Restaurant Recipes Exposed: Healthier and Tastier Versions of Your Favorite Meals

My friend and fitness expert Matt Paley is known for tackling provocative, well-informed topics in his blog, I’m super excited he’s posting here today and know you’ll enjoy this article! Be sure to show him lots of love by visiting his site and leaving a comment here.

Before we get into things today, I want you to ask yourself a question. When was the last time you ate out at a restaurant? Can you remember what you had? If you’re like most Americans the answer is most likely, “within the past 2 days.” Eating out has become ingrained in American culture. We all do it, and do it often. The problem with frequent dining out lies in the fact that a quick meal at many common eating spots, i.e. The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, Quizno’s, etc. can quickly add 1,800+ calories to your daily intake plus loads of fat, sodium, and other things that are progress destroyers.

I’ve always preached the biggest changes need to be come by way of your diet. It doesn’t matter how great of a workout routine you’re on; if your diet is lacking, your progress will be minimal at best. Now, I realize making the effort to eat clean and healthy takes a bit of effort. It becomes even more of a struggle when you’re tired, hungry, short on time, and popping into Quizno’s for a sub on the way home from work takes all of 5 minutes. I get that, you don’t need to explain it to me.

But have you asked yourself the consequences of that 5 minute sub? The costs are more than just physical…

Given the frequency of our dining out have you ever considered the financial implications? It may not seem like much at the time, but $8-15 for lunch or dinner everyday will add up quickly. Instead of paying someone else to reheat frozen, highly processed foods that make you fat and ruin your progress, what if there were another way? What if there were a way to eat healthier and tastier food than possible at your favorite restaurants? Not only that, what if you could do it for a fraction of the cost? A way to please your waist, taste buds, and wallet all in one go….anyone interested?

I’ve done a little research and have taken three items off three very common restaurant menus and completely re-made them. I’ve made them healthier, I’ve made them tastier (if I can toot my own horn just a bit), and I’ve made them more cost-effective. I set a budget of $4 per serving for each of these meals, making them something almost anyone can handle. Best of all, the lunch and dinner options work extremely well prepared ahead of time, making them the perfect options to cook ahead of time for those days when you’re too tired to handle any cooking.


Farmer’s Egg Scramble – Total cost per serving: $2.72

Instead of… IHOP Big Steak Omelette – $9 – 915 calories, 72 grams of fat, 27 grams saturated fat, 690 mg sodium


  • 3 eggs or egg whites
  • 4 oz. grilled chicken
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 handful chopped basil
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 oz. goat cheese
  1. Start by grilling a piece of chicken. Lightly coat in olive oil and place on a hot grill. Cook until done.
  2. Add butter to a pan on medium heat. Saute spinach for 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 4.
  3. Add chicken to the spinach and garlic. Saute 2 minutes. Set contents of the pan aside.
  4. In a bowl, whisk in milk with the egg whites. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour egg whites into the pan. Allow to cook for 2 minutes before adding the chicken, spinach, and garlic back to the pan. Mix well.
  6. Add sliced American cheese and stir well to combine. Take off heat and serve.


Tuscan Tuna Wrap – Total cost per serving: $2.96

Instead of… Panera Bread Sierra Turkey on Faccacia with Asiago Cheese – $7 – 970 calories, 54 grams of fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 1970 mg sodium


  • 12 oz. canned or fresh albacore tuna
  • 1 15-oz can white beans
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. Lightly brush with olive oil and grill the albacore tuna until just cooked throughout. Remove from grill and set aside.
  2. Combine other ingredients in a bowl and lightly toss to blend flavors.
  3. Chop albacore into small pieces, similar to canned tuna. Gently fold albacore into the bowl of other ingredients.
  4. Refrigerate and serve on lettuce, pitas, or any other wrap of your choosing.


Curried Chicken and Rice Noodle Lettuce Wraps – Total Cost per serving $3.18

Instead of… PF Chang’s Double Pan-Fried Noodle Combo – $18, 1390 calories, 70 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat


  • 16 oz fresh chicken breast
  • 4 oz vermicelli rice noodles
  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • ½
  • tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • Dash of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon curry paste
  • ¼
  • cup plain yogurt
  • ¼
  • cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups water chestnuts, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 butter lettuce cups
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped peanuts
  • Canola Oil for sautéing
  1. Heat oil in pan. Add curry paste and saute on medium-high heat for 5 minutes until smells and flavors begin to release.
  2. Add yogurt and chicken stock and blend well. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes or until mixture slightly reduces. Remove from heat and let sit.
  3. In a separate pan, saute shallots, garlic, and water chestnuts for 4 minutes. Add chicken and saute just to brown the outside. Chicken breast should be chopped into cubes the size of the nail on your pinky finger. Stir frequently as to prevent over cooking.
  4. Add chicken breast mixture to the curry mixture. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin sauce, brown sugar. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Cook rice noodles according to package. When done, cut noodles into roughly 2 inch long strand and add to the chicken pan.
  6. Toss the ingredients well and turn up the heat to cook off any remaining liquid. Be careful not to overcook the ingredients. Top with chopped peanuts.
  7. Spoon the chicken mixture into the butter lettuce cups and serve.

