What To Order: The 5 Healthiest Restaurant Chicken Dinners by Toby Amidor in Dining Out, June 27, 2011
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This new series focuses on finding the healthiest options when dining out. We’re starting out with one of the most popular items on the menu—chicken. Here are our top 5 picks.
Olive Garden: Venetian Apricot Chicken
Nutrition Info: 380 calories; 4 grams fat; 1.5 grams saturated fat; 1420 milligrams sodium; 8 grams fiber
This entrée consists of grilled chicken breasts in an apricot citrus sauce. It’s served with broccoli, asparagus and diced tomatoes. The calories and fat are well controlled while the veggies add a healthy dose of fiber. Our research revealed that almost all restaurant choices contained over 50 percent of the recommended daily amount of sodium. This entrée was no exception.
Applebee’s: Grilled Dijon Chicken & Portobellos
Nutrition Info: 470 calories; 16 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat, 1820 milligrams sodium; 5 grams fiber
These chicken breasts are marinated in a Dijon and cheddar cheese sauce (that’s where the fat comes from). The chicken is topped with roasted red peppers, onions, and Portobello mushrooms and served with steamed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Ruby Tuesday: Barbecue Grilled Chicken
Nutrition Info: 592 calories; 4 grams fat; 1239 milligrams sodium; 1 gram fiber
Do you see a pattern? Grilled chicken breast is probably one of your healthiest choices when dining out. At Ruby Tuesday, these barbecued chicken breasts are served with cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli (calories include the sides). If you want to shave off a few calories, ask to replace the mashed potatoes with a green salad or a double portion of steamed broccoli.
Outback Steakhouse: Grilled Chicken on the Barbie & Fresh Seasonal Vegetables
Nutrition Info: 523 calories; 15 grams fat; 5.8 grams saturated fat; 1054 milligrams sodium; 4 grams fiber
Although you may think to order steak at a steakhouse (who wouldn’t?), barbecued chicken is a smart option at Outback Steakhouse. Be sure to order this dish without butter, otherwise this dish will contain an extra 100+ calories.
Chili’s: Margarita Grilled Chicken
Nutrition Info: 260 calories; 7 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 720 milligrams sodium; 5 grams fiber
This Mexican dish is flavored with lime and citrus and served with rice, black beans, tortilla strips and pico de gallo. Many folks start with a low calorie main chicken dish like this and add on sides, cocktails and dessert and end up with an out of control meal. If you glance at the calories of the side dishes, you’ll notice the calories can add up quickly. Go for the steamed broccoli for 80 extra calories and 6 grams of fat. Be aware that 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli has almost no fat—this means Chili’s added either oil or butter (or both).
Tips for Smart Ordering
- Check nutrition information when available. Some restaurants provide nutrition information for one serving of a dish. The entire item may have 2 or 3 servings.
- Order dressings, sauces or other high fat ingredients (like sour cream or guacamole) on the side.
- Ask the server about the ingredients in a dish. You can always ask them to hold the butter, oil or other high fat ingredients.
- Order fried chicken dishes sparingly (on a special occasion or to share with the table).
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »