Normally, when we do these guides for the main chains, most of the menu aims at meat eaters and we pinpoint one or two low calorie veggie options – today, though, we’re talking about US chain Veggie Grill who have an entire plant-based menu. However, also when we do these guides, we often discover that the plant-based offering isn’t always the lowest calorie choice – so, how do the Veggie Grill calories compare? Time to find out…
Is Veggie Grill Vegan?
Yes. Veggie Grill is an entirely vegan restaurant chain based in the US and founded in 2006 – they pride themselves of using no meat, no dairy or eggs, no cholesterol, and no trans fat. The call it ‘Comfort Food the World Can Love’ and you’ll find burgers, sandwiches and Tex Mex goodies among the menu.
The first Veggie Grill opened in Irvine, California 15 years ago, and was started by three guys who just felt better eating plant-based and so wanted to help other people do the same.
Today the chain is the largest and most influential vegan and vegetarian restaurant chain in the U.S. with 29 locations in five states, including California, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Washington.
When you order at Veggie Grill, you pick the main part of your meal from a few options and can choose a side dish – that means there’s lots of combinations to pick from which, also means maths in the queue if you’re counting your calories. They do give a calorie guide on the menu, but it can be pretty wide – the Caesar Salad one, for example, ranges from 100-480 calories.
So that’s where we come in. This post helps you find the lowest calorie options and combos for each section of the menu.
Customizing at Veggie Grill
Admittedly, as you’re about to discover, at first glance, it doesn’t look like there are a lot of low calorie options on the Veggie Grill menu.
We tend to stick to an upper limit of 600 calories for lunch and dinner-type meals in this posts and, during the first scan it didn’t look like there was as many dishes under this as we thought there might be – however, there’s a few ways to adjust calories in Veggie Grill that change everything.
First, you can choose what meals like burgers and sandwiches come wrapped in which can shred the calories. Swapping up the type of protein you have will also change things a little bit. these two tips alone massively opened up the menu.
And then you can also use the brilliant Veggie Grill Nutrition Calculator to cut things further if you want to.
This lists the calorie count of every individual item in a dish so you can see if losing something might make a difference in calories – for example, if you love burritos but aren’t that fussed about cheese in them, asking them to hold the cheese drops a dish like the 7 Layer Burrito from 920 calories to 740 calories.
We’ll explain how each of these can make a difference to your meal as we go through.
But let’s start with the TLDR version… what’s the lowest calorie meal at Veggie Grill.
The Lowest Calorie Meal at Veggie Grill
The absolute, lowest calorie dish on the menu is the Classic Romaine Caesar salad – flatbread croutons, lemon wedge, grated parmesan, and romaine hearts – with only 100 calories if you skip the dressing.
This salad’s little brother Classic Romaine Caesar Kale style is also low in calories – in it the romaine is swapped for kale and it has 120 calories.
But don’t just order either of them solo, please! One hundred calories may sound great if you want to keep your calorie intake as low as possible, but believe me, there is a line when low calories stop being a healthy choice. One hundred calories aren’t enough for your body and your brain to work properly for the whole day or even a few hours.
A healthy lunch or dinner, even if you’re trying to lose weight, should be between 400-600 calories.
To make this salad a better meal, therefore, add some extra plant protein from the menu. There are four main options: a Beyond Burger patty (230 calories), Diced Crispy Chickin’ (250 calories), Bulgogi Beef (260 calories), or Diced Buffalo Chickin’ (290 calories).
The lowest calorie, balanced meal option at Veggie Grill is therefore the Caesar Salad with a Beyond Burger Patty, with no dressing at 330 calories.
Why no dressing? Because the full sized portion of Caesar dressing at Veggie Grill has 370 calories almost doubling the calories of the meal.
But, because life is too short for salad without dressing (unless you like it that way), get it on the side and use a quarter of the pot and you’ll hit our minimum 400 calorie limit – if you add half you’ll still have a yummy Caesar for 515 calories.
