Skip This Side Dish to Save 20 Grams of Fat

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you've spent any time looking at restaurant menus online, you probably know that ordering the wrong side dish with your meal can put you way over your calorie limit for the day. Like most family chain restaurants, Applebee's offers a side of either soup or salad with any entrée. Both of these dishes may seem like low-calorie choices at first glance. But be careful—those seemingly innocent sides can pack in hundreds of hidden calories. If you were to choose the lower-calorie side option from the Applebee's menu, which would you select: A small Caesar Salad (with dressing), or a bowl of Tuscan Bean with Chicken and Sausage Soup?

The Winner: Tuscan Bean with Chicken and Sausage Soup!

A small Caesar Salad packs in 310 calories and a whopping 27 grams of fat--that's almost a whole meal in itself! The Tuscan Bean with Chicken and Sausage Soup might sound heartier, but the nutrition stats are much easier to swallow at 180 calories and 7 grams of fat per bowl. But not all of Applebees' soups are created equal: Steer clear of the Baked Potato Soup, which contains 460 calories and 32 grams of fat!

TIP: When scanning the menu for a healthy soup, know your ''watch words." stay away from choices with descriptions such as "creamy/cream-based,'' ''cheesy,'' or ''loaded." Instead, gravitate toward broth-based, veggie-packed soups. When in doubt, check the menu online before you leave the house, or ask the restaurant if they provide nutritional information if it's not already listed on the menu.

What side dish do you usually order at restaurants: Soup or salad?

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FISHGUT3 2/26/2020
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PATRICIAAK 2/25/2020
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PATRICIAAK 11/22/2019
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Interesting post just the soup might be good without sausage. Made me think that salad may not be the best choice always. Report
Willing to give this one a try! Report
Good to know. Report
I guess the salads is common sense...i used to do dressing on the side so I could control how much is on. But overall I really like having a raw fresh vegetable on the side. Report
I am def a salad freak, but I've never liked croutons or dressings so my Caesar would be basically lettuce and some parmesan, LOL. I don't eat half what is in the soup either, so I'd be pretty much staying hungry if these were my only choices. Key, as so many have said, is educating yourself, getting to know what's "in" your food, how it's prepared etc. Also learning portion control, because restaurant servings are often way more than a portion. Report
I picked the salad because the soup has sausage, no one in my family can eat processed meats and like had been said before you can always get the dressing on the side. I've learned to like the taste of my food and use very little if any dressing Report
I agree with other posters. This is a trick question, because you have options with the salad. I always get dressing on the side, no croutons. With the soup, you also get lots of sodium, which is an issue for many people.

If you would compare total nutritional information of both side dishes, instead of just focusing on fat, you would have a more balanced article. Report
I always order dressing on the side and dip my salad in. So, what are the calories now? This was a trick question, as it was loaded with dressing. Report
I would think that any of those popular chains would be verboten. Oh, don't get me wrong...they all dish out tasty food, but its all pretty much based on the three fast food groups....salt,fat and sugar. Our taste habits are such that we respond positively ( in our minds) to those things at the expense of our health. I am far from a holier-than-thou purist and Lord knows I have my issues but we are all here pretty much because we have weight issues and these issues will never be resolved by eating at CrackerBarrel,or Ruby's,or Applebees.... Learn to whip up things at home. We made the fabulous Crispy Kate with garlic last Monday and it was hard to stay away from, terrific.... but then again I plan my meals a week ahead so I don't always have those,"gee...I have nothing for dinner - lets go out" moments. I plan things I am excited about cooking, things that I can prepare fast or things that can be eaten at room temperature depending on my calendar and schedule for the week. So it all comes down to good planning.and not letting outside forces derail our good intentions. Sometimes if i have to go out with another couple, I will pack my own dressing in a little discrete tupperware container. I order the broiled fish with no sauce or a chicken breast and two veg instead of a potato and veg. And for Pete's sake stay away from the mac and cheese. Good Luck all....

