The 10 Healthiest Restaurant Dishes of 2012

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
12/27/2012 6:00 PM   :  37 comments   :  63,351 Views

We hear in the media all the time about the calorie-laden fare that’s regularly served up at fast-food chains and casual-dining restaurants. But what about the sensible options? Are there any truly healthy choices at restaurants anymore? There sure are—and we’ve got a whole list of them! Here are some of the best restaurant meal options of the year to help make your dining-out decisions a little easier. See if any of your favorites made the cut!

Red Lobster: Bar Harbor Salad with Shrimp
(260 calories/9 g fat/350 mg sodium/21 g protein)
This salad entrée is a nutrient-dense choice that is rich in protein and low in fat and sodium. For a healthy dressing choice, select Blueberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette on the side (80 calories/4 g fat/ 170 mg sodium).
 
Denny’s: ''Fit Fare'' Omelette
(390 calories/18 g fat/870 mg sodium/34 g protein)
This dish allows you to enjoy a filling and nutritious breakfast any time of day. The omelette is also served with two slices of turkey bacon and seasonal fruit, making it a well-rounded meal. This protein-rich choice is low in sodium and cholesterol to boot!
 
Extreme Pita: Grilled Chicken Pita
(340 calories/5 g fat/720 mg sodium/28 g protein)
This sandwich is rich in fiber and veggies while containing a reasonable level of sodium. You can cut the sodium level even more by selecting a smaller serving size.
 
Extreme Pizza: White Out Pizza
(For two slices: 240 calories/1 g fat/510 mg sodium/9 g protein)
This pizza is a great low-fat and lower-sodium option when you’re in the mood for a cheesy slice. This is an especially great pizza option for those limiting saturated fat and cholesterol from dairy.
 
Longhorn Steakhouse: ''Flavorful under 500'' Flo’s Filet 7 oz. dinner
(450 calories/17 g fat/920 mg sodium/ 40 g protein)
Enjoy this juicy filet with a low-calorie mixed greens side salad and fresh vegetables.  This meal is a lower-fat way to boost your iron and fiber while limiting starches. Be sure to skip the bread basket and request that your meal be prepared with no added salt or butter.
 
Bob Evans: ''Fit From the Farm'' Grilled Salmon Fillet
(426 calories/13 g fat/172 mg sodium/51 g protein)
This dish is one of the healthiest restaurant meal options for sodium-watchers. Select nutrient-rich sides like fresh steamed broccoli, glazed fresh baby carrots or a baked potato. Remember to ask for no added salt or butter.
 
Noodles & Co.: Small Bangkok Curry
(240 calories/7 g fat/430 mg sodium/4 g protein)
This bowl is a tasty and lower-sodium vegetarian entrée option. Adding tofu (100 calories/11 g fat/310 mg sodium/16 g protein) will boost the protein of the meal and keep you satisfied longer. Bring your own piece of fresh fruit to round out your meal.
 
Applebee’s: Napa Chicken & Portobello Dinner
(450 calories/12 g fat/1,480 mg sodium/55 g protein)
This dinner is a nutrient-packed choice if you can afford to splurge on the sodium content. The grilled chicken provides a great low-fat protein source while the sautéed vegetables add a boost of fiber.
 
Mimis Café: ''Fresh & Fit'' Tilapia Dinner
(477 calories/ 12 g fat/ 358 mg sodium/ 46 g protein)
Enjoy this lean entree with brown rice and steamed vegetables for a low-sodium meal that’s balanced in lean protein, whole grains and vegetables.
 
Subway: 6” Roast Beef Sandwich
(320 calories/5 g fat/ 700 mg sodium/24 g protein)
Customize your sandwich by selecting 9-grain wheat bread without cheese, mustard or sauces. Load up your sub with fresh, crisp veggies, and munch on a side of apple slices (35 calories).
 
Eating away from home too much can hinder weight-loss success. However, if you limit the number of times you eat out AND make smart choices when you do, you can stay on track with your weight-loss goals.    

What do all of the healthy meals above have in common? In a nutshell:
  • They focus on lean beef, poultry or fish for the entrée.
  • They come with vegetables or whole grains on the side, rather than deep-fried potatoes.
  • They’re limited on added butter, salt, fat, sauces and sugar.
  • They’re not followed by high-calorie desserts!
 
The next time you’re dining out, check to see if your chosen meal meets all of these guidelines. If so, it’s probably a healthy pick!

What other healthy dining-out options have you found? Have you tried any of the meals listed above?


