A good diet is one that allows you to progress towards your goals in a sustainable fashion.
This means eating a variety of foods that you enjoy. It also means fitting meals around your lifestyle, not fitting your lifestyle around a strict meal schedule.
A sustainable diet will also allow you to go out and enjoy time with friends.
I recently wrote an article surrounding how you can eat out without ruining your diet. I’d recommend checking it out if you haven’t done so already.
I’d now like to start a series of articles focusing on specific restaurants and outlining the best menu choices for those who are dieting.
For the first article in this series I’m going to be focusing on Nando’s.
Founded in 1987, there are now over 1000 Nando’s restaurants across 30 countries.
The concept was born in South Africa, but the cuisine is Afro-Portuguese.
The legendary flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken has been a favourite in the UK, especially amongst the bodybuilding community.
In-fact, as far as restaurants go, Nando’s is a dieter’s dream. The wide range of well-seasoned lean means, tasty carbohydrates sources and notorious sauces makes it a popular choice for all.
On the face of things, it seems like you almost can’t go wrong.
Unfortunately, though, you can. I’m going to dive into some of the best and worst choices for those looking to lose fat and get healthier.
If you’re feeling peckish, Nandos have 5 individual appetisers and 2 sharing platters.
In terms of the individual starters, the clear winner for those dieting is the Spicy Mixed Olives.
These contain just 138 calories, very little protein or carbs and 13.5g of fat. They also have 3.9g of dietary fibre. It should be noted that they do have 4.6g of salt – which is pretty high!
Another option would be 3 chicken wings. The Lemon and Herb spiced wings contain 290 calories which is quite high considering the satiety that they’ll provide. They do pack a hefty 32g of protein, but this comes with 17.5g of fat. You could save a few calories by removing the skin.
The least diet friendly options are without a doubt the houmous with PERi-PERi drizzle and the PERi-PERi nuts.
The creamy houmous is accompanied with strips of warm pitta, and smoky PERi-PERi flavoured oil.
This small appetiser packs a staggering 800 calories, including over 30g of fat and almost 100g of carbohydrates – that’s almost days’ worth of carbs and fats for a bikini competitor!
Many may think that by choosing the nuts, they’re opting for a ‘healthy’ option.
Unfortunately though, at 783 calories with 65g of dietary fat, this rich mix of almonds, cashews and macadamias are destined to throw you into a caloric surplus for the day.
At Nando’s, you have three main options when it comes to mains.
Firstly, you’ve got the PERi-PERi chicken dishes. Here, you can either opt for on the bone options like ½ chicken or wings. Or you could go for off the bone options like thighs or a chicken butterfly.
Next, you’ve got burgers, pittas and wraps.
Finally, you can choose from a good range of salads, which you’re able to add chicken breast or have on their own.
Regular Chicken Dishes
Arguably the most popular options at Nando’s are the regular chicken dishes, accompanied by a couple of regular sides.
I’m a simple guy with simple tastes, so this is usually what I’ll opt for when I eat at Nando’s
One thing you will notice about these dishes is that they tend to have quite high fat vs a regular chicken breast that you’d cook at home.
This is mainly because they have the skin-on. Chicken skin is high in dietary fat, which is why many popular diets (slimming world, weight watchers etc.) will recommend that you trim it from the meat.
The two options that I’d recommend to those dieting would be:
- ¼ Chicken Breast
- Chicken Butterfly
Both options are very high in protein (around 55g), have minimal carbohydrates and around 8-12g of fat per serving. This leaves you with plenty of room for sides.
If you’ve left a lot of room for calories, then you could go for ½ chicken or the chicken thighs, however these each have around 600 calories and roughly 30g of fat.
I’d recommend staying away from the 10 Chicken Wings or Wing Roulette. These have over 950Kcals and 57g of fat.
Burgers, Pittas and Wraps
Believe it or not, this section is not out of bounds to dieters!
I would however recommend that if you do go for a burger, wrap or pitta, you hang-fire on the carb-heavy sides as these mains will already have a good amount of carbohydrates.
For those on lower-protein diets, the single grilled chicken burgers or pittas are an excellent choice.
These each contain around 400Kcals, 35g or protein (still very good), 40g of carbs and under 10g of fat.
The wraps tend to be higher in calories. This is twofold, firstly, the wraps themselves tend to be higher in carbs that the pittas and the Portuguese rolls that are used for the burgers.
Also, by default, the wraps contain a healthy serving of mayonnaise, whereas the burgers and pittas do not.
For those with higher protein requirements. The double chicken burgers and wraps are perfect. They contain the same amount of carbohydrates and fats as the single fillet options but pack a massive 60g of protein!
The butterfly burger is also an excellent choice for those looking for a large protein hit. With 65g of protein and around 550Kcals, this will be a viable choice for many dieters.
At 30g of fat and 621Kcals, the Sunset Burger is slightly less diet friendly. This is largely due to the cheese and chutney that come with it. On calories alone, it is still a viable alternative to the ½ chicken or thighs.
As you can see from above, just because you’re dieting it doesn’t mean you have to go straight for the salad section at Nando’s.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of people who will happily choose a salad over the other options available.
For this article, I’m going to provide nutritional data based on salads that are accompanied by the grilled chicken breast.
This is simply because they tend to be low on protein without it. And whilst not every dieter needs to eat substantial amounts of protein, it does have several benefits including lean-muscle retention, satiety and aiding recovery.
When it comes to the salads, there really isn’t a bad option.
