The Diet Detective: 2011 Casual Dining Guide, Part I

Here are a few healthier choices and tips to keep in mind when you decide to go casual. I've included only calories, but that doesn't mean carbohydrates, fiber and sodium are not important. Before you eat out, look at the company's website to get a feel for the restaurant's offerings. When you do that, remember that in many instances the nutrition information is for the entr?e only—even if the dish comes with sides, sauces or dressings. Read the fine print; otherwise, you could end up eating a lot more calories than you realize. This guide will point you in the right direction.

Outback Steakhouse

  • Grilled Chicken on the Barbie with fresh seasonal veggies (both ordered without butter), 464 calories.
  • Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie (order with cocktail sauce), 315 calories
  • Outback Special 9-oz. sirloin steak with fresh steamed green beans & fresh seasonal veggies (all without butter), 438 calories
  • Outback Special 6-oz. steak (without butter), 230 calories
  • Seared Ahi Tuna—regular, 478 calories.
  • Lobster Tails, (2 tails without butter), 246 calories
  • Atlantic Salmon & Fresh Seasonal Veggies (both without butter), 411 calories

Fit Tip: Almost everything is made with butter or a fattening sauce, so make sure to ask that your dish be prepared without these. Outback has a program called "Order it Light." There is a feather next to the menu item, and they will prepare it so that it's under 500 calories. Stick to those, and when you have a choice of sides, choose either a double order of the steamed veggies (plain or a single order of the veggies and a salad (no croutons, no cheese, fat-free tangy tomato dressing on the side).

Normally a sweet potato without butter or toppings is a good choice, but the Outback sweet potato has 418 calories, which, along with the entr?e itself, can be too many calories. Almost all the sides, including the salads, are very high in calories—unless you're ordering them as a meal and making sure the dressing is on the side. All the desserts are super-high in calories—many have an entire day's worth. And if you're watching your sodium intake, almost every dish is high. Make sure to check out the choices in advance at www.outback.com/menu/nutritionselection.aspx

Applebee's

  • Weight Watchers Chipotle Lime Chicken, 490 calories
  • Weight Watchers Paradise Chicken Salad, 340 calories
  • Weight Watchers Steak & Potato Salad, 380 calories
  • Weight Watchers Spicy Pineapple Glazed Shrimp & Spinach, 310 calories
  • Weight Watchers Cajun Lime Tilapia, 350 calories
  • Asiago Peppercorn Steak, 390 calories
  • Grilled Shrimp & Island Rice, 370 calories
  • Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp, 500 calories
  • Grilled Dijon Chicken & Portobellos, 450 calories
  • Teriyaki Shrimp Pasta, 440 calories
  • Teriyaki Chicken Pasta, 450 calories
  • Veggie Burger, 550 calories (no sides)
  • Seasonal Vegetables, 35-50 calories (side dish)
  • Chicken Noodle Soup (bowl), 160 calories (appetizer or side)
  • Fresh Fruit, 90 calories (side dish)
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