Seafood may be rich in protein and nutrients, but if history has taught us anything, it's that seafood can easily become a nutritional shipwreck—especially when it comes from a restaurant. Have you ever had Applebee's Hand Battered Fish and Chips? It packs nearly 1,500 calories! And while Red Lobster is just as guilty of cramming calories into some of their more indulgent dishes, they do provide multiple ways to order a low-cal, wholesome meal—no matter which of their 700+ restaurants you're dining at.
Here, we tell you how to order a tasty, healthy meal at the seafood chain—and fill you in on some little-known facts about your favorite restaurant, too! This way, you can wow your dining companions with your Red Lobster knowledge next time you find yourself eagerly waiting for your favorite fishy meal to arrive. And while we've got your attention, don't miss our exclusive report on the 40+ Popular Types of Fish—Ranked for Nutrition!
The Lobster In Their Logo Has a Name
You know the cute little lobster in the Red Lobster logo? His named Clawde! And he even has his own profile on LinkedIn. I don't know about you, but I'm totally sending him a connection request later today.
The Best Appetizer Has Just 130 Calories
Next time you find yourself at Red Lobster and you're totally starving, resist the urge to eat an entire basket of those delicious biscuits. The best way to tame your hunger is by ordering the shrimp cocktail, says Kari Ikemoto, RD. "It's low in carbs, calories, sodium, and fat, and is rich in protein. Protein-rich foods promote satiety, which means you're less apt to overeat when you receive your entree," she tells us. For more healthy ways to satisfy your appetite, don't miss these 30 Most Filling Healthy Snacks.
They Have a Bunch of Low-Cal Meals
The chain's lighter fare menu features six yummy-looking dishes—all with 600 calories or fewer. The Lighthouse Garlic-Grilled Shrimp (pictured) has just 390 calories and an impressive 30 grams of protein. It is a bit high in salt, though, so be sure to drink plenty of water and stay away from other sodium-packed food at your next meal to ward off dehydration. And if you order the Lighthouse Maple-Glazed Chicken (370 calories, 30 g protein), be sure to ask for the glaze on the side. While overall the dish is nutritionally sound, the sauce is a bit on the sugary side. For more easy ways to dial back on your intake of the sweet stuff, don't miss these 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar.
They Feed the Homeless & Hungry
Anyone who's ever worked in the food service business knows that there's a ton of leftover food that winds up in the trash. That's why we were delighted to learn that Red Lobster restaurants donate their unused food to local food banks and homeless shelters through a program called RL Shares. Since its launch, they've donated about 20 million meals to the needy. How awesome is that?!
They Offer Half-Portions
While it's hit or miss if your menu will mention it, know that it's always an option to order a half-portion of any meal. That means you can share the Wild-Caught Flounder with a friend or get a smaller plate of the Cajun Chicken Linguini Alfredo. Considering a full serving of the creamy pasta dish packs 1,170 calories and the half portion has a more reasonable 590, this is definitely an ordering hack we can get excited about. Not only will this tactic help you stay in your skinny jeans, it's a trick that can save you a bit of money, too!
They'll Treat You on Your Birthday
Another great way to save dough on lobster and crab? Sign up for Red Lobster's Fresh Catch Club. Members can score birthday freebies in addition to other exclusive deals and discounts.
Grilling is Always an Option
Even if the menu doesn't explicitly state it, any fish or lobster dish can be grilled instead of steamed. Each cooking method brings out different flavors, so it's worth trying your fish both ways before deciding on a go-to order.
If you want to add some additional flavor to your meal, Red Lobster has a number of low-cal options including, pico de gallo (10 calories/serving), cocktail sauce (45 calories/serving) and of course, fresh lemon juice. While the melted butter isn't an awful option for grilled and steamed fillets, know that if you polish off the entire serving, you'll have added 300 calories to your meal. Spoon on a small serving and then ask the waiter to take it away so you're not tempted to go back for more.
They Have a Handy Nutrition Calculator
If you're a dieter who likes to plan ahead, be sure to check out Red Lobster's nutrition calculator. There's no easier way to find out how exactly what the damage will be before you dine.
The Cheddar Bay Biscuits Have a Fan Page
Big fan of the chain's Cheddar Bay Biscuits? You're definitely not alone. The starchy appetizer is so popular, in fact, that it has its own Facebook page—with more than 1 million followers! But before you order a batch, know this: each one has 160 calories and 2.5 grams of dangerous trans fat, which is more than health experts recommend you should consume in an entire day. If you can't pass up the once-and-awhile treat, only enjoy half a biscuit (easier said than done, we know), and use the chain's nutrition calculator to ensure nothing else you're planning to order has even the slightest amount of the heart-harming ingredient.
The Key Lime Pie Is The Lightest Dessert
If you're going to dig your spoon into a dessert, make it the key lime pie. With 430 calories, 19 grams of fat and 50 grams sugar (yup, that's an entire day's worth), it's not the healthiest sweet treat in the world, but it's definitely the best option at Red Lobster. If your server will let you do a half-portion of the pie (hey, it's worth asking), that's even better! Order that and split it with a friend.
Nutritionists Eat There
If the grub at Red Lobster is healthy enough for nutritionists, rest assured that if you order the right dish, you can totally grab a meal at the chain without falling off track with your diet. Jim White RD, ACSM HFS, Owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, is a fan of their grilled fish and the chain's combo meals. "There's a part of the Red Lobster menu where you can create your own combination. Going this route is the best ways to ensure you get a healthy meal. I'd ask for the Garlic-Grilled Sea Scallops and pair it with a side salad," White tells us.
They Like to Party
Red Lobster loves lobster so much that they host an event called Lobsterfest every February. Lobsterfest is a celebration of everything lobster and is the one time of year guests can choose from the largest variety of lobster dishes on the menu. During the festival of shrimp, we suggest ordering the Garlic-Grilled Shrimp Skewer with fresh broccoli (one of these 57 Healthiest Foods on the Planet) and a garden salad with champagne vinaigrette. With 420 calories, 6 grams of fiber, and 20 grams of protein, it's one of healthier combinations they offer.