If you think Applebee’s is only about heavier comfort food, think again. While many entrees do net out at well over 1,000 calories, the restaurant features some reasonably portioned, healthier items, too. At your next meal out, give one of these six picks from health nuts across the country a try. Want to clue in to lighter items? Look for descriptors like “grilled,” “chargrilled” or “roasted.” On the other hand, words like “fried,” “breaded,” “battered” and “crispy” hint at heavier dishes.
1. Thai Shrimp Salad
This 370-calorie salad is a standout among health experts. “This is my favorite to order because it is made of many whole, nutrient-dense foods,” Emily Kyle, MS, RDN, owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition in Rochester, New York, told Fox News. The shrimp and edamame are rich in protein, allowing this dish to provide almost half the daily value for fueling protein. Lower the salad’s sodium content by requesting the dressing on the side and using just a little — or opt for a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Feel free to request extra cilantro for a flavor boost, Kyle said.
2. Pepper-Crusted Sirloin + Whole Grains
This is your dish if you’re craving steak. “Opt for the leanest cuts of meat such as the sirloin, rather than the T-bone or Rib-Eye that are very high in saturated fat,” Angie Asche, MS, RD, a dietitian, personal trainer, and owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition in Lincoln, Nebraska, told Fox News. This dish does a good job of combining protein with whole grains, as well as spinach, mushrooms, and grape tomatoes — a variety of veggies that provides a good offering of vitamins and minerals. While the dish is lower in calories (at 380), it’s higher in sodium, with about three-fourths of the daily value. Aim to balance out the rest of your day with fresh food, which is lower in sodium, suggested Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness in New York City.
3. Cedar Salmon with Maple Mustard Glaze
Grilling means big taste with minimal, if any, calories or fat added during the cooking process. “Salmon has a reputation for being one of the greatest foods to help reduce inflammation within the body,” Kyle said. It’s also an excellent source of lean protein, providing 38 grams, or about three fourths of the daily value per serving. This salmon is served with fiber-rich sautéed spinach. You get to choose two sides, so go for steamed broccoli and fire grilled veggies for a veggie-packed entrée, Julie Hartigan, a chef and owner of Cooking w/ Julie in Hoboken, New Jersey, told Fox News.
4. House Salad + Edamame + Black Bean Corn Salsa
Vegetarian options are few at Applebee’s, but here’s a combo that isn’t too high in calories and provides protein and fiber to help keep you satiated. Request the salad sans bacon, then top it with sides of salsa and edamame. The salsa should provide enough moisture on its own — but if you want dressing, order the lemon olive oil vinaigrette on the side and use just a little. While the edamame and salsa aren’t standalone menu items, an Applebee’s spokesperson told Fox News that you’ll be able to special order sides of them.
5. Fire Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap + Southwest Steak + Black Bean Soup Lunch Combo
If you really want a sandwich, order the lunch combo with a half portion of the chicken salad wrap, at 400 calories and 23 grams of fat. Pair it with the black bean soup, one of the lowest-calorie soup options that also provides a protein boost. Research suggests starting a meal with soup may help you eat less.
6. Cedar Grilled Lemon Chicken
Applebee’s is big on cedar grilling, which adds great flavor for less calories and fat. This chicken dish provides 42 grams (almost a day’s worth!) of lean protein, as well as filling fiber from the quinoa and rice blend. Plus, you’ll get some fruit from the Granny Smith apple relish and cranberries. You’ll score some healthy fats, too: “Pecans are also a part of this dish, providing a rich source of antioxidants and more than 19 vitamins and minerals,” Asche said.