With a slogan like “Bigger and Bolder,” Applebee’s isn’t leading anyone to believe their menu options are diet-friendly. They’re known for their ribs, fried food, and crazy-cheap cocktail deals. Most of their menu is heavy on the meat and light on the greens — even their salads are covered in things like chicken tenders and seasoned steak.
Even still, Applebee’s is a huge chain. There are over 2,000 restaurants in the United States, and we’re betting there have been more than a few customers wishing they knew of a healthier option. Two of the biggest concerns people have about the food at Applebee’s are the sodium levels and the extra fat. Some of the dishes have sky-high calorie counts that scare away the more conscious consumers.
All of the nutrition information for Applebee’s menu is available online; if you have a specific health concern such as high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s best to double-check the original source to make sure you aren’t eating something outside of what’s safe. But for your average health-conscious diner, we’ve roved over the nutrition data and selected the 15 healthiest options.
This dish does have a lot of sodium — so if you’re trying to cut back on foods loaded with salt, keep that in mind. However, this steak has 670 calories (including the generous side of potatoes), 50 grams of protein, and 35 grams of fat. It’s definitely a large meal. But to Applebee’s credit here, they include a side of sautéed mushrooms and onions in your order. So you are getting some vegetables with your meaty meal!
You can also order this salad with grilled chicken — shrimp just has a bit fewer calories and grams of fat. This salad doesn’t skimp on the dressing and cheese, so it’s still got 660 calories and 51 grams of fat. However, there are greens under there somewhere, making it a lighter option than most of Applebee’s meat-heavy dishes.
Stir-fry is usually a balanced option for a meal, loaded with lots of vegetables and proteins. The sauce is where things can get sticky — this dish has 24 grams of sugar from the sweet and spicy dumpling sauce. This dish has 650 calories, 27 grams of protein, and only 13 grams of fat. The dish comes with a sizable portion of rice alongside crispy wontons, but if you order this dish, just eat until you feel satisfied knowing you’re getting a relatively balanced meal.
This dish includes an 8-ounce piece of steak topped with sautéed shrimp and a creamy Parmesan sauce. In total, it’s 620 calories with 42 grams of fat. The nutrition information does not include the two sides you choose with the meal — we recommend choosing something with vegetables and some carbs. The Garlic Mashed Potatoes, for example, will only add 250 calories to your meal, as opposed to French fries that would tack on over 400.
Grilled chicken and shrimp are two low-fat and low-calorie options for getting quality protein. This dish has both — smothered in a garlic butter sauce, sure, but you aren’t going to a restaurant for plain unseasoned chicken. The proteins are served alongside sautéed mushrooms and onions with crispy red potatoes. The entire meal clocks in at 620 calories with 28 grams of fat and 51 grams of protein.
The only drawback of this healthy, balanced order is the sodium. One order has 2,110 milligrams. But otherwise, this dish is a nutritious combination of grilled chicken, cranberry-pecan rice, and quinoa all topped with sweet apple relish and lemon vinaigrette. The meal is 570 calories of satisfying whole grains, healthy fats, and protein.
This menu option is only available at select locations — however, it’s a relatively nutritious option if it’s offered at your local chain. This wedge salad is topped with pecans, blue cheese, and bacon, and then coated with an herbed dressing. It’s 540 calories, 51 grams of fat, and 9 grams of protein.
You might think the taco shell being a crispy fried wonton would make this dish a disaster, but the Chicken Wonton Tacos are a relatively low-fat and high-protein option. It’s listed as an appetizer, but the three tacos you get with your order are large enough for some people to eat as a meal. One order adds to 500 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 38 grams of protein. The sodium content is lower than most of Applebee’s other appetizers, with 1,540 milligrams.
Eating ribs doesn’t have to be over the top. Just choose the half rack over the full rack for a more modest portion size and jazz up your plate with nutritious sides that include vegetables. A half rack of ribs from Applebee’s contains 430 calories and 32 grams of fat. Both of Applebee’s sauce options have 80 calories and at least 10 grams of sugar, so keep that in mind, as well.
If you aren’t feeling super hungry, opting for a soup instead of a full entrée could sound appealing. The chili is one that won’t leave you hungry, since it’s loaded with protein and even has some fiber from the beans. A cup of this soup has 410 calories, 25 grams of fat, 1,110 milligrams of sodium, and 32 grams of protein. Applebee’s also offers the option to order a soup with a salad.
Some restaurant salads are soaked in creamy dressing and loaded with fatty toppings — but this option is actually a fairly balanced meal. Almonds and edamame add an extra boost of nutrition to this dish, while the crispy wonton strips keep things interesting. This salad has 410 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein.
Salmon is a staple of the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet, since it has lots of heart-healthy fats and other important vitamins. This salmon is seasoned and grilled and served alongside two sides of your choice. An order of this dish has 350 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1660 milligrams of sodium, and 37 grams of protein. The only thing to be aware of is the sugar in the glaze — the entire order has 18 grams of sugar total.
If you’re looking for a lighter option to pair with your salad that won’t leave you hungry, opt for the French onion soup. With 16 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, you’ll still feel satisfied after eating and only have added 330 calories to whatever you pair this soup with.
Applebee’s offers the this sirloin in a 6-ounce or an 8-ounce portion. However, the recommended serving of meat (red meat especially) is 4 ounces. The meal comes with two sides of your choice, so you can round out your protein with some vegetables and healthy carbs. But surprisingly, this steak isn’t too much of a load on your diet. The 6-ounce portion contains 200 calories and only 8 grams of fat.
There is some debate over whether red meat can be part of a healthy diet. Most agree that it’s alright to eat now and then and probably only causes a problem if you’re gorging on it every day. But if you’d rather stick to lean meat and avoid the risk, Applebee’s offers plain grilled chicken. It comes with two sides, just like the steak, so you can get your fill of other food groups. One portion contains 190 calories and 4 grams of fat. Of course, if you’re at Applebee’s, you’re probably not expecting to eat a low-calorie, vegetable-rich meal. If that’s what you’re looking for, you might be better off trying one of these healthy chain restaurants instead.
We've also collected a list of The Unhealthiest Menu Items at Applebee's.
More from The Daily Meal: