Can you dine out and stick to your diet? The short answer is yes, with some intelligent ordering. And even better, you can forget the salads-sans-dressing shtick.
Previously, The Daily Beast has chronicled the worst of the worst—the burgers with a day's worth of calories, the fries with more saturated fat than a stick of butter, and the salads with more fried chicken than greens. But while fast food is notoriously gluttonous, the meals at chain restaurants can be worse… a lot worse. Not only are they packed with sodium and fat to increase taste on the cheap, they are presented in oversize proportions.
Gallery: 25 Healthiest Restaurant Meals
"[These chains] practice caloric extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the earth," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in a statement released last May.
To improve the nutritional quotient of their menus, several chains have created healthier entrees to appease finicky eaters and calorie-counters. Applebee's has a portion of its menu devoted to "unbelievably great tasting" meals under 550 calories and Chili's offers "Guiltless Grill" choices that are much lower in calories and fat than their 1,600-calorie ribs and tacos. Accordingly, The Daily Beast decided to look at which restaurants are doing their part to help whittle our ever-growing waistlines.
In weighing the healthiest options, we considered the three lowest-calorie entrée options at more than a dozen of the nation's largest chain restaurants that provide nutritional information. We eliminated choices that derived more than 35 percent of calories from fat—the USDA's threshold for healthy eating. The final list was ranked with equal weight given to calories, saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates.