If you’ve been trying to reduce calories, you know that eating in restaurants can be tricky. You can easily save a lot of calories by cooking and eating at home, but eating in restaurants is not always avoidable, nor would we always want it to be. There are occasions like road trips, birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions and get-togethers with friends. We don’t completely want to give up the fun of eating out, but when you see that some menu choices have 1200 to over 1300 calories, it can be discouraging.
If you plan ahead, you can do pretty well without spoiling your diet, and you can plan your other meals and their calorie count around what you plan to order out.
Here are a few lighter, healthy choices at Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesday.
Healthy Choices At Applebee’s
One of your better choices is the cedar salmon with maple mustard glaze, which is 350 calories without sides. Add the garlic mashed potatoes for 250 calories, your best choice for a carbohydrate side, and steamed broccoli at 100 calories. Another option is to skip the potatoes and add another veggie side, such as the garlicky green beans at 180 calories.
Another one of the better choices is the shrimp wonton stir fry at 680 calories.
One of my favorite choices at Applebee’s is the Bourbon Street chicken and shrimp, which is Cajun spiced and served on a sizzling iron skillet along with roasted potatoes, mushrooms and onions. Unlike the shrimp wonton stir fry, it is not promoted as lighter fare, but it is actually a little bit lower in calories than the stir fry, at 600 calories and equal in calories to their cedar grilled lemon chicken, which is promoted as lighter fare. I’m not sure why it’s not officially included in their lighter menu, although it lacks a nutrition-packed veggie like the broccoli in the stir fry and comes with potatoes which might seem not as low-carb friendly. Still, calorie-wise, it’s in the range of these other dishes and even a little bit lower than some.
Healthy Choices At Olive Garden
Olive Garden or any Italian restaurant may seem particularly difficult to navigate if you are on a low-carb diet such as Atkins, South Beach or Keto. You’ll find several lighter fare choices under their “Tastes of the Mediterranean” section of the menu. A few of these are pasta-free.
One of these is the fairly new salmon piccata, accompanied by parmesan-crusted zucchini, at 570 calories. The grilled salmon is drizzled with a lemon garlic sauce and sprinkled with tangy capers and flavorful sun-dried tomatoes. Honestly, I have not been much of a fan of zucchini for most of my life, but this parmesan-crusted zucchini is one of the dishes that helped turn me around.
Olive Garden also has a sauce-less herb-grilled salmon served with steamed broccoli at 470 calories.
The chicken margherita is another high protein, pasta-less dish, served with that same parmesan-crusted zucchini. It is topped with basil pesto — one of my favorite tastes — mozzarella, grape tomatoes and a lemon garlic sauce. This dish has 550 calories for a dinner portion and 380 calories for a lunch portion.
I’m of the philosophy that cutting calories is more important than cutting carbs or any particular food. Olive Garden also offers some healthy choices in their pasta dishes.
For instance, you can order the chicken giardino at 530 calories. The ruffled pappardelle pasta noodles are mixed with a light, lemon herb sauce and a variety of healthy vegetables such as carrot, red bell pepper, broccoli and zucchini.
Healthy Choices at Ruby Tuesday
One of my favorite things to order at Ruby Tuesday is the New Orleans seafood. This dish is Cajun-seasoned tilapia with small shrimp and a parmesan cream sauce. Although it’s not included in the official Fit&Trim menu, at 336 calories, it can certainly be light if you choose your sides carefully.
This meal comes with two sides. The lightest of the side dishes are fresh steamed zucchini at 22 calories, fresh steamed broccoli at 45 calories or the green beans at 51 calories. In the past, Ruby Tuesday has also offered roasted Brussels sprouts which were delicious. The lightest of the starchy sides is the rice pilaf at 190 calories. The garden salad bar is also a choice for one of your sides.
Another good choice, not necessarily included in the Fit&Trim menu, is to get a small steak with healthy, lighter sides. Try the 6 oz. asiago peppercorn steak at 297 calories. The tasty steak comes with a parmesan cream sauce and shaved asiago cheese.
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