The Best & Worst Menu Items at Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

A registered dietitian weighs in on the menu so you know which meals to order and which to avoid.
cheddars scratch kitchen

If you aren't currently hungry, take a look at the Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen menu and that will quickly change. The national restaurant chain, founded in 1979, is known for its savory selection of chicken, burgers, ribs, seafood, and more. Quite honestly, the options are endless. With so many desirable selections, we imagine it will be hard to pick just one while dining there, especially if you're trying to make smarter choices when you're eating out.

That's why it's crucial to know the best and worst menu options available to you while trying to decide from Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen's lengthy list of options. That said, we checked in with Cynthia Lanzillotto, RD, to educate us on the plethora of delicious offerings.

Here are the best and worst items you can order from the Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen menu.

Appetizers

Best: 4-piece Buffalo Kickin' Tenders

cheddars scratch kitchen buffalo kickin tenders
Courtesy of Cheddars
950 calories, 64 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,710 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 58 g protein

Luckily for diners, these crispy and spicy chicken tenders have landed themselves as the best option from the appetizer section.

"While this choice is not the lowest calorie option on the appetizer menu, it appears to be the best because of the ratio of the macronutrients," Lanzillotto says, while adding that the high amount of protein is also a major plus.

"Protein is a nutrient that is important because it helps us to feel full and satisfied," she says. "Incorporating protein into an appetizer can prevent overeating by the time the main entree comes around."

Worst: Cheddar's Trio Sampler

cheddars scratch kitchen trio sampler
Courtesy of Cheddars Scratch Kitchen
2,220 calories, 142 g fat (51 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fat), 4,050 mg sodium, 134 g carbs (14 g fiber, 27 g sugar), 101 g protein

This trio of four hand-breaded chicken tenders, Santa Fe spinach dip, homemade queso, salsa, and house-made tortilla chips is a big no-no mainly because of the high sodium content.

"This appetizer has 4,050 milligrams of sodium, and the Center for Disease Control recommends approximately 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day," Lanzillotto says "So by eating this appetizer, you have consumed close to double your sodium needs for the day."

Homemade Soups and Salads

Best: Blackened Salmon Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

cheddars scratch kitchen salmon salad
Courtesy of Cheddar's
750 calories, 50 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,470 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (10 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 46 g protein

Thanks to the blackened salmon in this salad mix, this blend of fresh greens, tomatoes, carrots, parmesan cheese, glazed pecans, and homemade croutons will provide you with omega 3 fatty acids.

"It is recommended by the American Heart Association to eat a serving of fatty fish at least two times per week to obtain heart-protective benefits," Lanzillotto says.

And if you order the balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side rather than on it, as "it's an easy way to avoid unnecessary calories."

Worst: Bowl of Broccoli Cheese Soup

cheddars scratch kitchen broccoli cheese soup
Cheddar's/Facebook
550 calories, 40 g fat (22 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,140 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 12 g protein

Don't be fooled by the broccoli in the name, because this creamy and cheesy soup is the worst option due to its high saturated fat content.

"One bowl of broccoli cheddar soup is about 22 grams of saturated fat, and the American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams for the entire day for someone following a 2,000 calorie diet," Lanzillotto says. "By consuming this soup, you are already at almost double the recommended saturated fat intake."

Chicken

Best: Key West Chicken & Shrimp

chicken and shrimp cheddar scratch kitchen
Jennifer S./Yelp
550 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,330 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 34 sugar), 49 g protein

This yummy combo of grilled chicken and shrimp topped with freshly prepared pineapple pico de gallo over rice is a great option because it's low in calories and saturated fat compared to many of the other menu items. "Diets high in saturated fat can be correlated to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke," Lanzillotto says.

Worst: Grilled Chicken Alfredo

chicken alfredo cheddar scratch kitchen
Jennifer S./Yelp
1,370 calories, 79 g fat (43 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 63 g protein

Grilled chicken with penne pasta, broccoli, carrots, and homemade alfredo sauce with a side of toasted garlic bread is obviously hearty and scrumptious, but Lanzillotto recommends not ordering it due to the high fat and saturated fat content.

"This option provides over three times the amount of saturated fat recommended by the AHA," she says. "This entree also contains trans fat, which you want to try to avoid in your diet because these fats are known to increase your LDL (or bad cholesterol) and decrease your HDL (or good cholesterol)."

Steaks and Baby Back Ribs

Best: 6 oz. Top Sirloin Steak With Onion Straws

cheddar scratch kitchen sirloin steak
Courtesy of Cheddar's
410 calories, 29 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 520 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 24 g protein

The 6 oz. steak, served on a bed of onions straws with two sides of your choice, is a great source of protein.