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Comments

  • 37
    My family insists on eating at Dairy Queen at least once a week usually twice a week, so I order Grilled Chicken Salad (w/o bacon) and Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing, saving 1/2 the grilled chicken for a salad later at home. When I can, I'll get fat free dilly bar. - 8/11/2014   2:08:15 PM
  • 36
    When my schedule is packed and I need to keep the budget and time in check I choose either Subway or Chipotles. At Chipotle I order the veggie bowl with black beans, brown rice, extra fajita vegetables. Those moments that I really want a crunchy chip bag I get the kids size. They are either1 or 2 oz. - 12/1/2013   4:26:01 PM
  • 35
    I stick to veggies and protein and I feel that's the best I can do... - 10/8/2013   1:52:22 AM
  • 34
    When traveling, Subway, Applebees, and Chile's are staples for me. They all have several choices within 300 - 500 calories, so I know I can get something there that will satisfy and not be regretted when I catch up with the tracker later on! - 9/21/2013   1:39:32 PM
  • SPUNOUTMOM
    33
    I have tried Extreme Pita chicken pita. I ordered it with extra veggies very good & satisfying. I also like Starbucks Sante Fe chicken panini. The calorie count is within the range I look for when eating out. It would be better if we could get it on whole grain bread. - 1/9/2013   8:46:15 PM
  • 32
    I really like Longhorn Steakhouse. Now I can goto a very nice place to eat and pick a HEALTHY STEAK. And, I really like to have a Roast Beef sandwich...so I can get something from Subway other than a VEGGIE SANDWICH. - 1/5/2013   6:40:57 PM
  • 31
    I really like Longhorn Steakhouse. Now I can goto a very nice place to eat and pick a HEALTHY STEAK. And, I really like to have a Roast Beef sandwich...so I can get something from Subway other than a VEGGIE SANDWICH. - 1/5/2013   6:40:57 PM
  • 30
    I don't mean to be critical.....but I wish this list would have been either longer or had more variety inch an type ( for instance, extreme pita and extreme pizza seem very similar...). I live in Quincy, IL, which isn't a huge town but it's not really tiny either, and subway/Applebee's are the only ones from this list we even have. I would love to see either an expanded list or a regional listing. Just ideas. :) thanks! - 1/3/2013   10:04:54 PM
  • 29
    Thank you for listing some of the healthier choices for us. I don't eat at Applebee's regularly but recently received a gift card for them. Now, I know that I have a healthy option as a choice when I use the card. - 1/2/2013   8:06:49 PM
  • SRREES
    28
    Some of the negative comments need to consider that we are talking about dining out. If you are organic conscious and concerned about what additives and "-cides" are in the foods, then list some places that don't have them to educate the rest of us. That would be most helpful. Also a good rule of thumb for gluten and sugar/carb conscious people is eat lean meats and green veggies. (Some veggies like corn and even carrots have sugar in them!) I always take my Walden Farms packet of salad dressing with me. At Applebee's I enjoy a sirloin (cooked dry, no butter!) a side salad w/WF dressing, and steamed broccoli (again no butter). A nice filling meal, high in protein, low in carbs and sugars. If you prefer, get a grilled chicken breast. - 1/2/2013   9:55:06 AM
  • 27
    When I'm on the go I know I can get a Subway that's half decent. I get the 6" flatbread, roasted chicken breast, no cheese, toasted and topped with lots of spinach and lots of tomatoes, jalpenos and 1 stripe of light mayo. - 1/1/2013   3:48:31 PM
  • 26
    I'd have to agree that dining out is fraught with dangers. Good healthy fats have a place in your diet. The real nasty part is refined carbs and sugar in all its various forms.
    I like the 6" flatbread with roasted chicken breast, no cheese, toasted. I have it made with lots of spinach and lots of tomatoes, jalpeno and 1 strip of light mayo. Tastes great and not a problem. - 1/1/2013   3:46:46 PM
  • ONECALMMOM
    25
    My fave is Olive Garden's Venetian Apricot Chicken -- great taste & great nutritional values!! The dinner portion comes with 2 chicken breast pieces, lots of asparagus & broccoli and a light sauce -- YUM! I actually make 2 meals out of it. Here's the #'s: 400 calories -- yes, for the whole dinner -- so divided it's 200!!!! 400 cal, 7 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 1290 sodium, 34 carbs, 6 g fiber & 51 g protein. Sodium & carbs are much better divided in half!!!! Even if you ate the whole meal you're still so much better off than going with other choices. It amazes me how much sodium is in everything. When we go out I order from the nutritional menu and look at the sodium values. That eliminates almost everything on the menu! - 1/1/2013   3:09:02 PM
  • 24
    I think the best thing to get at Subway is the Veggie Patty sub. SO good!
    I get it without cheese but add lettuce, tomato, onion, peppers and spinach with some mustard, plain red vinegar & oregano. - 1/1/2013   6:25:37 AM
  • SEBASTIANALADY
    23
    Even though I've not heard of some of the restaurants, it does point out that you can make wise choices even when eating out.
    I recently discovered Pot Belly Deli and enjoyed their soup and sandwich combo. Smaller portions, but very tasty.

