How to Make Healthier Choices When Eating at Fogo de Chao

Fogo de Chao menu
Courtesy of Fogo de Chao 

Fogo de Chao is known for their churrasco meats and all-you-can-eat dining style. An evening at this Brazilian steakhouse is often a celebration, a special occasion, or a romantic night on the town. But what if you are trying to keep your diet on track or stick to a nutritious eating plan? Can you find healthy food on the Fogo de Chao menu? Thankfully, you can. The trick to eating well at Fogo is not what you eat, but rather how much you eat.

Analyzing the Fogo de Chao Menu

If you want to get your money's worth at this Brazilian steakhouse, it's smart to go hungry. But if you are following a calorie-controlled diet or aiming to adhere to a healthy eating program, it's also wise to have a plan before you go. You'll have the opportunity to taste a wide range of foods, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed and overeat as a result.

Most people who dine at Fogo de Chao choose to enjoy the full churrasco experience, a prix fixe menu that includes continual service of fire-roasted meats carved at your table. "Churrasco" is Portuguese for barbecue and is used to describe grilled meat. At Fogo de Chao, chefs—called "gauchos"—prepare and serve seasoned pork, lamb, chicken, seafood, and of course, several different cuts of beef.

The signature steak of Fogo de Chao is the picanha (the prime part of the top sirloin) that is flavored with sea salt or garlic. You can also choose to enjoy filet mignon, beef ancho (ribeye), alcatra (top sirloin), fraldinha (bottom sirloin), costela (beef ribs), or medalhões com bacon (bacon wrapped steak).

Most entree menu choices come with Fogo de Chao's Market Table and Feijoada Bar. The Market Table is set up similar to a salad bar but includes not only a wide range of fresh vegetables and salad ingredients, but also cured meats and cheeses, fruit, and fresh seasonal soups, and other selections. Feijoada is a traditional black bean stew made with sausage and served with rice, fresh orange, and farofa (baked yucca flour with bacon).

Diners who choose not to eat meat can select just the Market Table and Feijoada Bar from the menu. You can also choose the Mango Chilean Sea Bass either a la carte or with the Market Table.

Fogo de Chao Nutrition

The following nutrition information is provided for one slice (1.7 ounces or 48 grams) of picanha. Fogo de Chao's signature cut of beef is also known as the beef coulotte or the top sirloin cap.

  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: 8g
  • Sodium: 55mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 13g

The most popular selections on the Fogo de Chao menu are the meat selections, particularly beef. While red meat (in general) tends to be higher in fat and calories than other types of meat, the serving size is relatively modest at this restaurant, especially compared to other steakhouses. Most beef selections are 2 ounces or less. So, you can try different types of beef and still keep your healthy eating plan on track.

  •  A 1.6-ounce slice of alcatra (top sirloin) provides 120 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 12 grams of protein
  •  A 1.6-ounce slice of beef ancho (rib eye) provides 120 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 12 grams of protein
  •  A 1.9-ounce bisteca de porco (pork chop) provides 85 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 16 grams of protein
  •  A 2.1-ounce cordeiro (lamb chop) provides 210 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 12 grams of protein
  •  A 2-ounce filet mignon provides 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 15 grams of protein

Keep in mind that sauces and side dishes add calories to your meal. The chimichurri sauce, for example, will add 80 calories to your meal if you add just a spoonful to your plate. And a popular side dish like polenta fries (available at the bar) will add 500 calories to your meal.

If you are a guest who has recently undergone bariatric surgery, you are offered special pricing at Fogo de Chao if you bring your approved WLS bariatric card. You'll pay half-price for the full churrasco lunch or dinner experience. Other entrees are available at full price.

Healthiest Options at Fogo de Chao

According to Fernando Quintas, the Fogo de Chao restaurant manager in Minneapolis, the Market Table is where you want to spend most of your time if you are trying to eat healthy at Fogo de Chao. If you start your meal with fresh vegetables, fruit, and fiber-rich whole grains, you'll be less likely to overindulge with higher-calorie, higher-fat dishes later in the meal. In fact, some smart diners continue to visit the Market Table throughout their dining experience to fill up between meat courses.

