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South Beach Diet Phase 1 at Chilis

Updated on April 9, 2007

I've had a ton of great feedback on the Applebee's and Outback Steakhouse hubs on this topic so far, so I'm going to keep doing more. This next hub will focus on a sample menu from Chili's Restaurants.

As a rule, Chili's follows the same pattern as other chain restaurants. That is, a very large menu with a lot of high fat and fried foods, but also with attention to healthy options. In fact, at the Chili's in my hometown there is a "Guiltless Grill" section that has some great South Beach Diet Phase 1 choices.

Remember, as with similar hubs I've done on this, I have not confirmed the use of low-fat cheese or if butter was used in sautéing vegetables, but we use our best judgment and try to stick to the plan within the menu's boundaries.

Chili's focuses on Southwest cuisine, so there is an emphasis on grilled meats, chili peppers, corn, black beans and salsa. Here is a sampling of some acceptable SBD Phase 1 menu items:


Unfortunately, there were no appetizers on this menu that I found acceptable for Phase 1, because they are all high in fat, breaded, or they are dips that use tortilla chips for scooping.

Soups & Salads

Caesar Salad-Caesar Salad is generally a safe option on Phase 1, as long as you avoid the croutons, go light on the Parmesan cheese, and ask for the dressing on the side so your salad is not soaked. Chili's also offers the option of adding grilled chicken or garlic & lime grilled shrimp, which are nice SBD choices.

Chili's Terlingua Chili-This is the restaurant's signature chili, and it screams South Beach Diet. It's got chunks of beef, beans, onions and peppers; and its secret ingredient is peanut butter. While it's doubtful that Chili's uses the natural kind with no added sugar, it's also doubtful that peanut butter is a main ingredient. Make sure you ask for the sour cream and cheese on the side as well.

Chicken Chili Bianco-Another good option made with chicken, white beans and garlic. It comes topped with tortilla strips and cheese, so ask for the tortilla strips to be omitted and for the cheese to be served on the side.


Chili's Classic Sirloin-An 8 oz. Sirloin is a good choice in any restaurant on SBD Phase 1, but make sure to ask that it be grilled and not topped with the "steak butter" that it usually comes with. Make sure your two sides are steamed broccoli and the sautéed onion and bell peppers, instead of any potatoes, rice, or the sugary cinnamon apples.

Margarita Grilled Chicken-Grilled chicken that is marinated in Margarita flavoring. It's served with rice, black beans, tortilla strips and pico de gallo, so stay away from the rice and tortilla strips and ask for steamed broccoli instead.

Southwest Cedar Plank Tilapia-A tilapia fillet that is cooked on a cedar plank with chimichurri sauce (cilantro, garlic and lime juice). I know this one is a winner here because there is a recipe in one of the SBD cookbooks just like it for lamb chops. It's served with rice and steamed veggies, so avoid the rice and ask for more veggies.

Classic Fajitas-If you eat fajitas without the tortillas, it's not nearly as much fun. But it is SBD Phase 1 friendly that way, and you can get used to it. The Classic at Chili's is steak or chicken fajitas with onions and peppers, and it comes with guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream on the side. Just be careful as to how much sour cream and cheese you use, because it's likely they are full-fat.

Citrus Fire Chicken & Shrimp Fajitas-This is a few Chili's dishes in one-the Margarita Grilled Chicken and garlic & lime shrimp. Both are mixed fajita style with onions, peppers, and chimichurri sauce, and served with guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream just like the Classic fajitas.

Steak & Portobello Fajitas-Chimichurri marinated steak that is topped with a grilled and marinated Portobello mushroom and pico de gallo, onions and peppers.

Guiltless Grill

Guiltless Grill Salmon-An 8 oz. Salmon fillet that is seasoned and seared. It's served with black beans and steamed vegetables w/Parmesan cheese. This one is already tailor made for the South Beach Diet on any phase.

Guiltless Chicken Platter-A grilled chicken breast that is served with rice, corn and steamed veggies. Both the rice and corn are no-no's on Phase 1, so ask for more veggies or a side salad.

Guiltless Black Bean Burger-A meatless black bean patty topped with low fat Ranch dressing, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. It's served with steamed vegetables. I'm assuming this comes on a bun, so ask for it without the bun.

Guiltless Chicken Sandwich-Like the black bean burger, ask for it without the bun. But otherwise it's a South Beach MVP: grilled chicken with nonfat honey mustard dressing, lettuce, pickle, and tomato; and with black beans and steamed veggies on the side. Even though the dressing is nonfat, it does have honey, so use it sparingly.


Unfortunately, there are no good dessert options at Chili's on any phase of the South Beach Diet. So you'll have to wait until you get home to have some ricotta crème or sugar free jell-o.


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      Tdub 6 months ago

      Unless Chili's changed their recipe, their is no peanut butter in the chili. I worked there for over 20 years and it was made with onions, tomato sauce, chili seasoning, water and ground beef. To thicken it mass harina was used.

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      Anthony Ortega 5 years ago

      I believe that avoiding prepared foods may be the first step to be able to lose weight. They will often taste beneficial, but prepared foods have got very little nutritional value, making you feed on more simply to have enough vigor to get with the day. For anyone who is constantly feeding on these foods, moving over to whole grain products and other complex carbohydrates will make you to have more vigor while feeding on less. Good blog post.

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