    Another tip for sandwiches is to go for the vegetables, vinegar and mustard. - 12/30/2012   3:38:44 PM
  • 22
    I like this but since I am diabetic I need the carbs count also - 12/30/2012   3:24:27 PM
  • 21
    I love the Longhorn's Flo's fillet. I always order the smaller one with a salad and sweet potato.
    To those of you who need gluten free; my husband and I went to lunch today at Uno's for their soup. I noticed a whole page of food items listed as "gluten-free." I didn't look to see what was on the page, but there were quite a few items. - 12/28/2012   4:55:38 PM
  • 20
    There is one piece of nutritional data missing from these selections. Carbohydrates. I need them listed as well as what is already there. Otherwise I can't eat out. - 12/28/2012   3:59:31 PM
  • 19
    I don't eat at any of those places, but thanks for sharing the info. - 12/28/2012   3:42:26 PM
  • 18
    All of these are coming from chain restaurants which source their ingredients from factory farms with highly questionable practices. NONE of them are really providing a healthy meal since all the meat is full of steroids, anti-biotics, and hormones, the veggies are loaded with pesticides, and the cheeses, breads, and sauces are pumped full of sodium, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. And, as some other folks mentioned, all of these meals are high in refined carbohydrates, which has been proven again and again to be the true cause of fat gain.

    Where are the really healthy meals made from responsibly-farmed meats, fresh vegetables, and minimal additives? - 12/28/2012   1:36:10 PM
  • 17
    I like Subway and have had the RB there. Don't go to the other places. - 12/28/2012   12:44:12 PM
  • TMANCAK
    16
    First thing I order is WATER! Helps fill me up before meals arrives. - 12/28/2012   12:05:53 PM
  • MISSBOMB
    15
    I agree also,Ann and Margycardenas,my grown son ,and daughter and I are all gluten sensitive. - 12/28/2012   10:58:10 AM
  • MARGYCARDENAS
    14
    I agree with Ann, knowing that I am gluten sensitive, I too am focusing on the grains, flour, and sugar. especially the sugar that is in our foods that we don't see. lot of low fat is high in sodium, another problem for me! - 12/28/2012   9:39:03 AM
  • 13
    I love the Lighter Choice 6oz. Classic Sirloin at Chili's. It is served with a huge heaping side of steamed broccoli sprinkled with parmesan, and a nice portion of pico on the top of the steak. At only 250 calories for the whole dish, I am always pleased. Plus, you can also combine it with a side salad or cup of chicken enchilada soup and still be under 400 calories (depending on the salad dressing). Love it! - 12/28/2012   9:27:50 AM
  • 12
    Apart from being a tad regional in focus, very good.

    the one other criteria I look for is reasonable portion sizes (or willingness to bring carryout container at the START of the meal) - 12/28/2012   9:17:37 AM
  • 11
    I also enjoy a Chipotle salad bowl, easy on the rice, heavy on the black beans, no cheese or dressing. It's filling (often I can split it into lunch and dinner), and a good way to get some protein and greens. I also recommend Ruby Tuesday's spaghetti squash entre. Yum! - 12/28/2012   8:15:53 AM
  • 10
    love Noodles and co. wish they had one in Pa fell in love in D.c. easy to read menu and calorie information and a ton of options all under 600 cal. my daughter licked her bowl of chicken noodle soup clean!!!!!!!! - 12/28/2012   8:09:18 AM
  • 9
    Who wants to eat a sandwich without any sauces / condiments? I can see taking off the cheese (some people can't even really taste it..) but no mayo? HA!
    I didn't know that Red Lobster had anything with lower sodium. That's a pretty helpful tip... - 12/28/2012   8:07:35 AM
  • BKYJNE
    8
    Ruby Tuesday has a spaghetti squash and marinara sauce meal that I like to buy when going there. Don't remember the statistics on it, but the info is on their site and it is a healthy choice. - 12/28/2012   6:43:37 AM
  • 7
    Thank you for posting a list of good choices for eating out instead of focusing on all the bad things.

    As to the comments about the national chain thing. I think that is impossible. Of the 10 restaurants listed above, only 4 are in Northern CA. - 12/28/2012   5:11:31 AM
  • MRE1956
    6
    A few of these chains are not in NJ........sigh - though this may not exactly be a bad thing...... - 12/28/2012   4:45:43 AM
  • 5
    never heard of most of these chains. They are not in New England - 12/27/2012   10:49:28 PM
  • 4
    Sure wish national chains were used in the survey. Only about half of these restaurants are in the Northwest. - 12/27/2012   10:44:29 PM
  • 3
    Extreme Pita is the name of the company www.extremepita.com / and Extreme Pizza is also the name of the pizza place www.extremepizza.com / hope this helps
    sydletziii - 12/27/2012   7:36:31 PM
  • 2
    I enjoyed the article,but it wasn't clear which restaurant(s) the extreme pizza and extreme pita were from! - 12/27/2012   6:46:45 PM

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