The mixed leaf salad is a very light option. With only 156 calories and 30g of protein this is the lowest calorie dish on the menu. Great for someone who is just looking for a light snack, but probably not great for anyone with a big appetite!
The Quinoa salad is the highest calorie option with 572 calories and 29g of fat. However, with a mix of grains, sweet potato, avocado and tomatoes it is packed full of micronutrients. It also has a hefty 10g of fibre and 45g of protein to keep you satiated until your next meal.
Often the most cost-effective option at Nando’s is to accompany your main with 1 or 2 regular sides.
For example, a chicken butterfly on its own is £7.90, however for an extra £3.40 you can get 2 regular sides. Not bad eh?
Unfortunately, choosing the wrong sides can quickly turn a diet-friendly meal into a dieting disaster!
There are two types of side dishes at Nando’s. You’ve got normal sides and fino sides.
Nowadays, there are 10 different “normal” sides to choose from. These come in sizes regular or large. All nutritional information mentioned below will be based on the regular sized sides.
Arguably the most popular side dish at Nando’s is their chips. Unfortunately though, these are not a dieter’s best friend. At 380 calories and almost 15g of fat, these are one that I’d stay away from when attempting to lose body fat.
The garlic-bread is also a popular choice, but not one I’d recommend to those who are dieting. With 336 calories and over 16g of fat, this is not a great choice.
Many dieters may be tempted to go for the coleslaw or creamy mash, but with almost 24g and 18g of fat respectively, you’ll certainly be able to find better options.
Despite all of this, there are several diet friendly sides available. Here are some that I’d recommend:
- Supergrain – 188 Calories (7.5g Protein, 28.9 Carbohydrates, 6.1g Fat, 6.7g Fibre)
- Spicy Rice – 227 Calories (3.9 Protein, 37.8g Carbohydrates, 5.9g Fat, 3.3g Fibre)
- Corn on the Cob – 144 Calories (5.7g Protein, 22g Carbohydrates, 2.7g Fat, 4.6g Fibre)
- Macho Peas – 168 Calories (6.6g Protein, 9.8g Carbohydrates, 10.4g of Fat, 5.9g Fibre)
- Mixed Leaf Salad – 14 Calories (Very little of everything!)
Fino sides are a relatively new addition to the Nando’s menu. There are just 4 options in total to choose from. They come in just one size and cost £3.25 each.
Here is the caloric and macronutrient breakdown for each of them:
- Chargrilled Veg: 98 Calories (2.2g Protein, 11.4g Carbohydrates, 5.3g Fat, 2.3g Fibre)
- Fino Coleslaw: 79 Calories (1.3g Protein, 5.1g Carbohydrates, 4.9g Fat, 1.7g Fibre)
- Sweet Potato Wedges: 330 Calories (7.5g Protein, 47.7g Carbohydrates, 14.2 Fat, 5.4g Fibre)
- Sweet Potato Mash: 248 Calories (4.4g Protein, 45.4g Carbohydrates, 4.2g Fat, 5.4g Fibre)
As you can see, 3 out of the 4 options are and very low in fat.
One thing that may come as a surprise to you is that the sweet potato wedges contain the same amount of fat and similar total calories as regular chips.
So take your pick!
Putting it all together
As you can see, there are literally hundreds of diet friendly combinations that to choose from when you eat at Nando’s.
To make things a bit easier, I’m going to create meal templates based on several popular dieting methods.
Low Fat Dieting
If your diet is based around limiting the intake of dietary fat, here is one of the best options for you:
- Grilled Chicken Pitta – Lemon and Herb
- Supergrain (Regular)
- Corn on the Cob (Regular – without butter)
- Coke Zero (Unlimited Refills)
- Calories: 706
- Protein: 48.3g
- Carbohydrates: 92.9g
- Fat: 15.4g
At 700 calories, this is by no means a ‘light’ meal. Depending on your daily caloric goals, you may need to lower your calories around this meal to fit it in. Nonetheless, at just 15g of fat, it should be very easy to work into your plan. For just £12.25, it’s unlikely to break the bank either!
Low Carb Dieting
If your diet is based around restricting carbohydrates, here is one of the best options for you:
- Chicken Butterfly – Lemon & Herb
- Chargrilled Veg
- Fino Coleslaw
- Grilled Halloumi Cheese
- Coke Zero (Unlimited Refills)
- Calories – 675
- Protein – 72.3g
- Carbohydrates – 17.9g
- Fat – 34.2g
Once again, this is not a light meal. However, with over 70g of protein and less than 20g of carbs, it’s going to be extremely filling. Importantly, it’s also going to be very easy to fit into your low-carb diet.
Low Calorie Dieting
If your diet is simply based around restricting caloric intake, then here is a good option for you:
- Mediterranean Salad with Chicken Breast (Medium)
- Coke Zero
- Calories: 435
- Protein: 39.5g
- Carbohydrates: 9.5g
- Fat: 25.6g
Not only is this salad high in protein, it’s also a rich source of healthy fats and packed full of micronutrients. With less than 10 grams of carbohydrates (5.4 of which is dietary fibre), this would also be an excellent choice for those adhering to a low carb diet.
As you can see, Nando’s offers a wealth of options for those who are dieting, regardless of dieting methodology.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Nando’s is one of the most diet friendly restaurant chains in the UK.
If you like this style of article, let me know in the comments section down below. Also, what restaurant chain would you like me to focus on next?
I look forward to hearing from you.