Healthy Chain Reaction: Applebee’s Under 550 Calories Menu + Giveaway

Back when I was in grade school, Applebee’s was one of THE places to be on a weekend evening. Whether I was with my family or having a dinner-and-a-movie night out with friends, a basket of chicken strips and fries was a given when we finally scored a table.

My tastes have changed in the past 15 years and it has been more than a year or two since I’d eaten at Applebee’s (I guess I’m not doing a very good job of following their motto: “See You Tomorrow”) before I visited on Friday. The restaurant’s team asked me if I—and a dining pal—would like to try some of the new “Under 550 Calories” menu items on the house. I accepted, all for the sake of research… :)


Before attending a touring musical theater show, my Mom and I stopped by for dinner. Some things never change, like the TVs and tchotchkes on the walls and the line of families at the door. But the menu we were given had some new items, including the Under 550 Calorie choices as well as a Weight Watchers section (recipes approved by the diet program with “points” listed).

I rarely eat red meat, perhaps once every three months or so, but the mix of items included with the sirloin sounded great. Plus, a little extra iron can’t hurt, right?

Roasted Garlic Sirloin: “If you like garlic, you’re at the right steak. We marinate this 7 oz. sirloin in garlic and serve it over sautéed onions. Herbed potatoes and a grilled portobello mushroom cap filled with creamed spinach add even more flavor.” (460 calories, 18 g fat, 1,920 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 43 g protein)

Mom opted for one of the many shrimp dishes, and acted as my designated seafood taster. One of these days I’m going to teach myself to like the omega-3-packed protein!

Lemon Parmesan Shrimp: “Blackened shrimp sautéed with tomatoes, onions and basil. Served over creamy rice with a decadent lemon cream sauce and Parmesan cheese.” (490 calories, 13 g fat, 2,000 mg sodium, 64 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 29 g protein)


Our plates came out looking fairly similar to the menu pictures, and the portions were quite generous for 460-490 calories. Mom really enjoyed her sautéed shrimp, especially the cream sauce that topped both the seafood and the rice. I wonder how they make the “cream” so light…perhaps low-fat milk or cream cheese? We would have loved to see whole-grain brown or wild rice as the side. Maybe on the next menu?

My steak was delivered with grill marks that made me anxious for warm weather cooking season, and the red potatoes were cooked to al dente and nicely seasoned. The spinach-stuffed mushroom cap had a great savory taste, but was a bit watery—probably as a result of the cooked-down spinach. Just a couple small suggestions for improvement for the whole meal? Not bad, Applebee’s!

Next time, I’m planning to order the Napa Chicken & Portobellos to see what they can do with white meat and red wine. Yum!

For more healthy restaurant menu reviews, click here.

Now it’s your turn to have a meal on Applebee’s! Enter by Friday, March 15 at 12 p.m. CT for a chance to win a $25 gift card to try out the new Under 550 Calories menu items yourself. Each of the following will count as one entry (feel free to do all three!):

  1. Leave a comment here, explaining which of the items you’d most like to try and why.
  2. Follow me, @karla522, on Twitter if you’re not already, and tweet: “I want to win @karla522′s @applebees giveaway in honor of her blog makeover!
  3. Since I’m always looking to share more content you want to see here on Healthful Bites—and now more than ever after this fun refresh!—leave a comment with a topic or theme you’d like covered in a future post.

Good luck, everyone!

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  1. Yum! Everything looks so delicious, but I think I may have to give the Napa Chicken & Portobellos a try first. I am a sucker for anything with mushrooms. :) Thanks for the awesome giveaway to go with your pretty new blog, Karla!

    • Great pick, Jenn! I’m a big fan of mushroom-anything as well (although I certainly didn’t used to be). Consider yourself entered…x2, and thank you so much for the sweet words. Your support means the world! :)

  2. Um, you know Dustin would LOVE if I won this, ha. Applebee’s was a staple for us growing up too, but now we rarely frequent because we’re so busy trying all the different hot spots here! But it’s nice to go back to an old staple every once in a while, right? And you know I’m teaming up with your mom – seafood all the way! Yum!

    • That’s what my story was too, Sam—trying local places sure keeps you busy! This meal made me a bit nostalgic, especially visiting with my Mom, and I think you and Dustin would really enjoy a dinner out.Thanks for entering, Sam!

  3. The blog is looking great!! I would try the blackened shrimp for sure. I LOVE shrimp.

    I really like that they offer the under 550 menu – it’s such a nice alternative!

    • Thank you, Alex! I really appreciate that coming from a design pro like you. :)

      And I agree—it’s always so nice to see restaurants that offer a range of options for all dietary preferences. I sure appreciate it!

  4. Napa Chicken & Portobellos

    I’ve tried it before and it is AWESOME!!!!

  5. I follow you on twitter and I tweeted!!! @Christianqt07

  6. I’d like to see more of your favorite healthy restaurant choices on the blog :)

  7. Napa Chicken & Portobellos! Love chicken and the veggies and sauce look fantastic!
    Sounds delicious – will have to give it a try!

    • They do make it look appetizing, don’t they? I’m looking forward to trying this one too, Renata! We’ll have to compare notes after doing so. :)

  8. Fun and Functional mini workouts to fit in your day in just 15 minutes would be a helpful and motivating post theme since everyone has a hard time finding time to get the exercise in everyday! :-)

    • Great idea, Renata! I’ll definitely try to hit that topic in the near future, since I have trouble fitting exercise in some jam-packed days as well.

  9. Roasted Garlic Sirloin would be scrumptious as I love sirloin and garlic!

  10. Ideas for new posts would be creating easy nutritious meals with just a few ingredients that could be done in 30 minutes or less for those busy evenings! Thank you so much :-)

    • Awesome idea! I’ll definitely add that to the agenda. I really appreciate your input–and your entries in the giveaway! :)

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