What is Bulgogi Beef or Chicken Doing Here?
Ok, hold on! How is Bulgogi Beef vegan, I hear you ask? It’s plant-based protein. Veggie Grill chain has partnered with Gardein and they use their beefless strips for the Bulgogi Beef protein.
The ‘incorrect’ spelling of Chickin’ should also give you some clues that that wasn’t clucking it’s way around a field earlier either – Veggie Grill makes the ‘chickin’ out of plant-based proteins from soy, wheat, and peas.
Fish dishes also fit the the ‘Fish are Friends not Food’ philosopy and are from the Good Catch brand.
So now you know the lowest calorie option, what about the rest of the menu, we’ll now we’ll highlight the best choice from each section of the menu – or, if you’d rather pick for yourself, skim down to the At A Glance section to find all the low-calorie ways to spend your calories in Veggie Grill.
Veggie Grill Starters and Shares
Veggie Grill offers a good number of starter options under 600 calories, and the lowest calorie starter is a delicious bowl of Lentil Soup – only 270 calories!
Lentil soup is actually a very nutritious meal – as lentils are rich in fiber, folate, and iron, and very low in fat. Add to this valuable amounts of potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and vitamin B6 and you’re getting not a bowl of soup, but a whole bowl of health boosters!
Combine it with a naked kale salad and it’s a pretty good meal in itself for 390 calories (580 with half the dressing).
Other good starters that you can make into a meal with an extra side are the Two Taco Plates with Chickin (360 calories) and Fish (370 calories).
Veggie Grill Bowls
Bowls offer a complete meal option, but, the bowls at Veggie Grill aren’t hugely low in calories.
The lowest calorie option is the new 7 Layer Bowl, which just sneaks outside our calorie limit at 610 calories – however, the fab nutrition calculator tells us that if you lose the Southwest Mayo on top though it goes down to 510 calories and is a pretty good choice.
Veggie Grill Salads
Ordering a salad while counting calories can be trickier than you’d think – and often, thanks to dressing, in these guides the salads end up with more calories than other, less virtuous sounding offerings on the menu.
Of course, calories aren’t the only reason to pick a salad over, say a burger and chips, but, if cals count for you, don’t assume they’re always the lowest calorie choice – especially with dressing.
We’ve already talked about how the Caesar Salad with protein is the lowest calorie option, but don’t discount the Catalina Taco Salad.
This is a hearty salad with avocado, beans, and taco ‘meat’ – and that combination of fat, fibre and protein will increase how full it makes you feel – and it’s just 410 calories without dressing. Add half the dressing, it’ll be 540 calories.
If salads make your heart sing, you might also want to check out our guide to the calories in Just Salad to see how they compare.
Veggie Grill Burgers
It’s no longer news that a burger can be healthy, vegetarian, and still be savory and tasty. The bad news is that at Veggie Grill most classic burgers on a bun are over our 600 calorie cut-off point once you add the inclusive side dish.
The lowest of them all is the VG Classic with a Wild Mushroom patty, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese on a bun at 560 calories without a side.
But remember Veggie Grill let you swap the bun on any burger for Romaine Hearts which will save around 190 calories per burger. Doing this opens up lots more choices on the menu if you don’t have a side dish or, gives you room to add an extra side to some others and still not go over 600 cals.
How much difference does it make? Well the VG Classic with a Wild Mushroom patty drops to 370 calories if you swap the bun for lettuce. And the Steakhouse Burger, pictured above, comes down to 510 with a Beyond Burger Patty (less with the mushroom patty). Check out the best sides have with it below…
You can also choose the type of burger patty you’d like. If you do have this option, the Beyond Burger is normally a handful of calories higher than the other choices.
Veggie Grill Sandwiches and Wraps
The top sandwich choice is a Cajun Fish Sandwich – 560 calories, without a side.
Hot stuff alert though!
The Cajun Devil Sauce can be spicy – it’s called Devil for a reason. If that’s not your thing, removing it will wipe 170 calories – win-win!
