10 Healthy Restaurant Choices

by Noah James on May 10, 2012 · 0 comments

When I was young my parents didn’t have a lot of money for indulgent activities like dining out. Going to a restaurant was a treat. My mom would instruct me to order something I wouldn’t be able to get at home, which helped cement the idea that dining out was a celebratory experience. This idea carried over into adulthood where I treated every restaurant excursion as a reason to celebrate. If only my waistline agreed with this approach.

Thankfully, many of today’s chefs know how to infuse flavor into a dish without drenching the ingredients in butter, cheese, and oil. It’s fairly easy to find healthy items on many of today’s popular restaurant menus, but how do you know which ones taste good and which ones taste like cardboard drizzled with pasty apricot sauce?  To make your decision easier, I’ve compiled a list of my Top 10 Healthy Restaurant Choices from several popular restaurant chains:

1. SkinnyLicious™ Grilled Chicken, The Cheesecake Factory

Last year, The Cheesecake Factory introduced 40 healthy choices as part of their SkinnyLiciousmenu. While I haven’t had the chance to try all 40 options, the grilled chicken is a tasty alternative to some of the other tasteless options. They lightly pound the chicken so it’s thin and cooks evenly; it’s then topped with tomato, arugula, and parmesan and is served with asparagus and white rice. Note: The Cheesecake Factory’s supplied nutritional information is incomplete. Weight Watcher PointsPlus® values is estimated based on similar offerings from other restaurants.

Nutritional information: 560 calories, 2g fat, 20g carbohydrate, 20g protein, 0g fiber, 1252 mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 15


2. Lighter Choice Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Chili’s

Unlike The Cheesecake Factory’s grilled chicken entrée, I’m not a fan of Chili’s dull Margarita Grilled Chicken. A far better choice is Chili’s grilled chicken sandwich. Served on a wheat bun, the chicken is topped with non-fat honey mustard dressing, lettuce and tomato. It comes with steamed broccoli, which never seems to be cooked appropriately. I recommend substituting a salad for the broccoli.

Nutritional information: 610 calories, 13g fat, 78g carbohydrate, 48g protein, 8g fiber, 1320mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 16


3. Strawberry Fields Salad with Grilled Balsamic Chicken, Friday’s

This salad is bursting with flavor. The strawberries are soaked in a balsamic-marinade, which give them a sweet-tangy flavor. The mixed green salad is topped with goat cheese and shaved Parmesan, glazed pecans, and balsamic grilled chicken. If only every salad tasted this delicious!

Nutritional information: 810 calories, 12g fat, 78g carbohydrate, 40g protein, 6g fiber, 1550mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 15


4. Flo’s Filet, Longhorn Steakhouse

Yep, you read that correctly. You can order a lighter version of this mouth-wateringly tender steak. When ordering, simply tell your server that you want the filet prepared using their “flavorful under 500″ method. For sides, I suggest the salads and the green beans instead of the steamed vegetables.

Nutritional information: 420 calories, 16g fat, 29g carbohydrate, 40g protein, 5g fiber, 820mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 11

5. Minestrone Soup, The Olive Garden

The Venetian Apricot Chicken inspired my earlier comment about cardboard drizzled in pasty apricot sauce. Don’t be fooled by their marketing ploy that this is a delicious, healthy option – this rubbery chicken dish is the poster child for horrid diet food. Instead, I would go with the immensely satisfying Minestrone soup. Don’t underestimate how fulfilling a bowl of soup can be, and at 100 calories per bowl, you can always order seconds.

Nutritional information: 100 calories, 1g fat, 18g carbohydrate, 4g protein, 3g fiber, 1020mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 2


6. Sweet Glazed Pork Tenderloin, Outback Steakhouse

Pork Tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts of meat you can get, and Outback’s tangy sweet glaze adds just the right amount of flavor. Order the fresh steamed green beans and garlic mashed potatoes to complete the entrée. Nutritional information is for the meal; if you want to cut calories, omit the mashed potatoes.

Nutritional information: 663 calories, 28g fat, 53g carbohydrate, 50g protein, 11g fiber, 2123mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 17


7. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps, P.F. Chang’s

Don’t let this dish’s classification as an appetizer dissuade you from ordering it as an entrée. Wok-seared minced chicken is combined with green onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and crispy rice sticks to create a truly delectable dish.

Nutritional information: 640 calories, 28g fat, 68g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 8g fiber, 2600mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 17


8. Keep It Simple Burger, Red Robin

Let’s be honest, if you’re going to a burger joint you want to order a hamburger not a chicken salad. With that in mind, I found the “healthiest” burger on their menu, not including the Veggie or Turkey burger. The Keep It Simple Burger is a basic, no-frills sandwich served with tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and pickles. Adding cheese and condiments will increase the nutritional values listed below.

Nutritional information: 569 calories, 24g fat, 51g carbohydrate, 37g protein, 2g fiber, 991mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 15


9. Grilled Shrimp Spiedini, Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Skewers of grilled shrimp served with roasted vegetables in lemon oil, this is a simple yet elegant dish that really lets the flavor of the ingredients shine.

Nutritional information: 320 calories, 7g fat, 31g carbohydrate, 33g protein, 7g fiber, 1380mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 8


10. Chicken Bella, Ruby Tuesday

With a recently revamped menu, Ruby Tuesday has several new lighter-fare options, but my favorite is the Chicken Bella. Where else can you get a chicken entrée with artichokes and portabella mushrooms in a Parmesan cream sauce for 500 calories? This dish is served with grilled zucchini and roasted spaghetti squash.

Nutritional information: 454 calories, 22g fat, 15g carbohydrate, 48g protein, 6g fiber, 1164mg sodium

Weight Watchers PointsPlus®: 11


With so many delicious healthy options available, there’s plenty of reasons to celebrate. Enjoy!

About the Author

Noah James hails from the land of tall trees and hops—Portland, Oregon. Having studied psychology in college, along with his passion for web development, you'll find his writing style a bit unique in that it's always taking you some place new. He's tech-junkie at heart, so he writes mainly for the geek in all of us here on In Good Measure. Noah can be contacted through his Google+ Profile.