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Nearly all restaurant food is too salty. But if you look closely—and, maybe, customize—you can find dishes that aren’t full of cheese, red meat, sugar, or half a day’s calories...even at Xtreme chains. Here are a few examples.

Go fish

olive Garden Herb Grilled Salmon
Claudia Bach - CSPI.

The Herb-Grilled Salmon at Olive Garden scores points for filling half your plate not with pasta but with broccoli. That’s a rare find in this garden.

The stats:

  • Calories: 490
  • Sat fat: 10 g
  • Sodium: 1,170 mg

Tip: Start with a lightly dressed serving of salad, not soup, to help keep a lid on sodium. (“The stats” don’t include the chain’s free soup or salad plus breadsticks.)

Berry nice

applebees Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Salad
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Without the 190-calorie breadstick and half the dressing, Applebee’s delightful Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Salad drops from 870 to 530 calories. Its fresh berries and almonds sure beat the usual cheese or croutons.

The stats:

  • Calories: 530
  • Sat fat: 4 g
  • Sodium: 1,240 mg

Tip: Check the nutrition calculator on Applebee’s website to see what else you can customize.

Flour-free fajitas

on The Border Fajita Salad
Claudia Bach - CSPI.

For the Fajita Salad at On The Border, the sizzling grilled chicken goes atop a pile of veggies instead of flour tortillas. Brilliant! And it’s only 410 calories if you use the fresh salsa and sautéed veg as your dressing.

The stats:

  • Calories: 410
  • Sat fat: 3 g
  • Sodium: 1,260 mg

Tip: OTB’s Border Smart Chicken Fajitas (630 calories) also beat typical fajitas, but they’re still salty (1,850 mg).

Pasta 2.0

cheesecake Factory Skinny Licious Chicken Pasta
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

Craving pasta? Its refined flour is no health food, but even The Cheesecake Factory can lighten things up on its SkinnyLicious menu. The Chicken Pasta sports marinara, fresh tomato chunks, and basil, not gobs of cream plus cheese.

The stats:

  • Calories: 590
  • Sat fat: 1½ g
  • Sodium: 1,750 mg

Tip: Even most better pastas offer a paltry dose of vegetables. For more, start off with a side salad.

More tips

  • At Chili’s, head to the small “Guiltless Grill” section of the menu to walk away with 650 calories or less. (Just be careful: There’s no sodium limit!)
  • At Bob Evans or other sit-down breakfast chains, build your own omelet with eggs or egg whites and vegetables, plus a side of fruit.
  • At Cold Stone Creamery or other ice cream shops, stick with the smallest scoop. Even a small without mix-ins typically has 300 to 400 calories.

This article comes from Nutrition Action. We don't accept any paid advertising or corporate or government donations. Any products or menu items we recommend have been vetted by our staff and are not advertisements by the companies. 

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