Again, though you get the option to swap your bread for Romaine hearts to cut 190 calories taking your fish sandwich to 370 calories even with the Devil sauce kick! Say hello to the side dishes again.
In fact, the lettuce-swapping trick will work with ALL sandwiches and wraps on the menu except for the 7 Layer Burrito. You’ll find the calories below.
Other good ways to shrink down your calories on the sandwiches – asking them to hold the Earth Balance (a type of vegan butter) on the Tuna Melt or the Reuben on Rye which will cut 100 calories (and 70 on the Turkey Melt). If you take out the Ranch Sauce on the Crispy Buffalo Chicken it’ll lose 80 calories.
Veggie Grill Sides
So, as we said, all the calorie counts above are for the main part of your meal – they don’t include any side dishes you might want to add. The burgers, sandwiches and wraps all come with a side included so, it’s tempting.
The lowest calorie side dish on the menu is a cup of Lentil Soup – only 140 calories! You can combine it with a salad, a sandwich or a burger.
Or opt for a regular portion of salads: The Smoked Potato Salad is 190 calories while the Regular Pesto Pasta Salad is 270.
If you’re going for fries, don’t fall for the Sweet Potato trap. Yes, they have more nutrients, and a healthy image, but they don’t have fewer calories than your old fashioned white spud (the fact that you probably think they do is known as the health halo and you can read more about it here).
A regular portion of Crispy Fries will add 370 calories to your meal, but the same size one of Sweet Potato ones is 490.
And, if there’s two of you, it’s better to buy a large portion and split it. Half a portion of Crispy Fries is just 255 calories and half a portion of Sweet Potato Fries is 305.
Veggie Grill Desserts
Chocolate Pudding Parfait is the lowest in calories option among desserts – 360 calories! It’s not exactly a low-sugar dish though – it has 48 grams of sugar.
Veggie Grill Calories at a Glance
So, as you can see, finding the lowest calorie options on the Veggie Grill menu requires a bit of tweaking the ingredients, which, if you’re in a rush at lunchtime can slip your mind, so, in this list we’ll help you out by picking the lowest calorie combos and bread swaps on the menu.
Remember, you might be able to lower things further by omitting other ingredients – we’ve added some of these if it brings a dish under 600 calories that wouldn’t be listed otherwise, but we haven’t included every combination so do mess about with the nutrition calculator if your favourite isn’t here..
So, here’s all the balanced meal options under 400, 500, and 600 calories (including some combos) that you can order at Veggie Grill.
Under 400 Calories
Classic Romaine Caesar – without dressing – with Beyond Burger Patty (protein) – 330 calories
Classic Romaine Caesar Kale – without dressing – with Beyond Burger Patty (protein) – 360 calories
The VG Classic (Wild Rice Mushroom Burger Patty) on romaine hearts – 370 calories
Classic Romaine Caesar Kale – without dressing – with Diced Crispy Chickin’ – 380 calories
Classic Romaine Caesar – without dressing – with Diced Buffalo Chickin’ – 390 calories
Classic Romaine Caesar Kale – without dressing – with Bulgogi Beef – 390 calories
Under 500 calories
House Veggie Burger (Black Bean Burger Patty) on romaine hearts (no side) – 400 calories
Catalina Taco Salad – without dressing – 410 calories
The VG Classic (Beyond Burger Patty) on romaine hearts (no side) – 410 calories
Rueben on Rye on romaine hearts (no side) – 410 calories
Classic Romaine Caesar Kale – without dressing – with Diced Buffalo Chickin’ – 420 calories
House Veggie Burger (Beyond Burger patty) on romaine hearts (no side)- 430 calories
Crispy Buffalo Chickin’ on romaine hearts (no side) – 440 calories
Santa Fe Chickin’ on romaine hearts (no side) – 460 calories
