It should be no surprise that the average American is now spending more money dining out than on groceries. The problem is that this means we’re putting over 43 percent of our nutritional decisions in the hands of restaurants—who, unlike you, don’t care quite as much about your health. Consider this: A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that a staggering 92 percent of restaurant meals from large-chain and local restaurants average over 1,200 calories—some even exceeded the 2,000 calorie limit recommended for an entire day. Does healthy fast food even exist?
While many restaurants and fast-food joints don’t always have your back, we here at Eat This, Not That! do! We want you to stay toned and trim, so we sifted through the nutrition information at all of your favorite fast-food, fast-casual, and chain restaurants to find the absolute healthiest option to choose for those “there’s-no-way-I’m-cooking-right-now” nights.
To ensure our suggestions were truly the best-of-the-best for your waistline and total health, we used calories as a guide, but occasionally looked beyond the numbers and examined each menu item holistically in an attempt to choose a well-balanced option. Luckily, many of the following restaurants allow you to customize their meals to your liking, which puts the calorie-cutting power in your hands.
Arm yourself with this ultimate guide, and you’ll be able to make it through the restaurant-dish battlefield unscathed! But before you think you’re in the clear, remember that these chains still have diet-derailing options. So be sure to watch out for the worst menu options at chain restaurants.
Now, here are the 76 healthiest menu options you can order.
The healthiest menu items at sit-down restaurant chains
The first 38 places on our list are the table-service-style Olive Garden and Fridays of the bunch. You’re sitting down, surrounded by friends or family, and it feels like a nice night out. They probably have some very healthy-sounding meals—but restaurant dishes aren’t always what they seem. Keep reading to find out the healthy restaurant meals you can order guilt-free to keep your diet on track.1
6 oz Sirloin with Steamed Broccoli and Garlic Mashed Potato sides
550 calories, 26 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 1,830 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (6 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 40 g protein
It’s your day off from cooking, so why not indulge in a nice, juicy steak? The way to go at Applebee’s to keep your calories in check is to pick an item that allows you to choose your sides. Your main should be this low-fat, iron-rich cut of meat, which is perfect for a toned body. Go light with a 100-calorie side of steamed broccoli, and you can still indulge in some garlic mashed potatoes for all under 600 calories and 1,900 milligrams of sodium (which is extremely hard to do at Applebee’s).