CA now requires calories on the menu. Quite the eye opener. All states should implement that policy. Report
I would definitely choose the soup over the salad only because I can't stand salad!!! Yes, I know I'm an absolute freak of nature and will probably never be as thin as I'd like because those crunchy, raw things out of the garden absolutely make me gag! LOL I have actually managed to develop a tolerance for soups or casseroles that have vegetables in them, so it's a step in the right direction thanks to Spark! Report
First of all, I wouldn't be at Applebee's in the first place. But if I were trapped there, I'd go with whatever is lower carb. Fat doesn't matter -- sugar/ starch content does. Salad for me, no croutons, dressing on the side. Besides, that bean soup would wreak havoc on my gut! Report
I wonder when the food industry will decide that they can succeed offering portion/calorie/sodium/fat controlled meals
America needs them to step up. Report
If I order a salad when I dine out, I ask for the dressing on the side and dip my frok tines into it before spearing the salad itself. It saves calories!!! Report
who cares how much fat is in it. Not important. Report
so, what's the side dish in the featured photo? it's clearly NOT appleby's tuscan bean soup!
bet that soup has loads of fiber
whether I order salad or soup depends on the restaurant mostly - I often go with soup at Panera's Report
Since I can't eat the soup, I'd still opt for the salad, but I never liked that dressing so would order a dressing that doesn't have as many calories and as much fat. I do enjoy these comparisons most of the time because I find them helpful for if I do happen to go out to eat. Report
The beans should make that veggie soup more satisfying than the salty caesar salad! Report
I eat out quite often. I check the menue on line and know what I am going to order.
I consider my eating normal. I make good choices. If I ate just any thing that might sound tempting, I would soon be back up to 335 lbs. I eat almost any food, just watch my portions. When eating out one has to watch fat, sugar, sodium. I prefer a dinner salad, dressing on side. Or I take my own spritzer of lemon juice/olive oil. I like weighing 140 lb a lot better than 335 lb. Report
I eat out so rarely that this question doesn't hardly apply. Very few of the options on here do apply to me, but I still have a look every so often, just in case!
When I do eat out, like last weekend, it was a major "event" and "occasion" - 6- course International meal, with accompanying wine.
I make no apologies - I went, and I ate and I drank. If I'd had to be careful with dressings etc, I would not have booked to go!
Twice a year? I think my body and systems will cope.

If I'm out for a meal any other time, I do bear in mind the various problems that I've learned about here, and how to get around them. Report
As a vegetarian, I would choose neither of these. I'd have to go with a meatless salad as an entree (Applebess has a great one that is excellent without dressing) and call it good. Report
I opt for a green salad with dressing on the side. Report
Good blog.
It just shows us that you can't make assumptions like salad is always better than soup!
Applebee's has a delicious Mexican salad that has enough calories for 2 days!

Paranoid, maybe I am, but It's incredibly easy to overeat when chatting with friends, and sipping a little wine, and laughing, and tasting a little of what they ordered, and sharing a dessert, and sipping a little more wine.
It's much better to forearm yourself with information, than go completely wild and live with regret. Report
Restaurants are making it easier to find out the nutrition info about the dishes they prepare. I still enjoy restaurant meals as a treat though. Too much of anything isn't a good idea. Report
I usually don't like that type of soup. Too many items and probably celery that I would have to sort and pick out. Yuck. I love salad, so I get the dressing on the side and dip my fork in it. I eat maybe a teaspoon of it. I hold the croutons, too. A much better choice in my eyes. :)

