The Best and Worst Dinner Deals

Going out to eat but don't want to go out of control? Here's what to order and what to avoid at some of the most popular restaurants.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Who doesn't like going to a restaurant? You aren't cooking over a hot stove, you aren't rolling up your sleeves and cleaning the dishes afterward. It's a "win-win" situation, right? Wrong. When we eat out at restaurants, we are generally being served large portions of higher-fat, higher-calorie dishes, and guess what: We usually eat those larger portions all up (perhaps because we want to get our money's worth or because we are in a splurge mode.)

But if you find yourself at one of the top five restaurant chains, we can help you choose lighter restaurant fare. (The not-splurging part, though, is up to you.)

Here are some of their best and worst dinner deals (nutritionally* speaking, that is).

* Because neither nutritional analysis nor ingredient lists are not provided by any of the following restaurants, I chose the items based on the description of ingredients and preparation methods described in their menus.

Dinner Deals

Applebee's Best
Fajita Quesadillas
Grilled Salmon
Applebee's House Sirloin (if you take some of that 9 oz. Steak home)
Steak or Chicken Fajitas (go light on the sour cream and guacamole)
Sizzling Stir-Fry Beef or Chicken combo
Chicken Fajita Rollup Combo (go light on the ranch dipping sauce)
Club House Grill Sandwich (ask for no mayo)
Gyro Sandwich (if made without mayo or creamy dressing)
Gardenburger (dress with mustard, catsup or BBQ sauce)
Basic Burger (dress with mustard, catsup or BBQ sauce and ask for a lightly dressed salad instead of fries)

Applebee's Worst
Riblet Basket or Platter
Chicken Fingers Basket or Platter
N'Awlins Skillet
Fish & Chips Basket
Club Croissant
Bacon Cheeseburger
Applebee Burger (double-decker quarter pound patties with 2 cheeses and creamy Dijon mustard)

Red Lobster's Best
Grilled Fresh Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Tilapia, Grouper, or Mahi-Mahi
Teriyaki Glazed Fish (basted with teriyaki glaze & served with pineapple-mango salsa)
Shrimp & Lobster Pasta Linguini
Broiled Flounder (served with salad and fresh vegetables or baked potato)
Aztec Chicken (served with vegetables)
Teriyaki chicken (served with fresh vegetables, rice, and pineapple-mango salsa)
Shrimp and Lobster Pasta
Soup, Shrimp Garden Salad, & Bread (if served with broth-based soup and salad is lightly dressed)
Grilled Chicken Sandwich (if served with lightly dressed side salad instead of cole slaw and fruit instead of fries)
Dockside Shrimp and Chicken (broiled shrimp scampi and grilled chicken breast)
Grilled Sirloin Steak
Mainlander's Chicken Salad (lightly dressed)

Red Lobster's Worst
Boardwalk Popcorn Shrimp (bite-sized fried shrimp)
Shrimp Pasta and Cajun Shrimp Pasta (served with creamy Alfredo sauce)
Cajun Chicken Pasta (with garlic Alfredo sauce)
Walt's Favorite Fried Shrimp
Fried Seafood Platter
Admiral's feast (all-fried platter of shrimp, scallops, clam strips, and fish fillets)
Shrimp Pasta (with Alfredo sauce)
Crab Alfredo

Outback Steakhouse's Best
Botany Bay Fish O' The Day (fresh fish, seasoned and grilled and served with fresh veggies)
Chicken On The Barbie (seasoned and grilled breast with BBQ sauce and veggies)
Steak & Veggie Griller (sirloin medallions)
Ripper Shrimp (boiled peel-and-eat shrimp with cocktail sauce)
Victoria's Fillet (beef tenderloin, if served with lightly dressed salad or baked potato and fresh steamed veggies)
8 ounce Prime Minister's Prime Rib (if trimmed of visible fat and served with a lightly dressed salad or baked potato and fresh steamed veggies)
The Outbacker (burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and mustard)
Jackeroo Chops (center cut pork chops served with cinnamon apples and a baked potato instead of fries)

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