Two Taco Plate – Chickin’ with Classic Romaine Caesar – without dressing – 460 calories
Two Taco Plate – Fish with Classic Romaine Caesar – without dressing – 470 calories
Two Taco Plate – Chickin’ with Classic Romaine Caesar Kale – without dressing – 480 calories
Two Taco Plate – Fish with Classic Romaine Caesar Kale – without dressing – 490 calories
Classic Romaine Caesar salad – with Caesar dressing – 470 calories
Steakhouse Burger (Wild Rice Mushroom Burger Patty) on romaine hearts (no side) – 470 calories
Classic Romaine Caesar Kale Style – with Caesar dressing – 490 calories
Under 600 calories
Steakhouse Burger (Beyond Burger ) on romaine hearts (no side) – 510 calories
House Veggie Burger (Black Bean Patty) in Wheat Torta (hold the mayo, no side) – 510 calories
The VG Classic (Wild Rice Mushroom Burger Patty) on romaine hearts with a cup of Lentil Soup – 510 calories
7 Layer Burrito Bowl (hold the mayo) – 510 calories
Cajun Fish Sandwich on romaine hearts with a cup of Lentil Soup – 510 calories
Wings (Plain) with a Plain Caesar Salad – 520 calories
Tuna Melt on romaine hearts (no side) – 520 calories
Turkey Melt on romaine hearts (no side) – 520 calories
Kale + Quinoa Power Salad (no dressing) – 530 calories
Rueben on Rye on romaine hearts with a cup of Lentil soup – 550 calories
The VG Classic (Beyond Burger Patty) on romaine hearts with a Cup of Lentil Soup – 550 calories
Cajun Fish Sandwich on a bun (no side) – 560 calories
The VG Classic (Wild Rice Mushroom Burger Patty) with regular Smoked Potato Salad – 560 calories
Cajun Fish Sandwich on a gluten-free bun (no side) – 560 calories
The VG Classic (Wild Rice Mushroom Burger Patty) on brioche – 560 calories
Cajun Fish Sandwich on romaine hearts with regular Smoked Potato Salad – Regular – 560 calories
The VG Classic (Wild Rice Mushroom Burger Patty) on romaine hearts with a regular Smoked Potato Salad – 560 calories
House Veggie Burger (Beyond Burger patty) onromaine hearts with cup of Lentil Soup – 570 calories
Crispy Buffalo Chickin’ on romaine hearts with a cup of Lentil Soup – 580 calories
House Veggie Burger (Black Bean Burger Patty) on a gluten-free bun – 590 calories
The VG Classic (Beyond Burger Patty) on romaine hearts with regular potato salad – 600 calories
The VG Classic (Beyond Burger Patty) on a brioche bun (no side) – 600 calories
The VG Classic (Beyond Burger Patty) and gluten-free bun (no side) – 600 calories
Rueben on Rye on a gluten-free bun (no side) – 600 calories
Rueben on Rye on romaine hearts with Smoked Potato Salad – Regular – 600 calories
Santa Fe Chickin’ on romaine hearts with a cup of Lentil soup – 600 calories
The VG Classic (Beyond Burger Patty) on romaine hearts with a Cup of Lentil Soup – 600 calories
House Veggie Pattie (Black Bean Pattie) in a wrap (hold the mayo, no side) – 600 calories
So, after our initial reservations, digging deep into the Veggie Grill menu nutrition information came up with an amazing amount of low-calorie choices at Veggie Grill – nearly 50 in fact (and, there’s probably more if you use the nutritional calculator to lose any additions that don’t matter to you) and, all the animals are happy which is worth a few extra calories anyway.
If you’re ready to order, head over to their website.
So, what’s your favourite meal at Veggie Grill? – let us know in the comments.
All images from Veggie Grill. Used with permission
Want More Calorie Guides?
If you liked this post, you might also want to have a look at some of our other US calorie guides like Red Lobster or, we’ve also covered the Noodles & Company which proves you can eat carbs and stick to your diet plan.
You’ll find all of our calorie guides here as we’re regularly adding to them, why not sign up to our mailing list (the forms below or on the side) ready for when your favourite drops.
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.