Next time you sit down at a restaurant, contemplating your order, keep a few things in mind: calories, trans fat, sugar and protein. The overall caloric intake matters for obvious reasons, but the trans fat and sugar levels need to be low. Why? Trans fat is the "scary" kind of fat that is directly linked to heart attacks and strokes. Sugar is making headlines, and not in a good way, because of its connection to diabetes, cancer and heart disease, regardless of a person's overall health.
Lastly, pay attention to protein intake — the more, the better, even when trying to lose weight. One more thing to be aware of at most restaurants, like the ones listed below, is that most of them use something called "MSG" and other preservatives, making sodium levels sky-high. So, drink plenty of water and add a potassium source to balance it out. Enough of that! Let's get down to business and take a look at the best and worst dishes at your go-to sit-down restaurants.
Best: Parmesan Crusted Filet: 710 calories; 1g trans fat; 47 g protein; 4 g sugar
Worst: Chicken Alfredo: 1540 calories; 2 g trans fat; 72 g protein; 6 g sugar
Best Breakfast: Ham, Egg, and Cheese on Whole Grain: 340 calories, 0 g trans fat; 16 g protein; 3 g sugar
Best Lunch: Turkey Cranberry Flatbread Sandwich: 310 calories; 0 g trans fat; 13 g protein; 7 g sugar OR Classic Salad with Chicken 300 calories; 0 g trans fat; 27 g protein; 12 g sugar
Worst Breakfast: Bacon, Egg, & Cheese on Asiago Cheese Bagel: 610 calories; 1 g trans fat; 34 g protein; 4 g sugar
Worst Lunch: Fontina Grilled Cheese on All-Natural White Bread: 850 calories; 2g trans fat; 41g protein; 4g sugar. OR Fuji Apple Chicken Salad: 550 calories; 1 g trans fat; 32 g protein; 21 g sugar
Best: Wood-Grilled California Chicken Sandwich: 592 calories; 0.2 g trans fat; 42 g protein; 8 g sugar
Worst: No Rules Parmesan Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Scallops, 1305 calories; 0 g trans fat; 5 g sugar; 71 g protein
Best: 6-oz sirloin: 370 calories; 0 g trans fat; 38 g protein. Add a side salad with low-fat balsamic vinaigrette for 120 calories.
Worst: New York Cheddar & Bacon Burger: 1480 calories; 2.5 g trans fat; 52 g protein
Please note sugar amounts were not listed. Nutrition listed here.
Cheesecake Factory (Offers SkinnyLicious Menu)
Best: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps: 440 calories; 0 g trans fat; 0 g sugar; 27 g protein
Worst: Chicken and Biscuits 2262 calories; 30 g protein
Ruby Tuesday’s (Offers Smart Eating Menu and Fit & Trim Menu)
Best: Smart Eating Menu Item – Blackened Tilapia: 200 calories with fresh steamed broccoli at 70 calories. OR Hickory Bourbon Chicken: 355 calories with fresh grilled zucchini at 41 calories from the Fit & Trim Menu
Worst: Portabella Crispy Onion Pretzel Cheeseburger with fries: 1659 calories; 64 g protein
Please note sugar and trans fat were not listed. Nutrition listed here.
Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill (Offers Weight Watchers Menu)
Best Appetizer: Grilled Chicken Wonton Taco: 460 calories, 0 g trans fat; 23 g sugar; 35 g protein. OR Shareables Pot Stickers 660 calories (sharing); 0g trans fat; 29 g sugar; 17 g protein
Best Entree: 7-oz House Sirloin: 280 calories; 1 g trans fat; 1 g sugar; 34 g protein paired with a house salad without dressing at 230 calories
Worst Appetizer: Boneless Wings w/Sweet Asian Chile Sauce & Bleu Cheese Dressing: 1290 calories; 1 g trans fat; 27 g sugar; 52 g protein
Worst Entree: Applebee's Riblets Platter w/Honey BBQ Sauce: 1540 calories; 0 g trans fat; 92 g sugar; 73 g protein
Carabba's (Offers Under 600 Menu)
Best Appetizer: Bread, Herbs & Oil: 300 calories; 0 g trans fat; 0 g sugar; 6 g protein
Best Entree: Caesar Salad with Chicken with Light Balsamic Vinaigrette: 363 calorie; 0 g trans fat; 9 g sugar; 41 g protein OR Small Wood-Grilled Chicken: 179 calories; 0 g trans fat; 0 g sugar; 32 g protein with Freshly Steamed Spinach side at 26 calories; 0 g trans fat; 0 g sugar; 3 g protein
Worst Appetizer: Calamari with Spicy Italian Peppers and Lemon Butter: Regular 1506 calories; 8 g trans fat; 5 g sugar; 29 g protein
Worst Entree: Conchiglie ai Formaggi with Chicken and Whole Grain Spaghetti: 1265 calories; 2 g trans fat; 4 g sugar; 69 g protein
Best Appetizer: Unsliceably Soft Yeast Roll: 180 calories; 0 g trans fat; 8 g sugar; 4 g protein
Best Entree: Bruschetta Chicken: 340 calories, 0 g trans fat; 9 g sugar; 48 g protein paired with side of grilled asparagus for 60 calories
Worst Appetizer: Top Shelf Combo Appetizer: 1880 calories; 0 g trans fat; 9 g sugar; 88 g protein
Worst Entree: Baby Back Ribs (full rack) 1460 calories; 0 g trans fat; 77 g sugar; 70 g protein
>> Read more: Fast Food Under 500
Buffalo Wild Wings
Best Appetizer: Naked Tenders (6 pieces): 260 calories; 0 g trans fat; 10 g sugar; 10 g protein
Best Entree: Grilled Chicken Buffalitos: 380 calories; 0 g trans fat; 4 g sugar; 40 g protein
Worst Appetizer: Cheeseburger Slammers: 1559 calories; 0 g trans fat; 10g sugar; 66 g protein
Worst Entree: Ribs and More Ribs: 2380 calories; 0 g trans fat; 28 g sugar; 144 g protein