Chain restaurants tend to get a bad rap from a nutrition standpoint. For the most part, this is justified: Burgers, ribs, and salads bogged down with fried chicken and mayo-heavy dressings are going to be unhealthy wherever you order them. But more and more chains are making a real effort to have healthy options on their menus, and we’ve tracked down the healthiest entrées at 10 of the most popular chain restaurants in America.
Within the past five or so years, just about every major chain restaurant has added some sort of “healthy choices” section to its menu in response to serious pressure to get with the program and do something about the rampant obesity in America, and to compete with new health-oriented chains. Whether any of these menu items are decent sellers isn’t public knowledge, but just the fact that healthy entrée options are available is a good thing. Cracker Barrel has added a “Wholesome Fixin’s” menu, Olive Garden has a section highlighting “Lighter Italian Fare,” Chili’s offers “Lighter Choices,” and even Applebee’s has a “Lighter Fare” menu.
If you’re looking to eat healthy at a chain restaurant (or any restaurant, for that matter), it’s best to just use common sense. Avoid fried foods or anything covered in cheese or dripping with visible grease, opt for fresh seafood and chicken breast instead of a big steak or ribs, avoid large servings of pasta, avoid creamy and oily salad dressings, and ask for your side of vegetables steamed. And if you feel yourself getting full, take half home for a second meal! Thankfully, many chains have already done the work for you by segregating the healthiest options into their own menu section; all you need to do is make sure to order from it.
Read on to learn what the healthiest (if not necessarily attractive-looking) entrée options, without including side dishes, are at 10 of America’s most popular chain restaurants. Even though the temptation may be hard to resist, visiting a chain restaurant shouldn’t be an excuse to pig out on greasy, fattening foods. Eating healthy at a chain is possible; you can do it!