The average restaurant meal contains 1,205 calories, which is about half of the daily recommended amount for an adult. It also contains approximately two times the amount of energy that experts recommend per meal per adult. Given these figures, it goes without saying that dining out is rarely for the health conscious.
But what if you are health conscious? Must you forego your evenings out or decline dinner invitations like it’s your job? Not necessarily. There are dozens of healthy alternatives on restaurant menus. You just need to know how to find them. Below are a few top picks from health-conscious diners that you can use as examples of what to eat the next time you’re eating out.
Applebee’s Lighter Fare Menu
Applebee’s has a whole menu for the health conscious, and just a handful of the items are salads. All the meals on this menu contain less than 700 calories, but they pack a punch full of flavor. In addition to salads (which are quite impressive in terms of ingredients and flavor profiles), you can find sumptuous meals such as Pepper-Crusted Sirloin and Whole Grains, Fire Grilled Shrimp and Cedar-Grilled Lemon Chicken. When you leave, your tastebuds will be happy, your stomach full and your health in check.
Buffalo Wild Wings’ Wings
Though their saucy goodness might deter many health-conscious eaters, the truth is that traditional wings from Buffalo Wild Wings are not bad for you. In fact, some might go so far as to say they’re a healthy food option.
A snack-size serving of wings contains approximately 340 calories, which is less than the recommended amount per meal. If you opt for more natural flavors, such as lemon pepper, chipotle or anything pepper-based, you can decrease the amount of added sugars and sodium in your sauce and increase the meal’s health benefits. To meet your greens requirements, be sure to eat the carrots and celery as well.
Olive Garden’s Zoodles Primavera
You really can’t go wrong with zoodles, which are essentially noodle-shaped vegetables. Made from zucchini, the zoodles are topped with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and mushrooms and coated in a light basil cream sauce. Altogether, the meal contains around 400 calories. To satisfy your protein needs, have the chef top the dish with grilled chicken or shrimp.
Jersey Mike’s #14
If you’re familiar with Jersey Mike’s menu, then you know that the #14 is “The Veggie,” which is essentially a salad in a bun. Avocado adds much-needed protein, while seeded Italian or wheat bread amps up your vitamin and mineral intake and promises to keep you full longer.
If you’re not vegetarian, worry not. The #7, or the “Turkey and Provolone Sub on Wheat,” contains more or less the same ingredients, except you can sub the avo (or complement it) with 99% fat-free, additive-free, turkey.
McDonald’s 2 Egg White Delight McMuffins
Whoever said fast food can’t be healthy never met the innovators behind McDonald’s menu. The food chain, which is constantly under fire for its unhealthy options, managed to turn one of its iconic breakfast offerings into a less-than-260-calorie masterpiece. As if that’s not impressive enough, the sandwich ranks high on the public’s taste-o-meter.
Chick-Fil-A has one of the healthiest menus of any restaurant or fast-food chain today. The most calorie-dense meal is actually one of its healthiest, at 660 calories in total. This meal — the Chick-Fil-A® Cool Wrap — carries most of its calories in protein. And while it is packed with cheesy goodness, the fiber-rich content of the wrap itself makes this entrée a top option for health-conscious diners on the go.
These are just a few examples of healthy alternatives to traditional restaurant fare. If you stick with options like these, you can make eating out an enjoyable and healthy experience regardless of where your tastebuds take you.