In order to make real, noticeable, and lasting progress (you do want that, right?) you’ve got to take a comprehensive approach to your overall healthy living strategy. Your workout and meal plan should both be things you put significant effort into. When both are in tune with each other, the progress seems like it’s unending. When there is an imbalance, you’re simply spinning your wheels.

Avoiding the high-fat and processed foods from common restaurants is easy. All it takes is a little planning a head of time. Make these meals in bulk, store them in the fridge, and take out what you need each day. Feel empowered to explore, remake, and upgrade other common restaurant meals. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. Nor does it mean you have to spend a ton of money. Make sensible choices, eat the foods you enjoy in moderation, and do an hour or two of prep work a week and be amazed at how fabulously fit you become.

What are some of your favorite restaurant meals that you’ve re-made into healthier, tastier, and more cost-effective options?

Matt Paley is the CEO and Founder of, a mobile-media fitness company delivering group fitness classes and DVD-style workouts to its users via their mobile devices and computers.  Matt also runs the company fitness blog which features tons of exercise ideas, healthy recipes, fitness tips, and creative workout plans.  Matt’s entrepreneurial spirit combined with his 10+ years in the fitness industry have helped shape his intense desire to bring modern technology to the fitness world.  By doing so, he’s aiming to make top-notch fitness instruction and content more accessible, convenient, and effective than ever before. 

16 thoughts on “Restaurant Recipes Exposed: Healthier and Tastier Versions of Your Favorite Meals

  1. That Tuscan tuna wrap sounds especially delicious!

    Matt’s right, of course—restaurant meals are enormous and unhealthful. Often my clients have no idea how many calories they’re sucking down when they eat out.

    I spoke with one woman recently who has 100 pounds to lose. One of my first suggestions was that she dramatically reduce the number of times she eats in restaurants. She wasn’t willing to do even that, commenting that eating out was her opportunity to catch up with her friends. Oh well.


    • Isn’t it the truth? It’s too much trouble to change your life, yet how much trouble is it to have health and self esteem problems? I guess it’s all in what you’re used to.


  2. Well the first recipe already has me thinking about the eggs chilling over in the fridge. 🙂

    I’ve yet to put my own healthified spin on a restaurant favorite, but I think it’s an awesome idea, and I look forward to taking a crack at it.

    A past restaurant favorite of mine were the cheeseburger sliders that you can get at most happy hours. I mean they’re cute little burgers, how bad could they be right?

    Yeah, and then one day I looked up the nutritional information for those little buggers. I just about hit the floor when I found out that my innocent enough looking little burgers were jammed with an astounding 1,340 calories, and are packed with 87 calories of fat.

    Create a healthified slider? It’s a noble quest to be sure! 🙂

    I’m much more attentive now days, but it’s amazing how crazy the restaurant nutritional information can get.

    Thanks a bunch for sharing your recipes.

    Best wishes,



      • Me neither! I just hate the way I feel after I eat that high fat food now days. 🙂

        Does Matt have the nutritional data for the healthified versions? I’m curious how much better the meals are than the originals.

        Best wishes all,



      • Hey Matt…

        I didn’t put together the nutritional information for these, although that’s something I could knock out pretty quickly. I’ll see what I can come up with tomorrow.


  3. Honestly, I don’t eat out hardly at all. I may sit with the people eating out BUT I tend to eat first or after, bring something for myself & only occasionally eat out & then I become Sally in When Harry Met Sally! 🙂

    LOVE the makeovers! THX!!!


  4. Amazing! I just got hungry, I shouldn’t have viewed your article before lunchtime… these recipes seem to be really delicious, I just can’t wait to give them a try this weekend!


  5. Matt, that Farmer’s scramble sounds amazing! I love breakfast foods and will have to try this at dinner sometime too. Thanks for sharing your insights at Suzanne’s blog. 🙂


  6. Love these options! I am always trying to convince my clients what they can make at home will taste better than what they can get at most restaurants. Now they can have their “cake” and eat it too!


  7. That tuna wrap sounds really delicious, and it is not only healthy and tasty, it os really affordably and it seems to be easy to prepare. I’m afraid I’ve just found the perfect recipe for me:)


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