The 10 Healthiest Restaurant Dishes of 2012

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


JUDY1676 12/15/2020
Thanks Report
ERIN_POSCH 10/8/2020
thanks for sharing Report
ELRIDDICK 7/2/2020
Thanks for sharing Report
interesting article and comments... this article is from 2012 and we are now in 2020... time for an update????? time for expansion of list???? come on author/spark people- get on the bandwagon and listen to your people
thanks Report
Thsnks Report
Not helpful. The restaurant list is definitely not any restaurant I would choose.
Usually go to nice, upscale places. Report
Some useful information. Some restaurants I wouldn't go to on a bet. Report
I enjoy the Red Lobster and Dennys options. I haven't really tried the other items. Excellent article. Report
Very helpful suggestions. Thanks Report
Good information. Thanks. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Great Blog Thanks! for sharing Love the Chicken Pita yes great idea cut serving size in half or dont add the cheese and dressing stuff. Report
I didn’t mind being reminded even though half these places don’t exist here. We generally look for a dish to share , sauces on the side, no salad dressings, maybe oil and vinegar or lemon wedges, and because we travel so much I am grateful for the info. Report
There are some articles that stay relevant through the ages. Ones like this that are specifically dated do not. The restaurants change their menus/ingredients.
How do these keep getting shuffled back to the homepage?
I would love to see more options from other g=fast food places like Hardees, McDonalds, Burger King, and Arby's. Also healthier options at Chinese places too. Report
Good article but I'd like to see a new updated version. Report
Thank you for the informative article. Report
I'd love to see an updated list too....this was 5 years ago. Report
Good to know! Report
Thanks for the information. Report
we don't eat out much, but would love to see a new and updated list of the best options Report
Best way to eat out - avoid any chain restaurant. Some of the options are good-but you can do better and get better quality. Report
I like Cracker Barrel "Lemon Pepper Grilled Trout" (one piece) with my sides Tomato, Onion and Cucumber salad and seasonal fresh fruit cup.190 calories and if I want, I can have a biscuit (133 calories for a total of 323 calories ... Not bad!
Is there an updated list on this for 2015 or 2016?
Tim Hortons Chicken Salad Sandwich on a Whole Wheat Bun...330 calories, 20 grams protein, 5 grams dietary fiber, 9 grams fat,
So delicious and filling.
I like the Thai Shrimp Salad from Applebee's :) It's so good and it's a big salad, still under 400 calories though! Report
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. Report
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. Report
I stick to veggies and protein and I feel that's the best I can do... Report
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! Report
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. Report
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 I can get something from Subway other than a VEGGIE SANDWICH. Report
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 I can get something from Subway other than a VEGGIE SANDWICH. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
I like this but since I am diabetic I need the carbs count also Report
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. Report
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. Report
I don't eat at any of those places, but thanks for sharing the info. Report
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? Report
I like Subway and have had the RB there. Don't go to the other places. Report