy. Remember your goals and skips the starchy carbs and extra fatty cheese and sour cream.  One of my faves, but remember to drink that H2O so that Chipotle doesn’t turn into Chi-bloat-le. That stuff is SUPER salty! Start drinking plain ol’ water like crazy!

3) Starbucks: To my horror, the person in front of me at the SB drive-thru at 7am this morning got a venti caramel frappachino with whip–not sure that is even still considered coffee–but suffice it to say there are better options at Starbucks if you get caught there. Though they offer “High protein snacks” the protein is a measly 3-5 grams. SO, let’s do this instead: Chocolate Banana Vivanno–ask for 1/2 banana (instead of a whole) and 5 SCOOPS of protein powder in this smoothie :) Each scoop is 5g so that would get us to a respectable 25g.  Tip: ask for it in a venti cup so that you get every last drop!

4) Sandwich shops like TJs Deli, Subway, Quiznos, etc: Many of these places don’t carry salads, so your best bet will be to order the leanest cut of turkey sandwich, add extra turkey and take the bread off. Use extra lettuce to wrap the meat up with the tomato & onion. Optional cheese is ok sometimes, go for provolone. As for condiments, mustard is really the only one I give a green light to. I know for us frugal ladies, it is hard to justify throwing away the bread and then asking (and most likely paying) for extra meat BUT ask yourself, what is your health worth to you. Because when it comes to white bread, that is EXACTLY what we are talking about. If you are able, I usually tell them to just leave the bread off and save it for someone else so that you don’t have to waste it.

5) Whole Foods Market: Hit up the salad bar. Start with romaine or mixed greens (say no to iceberg lettuce) and then add as many green/fibrous veggies as you want: onions/peppers/broccoli/cucumbers/celery/mushrooms, etc. Then move onto the proteins and choose the least saucy/marinaded chicken, turkey or fish you can find. Usually WFM will do a plain pulled chicken or turkey breast. Be sure to get at least 2/3 cup full of the shredded protein (eye-ball it). Finish it up with a balsamic vinegar and splash of oil.  YUM!

6) Fast food places: Ahhhhh, don’t you just love the thought of a Big Mac and fries?? Ugh, me neither. BUT, it is certainly feasible to eat at any fast food place and not have it negatively impact your waistline. Choose a grilled chicken sandwich, ask for extra lettuce and tomato, and ditch the bun. If that’s not enough food, you can always order a second one. Most fast food places will have salads too–try a classic greens salad with balsamic. You might simply be more grossed out just going there than by the actual food itself, but I promise you can eat there without incident :)

7) Any other restaurant really: Ok, I realize I am getting sloppy here and generalizing, but honestly, this is true. Anywhere you end up, you have the power to eat for fat loss at that place. Here’s what you do: Lean piece of protein & green veggies OR large mixed greens salad with grilled chicken on top, balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Say no to bread basket, booze and dessert.

The key to remember with all of these options is that you can literally eat for fat loss anywhere. If you are interested in general fat loss and not competition prep, you don’t have to worry so much about salt or marinades or sauces. Just be mindful and remember to keep things as clean as possible. You will always get yourself into trouble by doing white breads/starches, booze and desserts/chips, etc. I realize the standard American lunch is a sandwich and chips, but that version isn’t doing us any favors! Let’s change it up! Good luck! ox Jill

Related: Peer Pressure: Dining out with friends and colleagues

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