rumbamel Report
re MISSGATOR1, I think she sounds too new to understand the SP site. It's about acquiring knowledge and sharing how you are doing. It's not really often that negative comments are made. Now and then you will see a few harsh words-- a little negative goes a long way online, though. I have had to tone myself down at least once. If I comment while in a bad mood, no telling what I will spout out! Best to think twice before hitting send on certain days.
; ) Pam Report
I don't think MISSGATOR1 was trying to be offensive. The point I got was the key is moderation. I tend to agree that we don't need to worry as much as we sometimes do over just one meal. One meal, or even one day, is not going to make a huge difference overall. That doesn't mean we should go out to eat and choose the most unhealthy thing on the menu, eating an entire day's worth of calories in one meal. I do think having access to nutiritonal info makes a difference, but sometimes I eat something high calorie even though I know it is not the best choice. Our state is one that requires restaurants (chain restaurants, not the mom and pop places) to include nutritional info and it does make you think twice before ordering. That said, there are many people who need to avoid things (sugar, salt, etc) for one reason or another and those who choose to avoid additives. I am not one who worries about how many chemicals are in my food, but I can respect those who do, as long as they don't try to put me down for my choices. We are all different and what is important for one is not important to another. Report
I have to agree with Alimil68 about MissGator1 comment. This is a site for people who have a weight problem. "Being normal" isn't the same for everyone. You wouldn't expect a diabetic to eat an extremely hight sugar/carb diet knowing that it's not a recommended diet for a diabetic person. The articles are helpful hints about what to be cautious about, and these comments are welcome by many as a guide to overcome our eating problems and learn to eat healthy. I would suggest you think about your comments before posting them. Report
WOW, that was a fairly hostile comment. You do understand this is a web site for people trying to lose weight and get healthy. Many of us struggle daily with the issues of what and home much to eat. Speaking as someone who has lost 60lbs, I can answer your question. No, most of us can't "just be normal". Educating ourselves is one of the best ways to regain the control we lost along the way. I am happy for you if you can "just be normal", but please cut back on the judgmental attitude. Also, I don’t drink big gulp, sodas have way too many chemicals in them!! Report
I can't help but notice that a Lot of people commenting on here, and I am new to this board, have worked themselves into a sense of almost paranoia of going out to eat, enjoying being in the restaurant and ordering and eating their meal IN The Restaurant. Not squirreling it away, or binging on the salad bar, being scared of the soup, scared of the salad dressing, scared of fat, scared of msg or what might be in the soup..... Good Lord, just eat, enjoy it, even Have a Bite of Bread!!!!! Just don't be a freaking PIG. Get some Regular exercise, not EXTREME workouts. Don't put 10 spoons of sugar in your coffee or tea. Stop thinking you Have to have a whole 36 ounce big gulp in your everyday life. Just be Normal!!!! Afraid of a bowl of soup. Now I've heard it all. Report
I like to eat at a restaurant that has a salad bar, so I have a LOT of it, and then take home most of the main course in a "to go" box and have it later. Report
I usually have salad with no dressing. Most soups contain MSG or some variation of it (yeast extract, any one?) so even though I love soup on a cold day, I only eat the ones I make at home. Report
Everything that help you cut fat is great. Report
I don't eat out very much, but when I do I try to do my homework ahead of time and research the nutrition information for the restaurant (if available). I recently had dinner at Bertuccis and didn't do this. I ordered the Cod Al Fesco and side salad, figuring baked cod would be one of the better choices. WRONG! When I got home and looked up the nutritional information, it turns out it had 920 calories and a whopping 70g of fat. Can someone please tell me what the heck you can do to a piece of cod to make it have that many calories and fat?!! And let's not even discuss the sodium.

This is why eating out is (mostly) ruined for me; I feel like I'm undermining a lot of hard work with every bite. :-( However I have to commend Applebees for consistently offering healthier options; for years now they've offered Weight Watchers meals and other ways to lower the calorie and fat content. Now if only they could figure out some other spices to use besides salt! Report
I don't know if Applebee's does, but if we can get the dressing on the side, the horrible calorie and fat hit can be reduced A LOT. Most salads seem to have 3-4 times the amount of dressing they need. Report
I hardly ever eat out, but if I get a meal that comes with a side dish, I always choose a salad with no dressing.I just cut up the tomato and onion pretty small and mix it up so that the salad isn't dry. Maybe I'll branch out and try some soup, though! Report
I believe some states in the US require the nutritional info printed on the menu (California comes to mind since I travel there frequently), which makes it easier to navigate the choices.

If I opt to order a salad, dressing is always on the side which is why I'm disappointed that the author didn't specify "if you opt for the dressing on the side ..." Order on the side and dip your fork ... it's the best and easiest way to control dressing content but still get the taste of a dressing you love.

I have been ordering more soups as of late as an alternative to salad but steer away from my (beloved) bisques and creamy chowders ... Report
There are smartphone apps (one is called Restaurant Nutrition on Android) that provide nutrition breakdown of restaurant food. Some people might find these more helpful than guessing from the wording on the menu. Anyone tried these? Report