South Beach Diet Phase 1 at Macaroni Grill

Little by little, we are covering every major chain restaurant in the U.S., supplying options for those of you following Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. Here we look at the Italian restaurant chain, Romano's Macaroni Grill. As you would suspect on South Beach Phase 1, all pastas and pizzas are out -- but there are plenty of available options:

Appetizers

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms--Mushrooms are stuffed with crab meat and Italian seasonings, and baked.

Salads

Garden Salad--Macaroni Grill's house salad is served with "sweet" Italian vinaigrette, so ask for a low-carb dressing on the side instead, such as ranch or blue cheese.

Insalata Blu--Bibb lettuce is tossed with toasted walnuts, red onion, bleu cheese and a tangy vinaigrette. It's best to have a low-carb dressing in place of the vinaigrette since many of these have added sugars.

Chicken Caesar--Grilled chicken over romaine lettuce, and mixed with tomatoes, mushrooms, and feta cheese. It's topped with Caesar dressing, which is fine, but ask for it on the side.

Steak & Arugula Salad--Tender beef over baby arugula, spinach, radicchio, bacon, and bleu cheese. It's served with Toscana dressing, which we are assuming is low-carb since they say the entire salad is only 9 carbs.

Mozzarella alla Caprese--Imported buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Seared Sea Scallops--Seared sea scallops over spinach and arugula, and tossed with feta cheese, crispy prosciutto, toasted walnuts, and Parmesan crisps. Make sure those crisps are just cheese and not cheese-topped croutons. Also skip the light citrus dressing it comes with, and order something low-carb such as ranch or blue cheese.

Entrees

Chicken Portobello--Grilled chicken breast with a grilled Portobello mushroom, melted mozzarella and demi glace. I think demi glace is a semi-sugary glaze, so ask for that to be omitted. It's served with spinach pasta, so ask for a vegetable and/or side salad instead.

Boursin Filet--A center cut tenderloin is topped with a creamy pepper Boursin cheese, and served with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. Just ask for a side salad or double order of asparagus instead of the potatoes.

Grilled Halibut--Lightly seasoned grilled halibut is topped with tomato basil relish and served with pesto Parmesan risotto. Ask for grilled asparagus or a side salad instead of the risotto.

Simple Salmon--Seaoned grilled salmon is served with both asparagus and broccoli. This one is a Phase 1 champ.

Chicken Scaloppine--Sauteed chicken breast with mushrooms, artichokes, capers and smoked prosciutto in a lemon butter sauce. It's served over pasta, so ask for that to be omitted and have a vegetable or side salad instead.

Veal Marsala--Veal topped with Portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic and marsala wine sauce. It's also served over pasta, so have a vegetable or side salad instead.

Chicken Marsala--Chicken topped with Portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic and marsala wine sauce. Same as with the veal, have a vegetable or salad instead of the pasta.

Chicken & Shrimp Scaloppine--Sauteed chicken and shrimp with mushrooms, artichokes, capers and smoked prosciutto in a lemon butter sauce. This is also served over pasta, so order a vegetable or side salad in its place.

Beverages

Best choices for Phase 1 are water, sparkling water such as San Pellegrino, diet soft drinks, coffee or tea, unsweetened iced tea, cappuccino with skim milk, or espresso.

Dessert

As is the case with most restaurants, chain or otherwise, the desserts are fat and/or sugar traps. So enjoy some coffee or a coffee drink (sugar-free, of course), and have your ricotta creme or sugar-free gelatin when you get home.

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