Among the meat and seafood selections, some choices are healthier than others. The pork loin with parmesan cheese provides just 90 calories and three grams of fat per 1.9-ounce serving. And the pork chop provides just 85 calories and two grams of fat. Each of the chicken selections (especially the chicken breast with bacon) are also smart selections if you are trying to cut calories and fat.

If you prefer seafood, Fogo's Chilean sea bass is a lower calorie option if you don't eat the full 15.4-ounce serving. The entire dish (as served) provides 730 calories, 22 grams of fat, and 55 grams of protein. As a comparison, most experts suggest that a reasonable serving of fish is roughly 3-4 ounces. If you eat a third of your fish and take the rest home for lunch the next day, you'll get a satisfying meal for under 250 calories.

On the dessert menu, healthy eaters should choose the caramelized pineapple. The dish contains just 240 calories and provides enough flavor to curb your sweet tooth.

Unhealthiest Options at Fogo de Chao

Like any steakhouse, there are quite a few indulgent items on the Fogo de Chao menu. These selections are delicious but they will increase your calorie, fat, and sodium intake during the meal.

The highest calorie meat on the Fogo de Chao menu is the lamb t-bone chop at 240 calories each. The serving size (2.4 ounces) is slightly higher, however, so you may eat less if you choose this option. Beef ribs (1.6 ounces), pork ribs (2.1 ounces), and the lamb chop (2.1 ounces) also provide 210 calories per serving.

Not surprisingly, the dessert menu is filled with high-calorie selections. Almost all of the cheesecake options provide nearly 900 calories per slice. However, since many of these choices are larger in size and can easily be split between two, three, or even four diners.

Tips to Eat Healthy at a Brazilian Steakhouse

Portion control is tricky when you dine at any all-you-can-eat restaurant. Steakhouses—and Brazilian steakhouses in particular—are especially tricky because even though meat choices like beef and pork provide health benefits, they are often high in saturated fat and calories. To keep your healthy eating plan on track, use these tricks to enjoy the experience while you eat in moderation.

  • Scan the buffet area first before grabbing a plate. Check out all of your options in a salad bar or buffet and select a few to try. Then grab a plate and fill up only on the foods that you chose. Remember, just because a food is offered, doesn't mean you have to eat it.
  • Don't let your foods touch when you fill your plate. This age-old diet trick works wonders when you're faced with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Keeping a small amount of space between each different type of food prevents you from heaping your food too high and overfilling your plate.
  • Take a break between visits from the gaucho. Dining at a Brazilian steakhouse allows you to taste and enjoy many different types of food. But if you eat too quickly, you won't fully enjoy the experience. Try to eat slowly and take a conversation break between meat selections. This will allow you to feel signs of fullness and stop eating before you get too full.
  • Skip the sauces. Meat at Fogo de Chao (and at most steakhouses) is already full of flavor. So there is no need to add creamy sauces that are full of fat and calories.
  • Limit the starch selections. Skip the bread and limit starches like white rice or potatoes. Choose high-quality carbohydrates (like fresh vegetables or whole grains) to complement your meat or seafood selections.
  • Be mindful of drink choices. Traditional steakhouse cocktails can easily contain hundreds of calories. A gin and tonic, for example, may add up to 200 calories to your meal total. And sweet cocktails (like a margarita) can add even more. Drink water with your meal to fully experience the flavors. Or if you choose to enjoy a cocktail, drink just one.

Lastly, share as much food as possible. When you're provided with so many flavors to try, it's fun to fill your plate. But a bite here and a bite there will allow you to enjoy the experience without overdoing it. And sharing makes the experience more fun.

Most of us won't visit a steakhouse like Fogo de Chao often enough to make a major impact on our overall diet plan, but practicing mindful eating habits when you dine out is a smart habit to get into for long-lasting health and wellness.

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  1. Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse. Frequently Asked Questions.

  2. Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse. Fogo de Chão Meat Guide

  3. American Heart Association. Meat, Poultry, and Fish: Picking Healthy Proteins.

Additional Reading
  • Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse. Menu.