Restaurants roll out low-cal menu items

Restaurants roll out low-cal menu items
Staff Writer

A number of restaurant chains are targeting New Year resolution makers with an array of better-for-you items. Others are starting out the New Year with crowd-pleasing favorites.

IHOP is doing both with its new Hash Brown Stacks line, featuring crispy hash browns layered with eggs and other toppings for $5.99.

One of the new offerings fits into the chain’s “Simple & Fit” for having fewer than 600 calories. That’s spinach and mushroom with melted provolone cheese, sliced tomato, an over-medium egg, hollandaise sauce and green onions.

The other two Hash Brown Stacks are:

• Diced bacon and melted Cheddar cheese with sliced tomato, an over-medium egg, hollandaise sauce and green onions

• Grilled ham and melted Swiss cheese with sliced tomato, an over-medium egg, hollandaise sauce and green onions

Sister chain Applebee’s is playing to the success of its better-for-you options, and has added three dishes at under 550 calories.

• The Roasted Garlic Sirloin is a seven-ounce garlic-marinated sirloin steak with sautéed onions, served with herbed potatoes and a grilled portobello mushroom cap filled with creamed spinach.

• The Sizzling Chili Lime Chicken is grilled chicken with spicy Asian-style vegetables served over rice with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

• The Sizzling Asian Shrimp & Broccoli is blackened shrimp and mixed vegetables in a sweet-spicy sauce, served over rice and topped with cilantro.

Those three additions join two other entrées that have fewer than 550 calories, Sirloin & Garlic Herb Shrimp and Grilled Dijon Chicken & Portobellos.

The company said in a press release that the sirloin and shrimp dish was Applebee’s top selling entrée during the first two months of 2011. It said that was the first time ever that a lower-calorie option was the chain’s best-selling item.

Baskin-Robbins has also added a low-calorie option to its “BRight Choices frozen yogurt line.”

The Berry Nut Honey frozen yogurt, the chain’s flavor of the month for January, is honey and vanilla flavored yogurt with a triple berry ribbon and honey oat almond pieces. A 2.5-ounce serving has 4.5 grams of fat and 140 calories.

The company said that almonds and berries are trending well with customers.

Panda Express has combined low calories and the Chinese New Year by bringing back its Firecracker Chicken Breast. The chicken is accompanied by yellow and red peppers in a spicy black bean sauce, and is available as a limited-time offering through Feb. 14. It’s one of the chain’s “Wok Smart” options, at 240 calories per serving.

Benihana is offering two Chef’s Specials for January. It’s not promoting them as low-calorie, but it is featuring proteins that are perceived as more healthful.

• Hibachi shrimp & chicken for two is a five-course, $36 meal of those two proteins grilled with mushrooms and sesame seeds and served with onion soup, salad, a hibachi shrimp appetizer, hibachi vegetables, dipping sauce, rice and green tea.

• Hibachi mango salmon is a $21 meal for one person with sweet potatoes and mango salsa, as well as the shrimp appetizer, vegetables, sauce, rice and green tea.

Dairy Queen is not offering a low-calorie Blizzard blended frozen treat as its flavor of the month, but it is bringing back what it said was one of its most popular flavors: Strawberry CheeseQuake, which blends strawberries and cheesecake chunks with vanilla soft-serve ice cream.

Burger King is expanding its $1.99 BK Toppers line of specialty hamburgers with a Bacon and Cheddar offering. It joins the three existing Toppers: mushroom & Swiss, Western BBQ Cheeseburger with onion rings and Sweet Baby Ray’s which is dressed in a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce.

Whataburger is offering a new spicy version of its original “Fancy Ketchup,” spiked with jalapeño peppers. It’s available while supplies last, but it has added a lemon pie as a new permanent addition — the first one since its chocolate chunk and sugar cookies were added to the menu in 2009.

Finally, White Castle has introduced two chili-based limited-time offerings, available through March 18.

The Angus steak chili features steak, red beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, mild green chiles and Southwest seasoning, and is available in eight-ounce, 12-ounce and family-sized 32-ounce portions.

It’s also offering the chili on French fries with cheese.

Contact Bret Thorn at
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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