"Protein is crucial in the diet because it is made up of amino acids, which help to grow and maintain all of our body tissues, including hair, skin, nails, and muscles," Lanzillotto says.

Worst: Full Rack Ribs

cheddars scratch kitchen full rack ribs
Courtesy of Cheddar's
1,400 calories, 91 g fat (33 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 3,640 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (1 g fiber, 33 g sugar), 97 g protein

Slathered with a homemade rub, slow-smoked in-house, and grilled with a honey BBQ sauce, the full rack of ribs has found itself at the bottom of the list because the sauce on the ribs contains 33 grams of sugar, which equals a whopping eight teaspoons of sugar!

"To put it in perspective, a 12 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola has approximately 39 grams of sugar," she says. Yuck!

Seafood

Best: Grilled Salmon

cheddars scratch kitchen grilled salmon
Courtesy of Cheddar's
590 calories, 30 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,260 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (less than 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 44 g protein

This simple grilled piece of fish "is a great option to incorporate some protein and healthy fats, specifically omega 3 fatty acids," Lanzillotto says. "These are important in the diet because they are essential fats, which means the body cannot produce omega 3s on its own, so it needs it from an outside source."

Worst: Hand Breaded Fried Shrimp With French Fries and Coleslaw

beer battered shrimp from cheddar kitchen
LC G./Yelp
1,450 calories, 79 g fat (12.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 4,220 mg sodium, 154 g carbs (15 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 33 g protein

This plate of golden fried shrimp with crispy fries and creamy coleslaw contains a total of 4,220 milligrams of sodium, which is close to two times the recommended sodium intake for the entire day from the CDC. "High intake of sodium in the diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure," Lanzillotto says.

Combinations

Best: 6 oz. Top Sirloin Steak With Grilled Shrimp

steak and shrimp cheddar scratch kitchen
Nicole H./Yelp
720 calories, 35 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,810 mg sodium, 62 g carbs (2 g fiber, 29 g sugar), 39 g protein

If you're in the mood for both beef and seafood, this simple surf-and-turf inspired meal is your go-to.

"This item contains the least saturated fat out of all the combination meals," Lanzillotto says. But keep the shrimp grilled over fried.

"By changing the shrimp from fried to grilled, you not only get a good protein source, but also less saturated fat," she says.

Worst: Half Rack of Ribs and Chicken Tenders

ribs chicken fingers cheddar scratch kitchen
Nicholas B./Yelp
1,430 calories, 93 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,770 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (3 g fiber, 29 g sugar), 92 g protein

Sweet and savory ribs with crunchy and salty chicken tenders might get your mouth watering, but with 24 grams of saturated fat, it's not an ideal choice.

"For most people, this is close to double the recommended amount for the entire day," Lanzillotto says.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Comfort Food

Best: Key West Chicken & Shrimp

chicken and shrimp cheddar scratch kitchen
Jennifer S./Yelp
550 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,330 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 34 sugar), 49 g protein

Luckily, this comfort food actually provides some health benefits. The dish is the best option in this category as well as the chicken category "because the proteins provided are grilled and the pico de gallo adds flavor without all the added calories," Lanzillotto says.

Worst: New Orleans Pasta

cheddars scratch kitchen new orleans pasta
Courtesy of Cheddar's
1,480 calories, 81 g fat (37 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 4,490 mg sodium, 112 g carbs (8 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 77 g protein

This carb-loaded combo of shrimp, chicken, smoked sausage, peppers, onions, and penne pasta tossed in spicy homemade cajun Alfredo sauce with a side of toasted garlic bread also has very high amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.

"By consuming this meal, you are already over your recommended intake for the day in all of these nutrients," Lanzillotto says.

Burgers & Sandwiches

Best: The Original Burger

cheddars scratch kitchen original buger
Courtesy of Cheddar's
700 calories, 38 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 1,650 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (3 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 41 g protein

To keep this meal as the best choice, keep the lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions, but opt out of the cheese and the side of fries.

"Out of all the sandwich and burger options, this is much lower in sodium and saturated fat,"  she says of the juicy hamburger.

Worst: Monte Cristo

cheddars scratch kitchen monte cristo
Courtesy of Cheddar's
1,460 calories, 85 g fat (19 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 3,090 mg sodium, 132 g carbs (8 g fiber, 46 g sugar), 44 g protein

This stack of smoked ham, smoked turkey, and two cheeses—which is battered and fried until golden with raspberry preserves and dusted with powdered sugar—is more like a dessert than a sandwich.

"With a total of 46 grams of sugar, which is about 11 teaspoons, this sandwich is over the recommended amount of added sugar intake for the day, which for men is no more than nine teaspoons, and for women no more than six teaspoons per day," Lanzillotto says.

Lighter Side

Best: Lighter Side Grilled Whitefish, Lemon Pepper

cheddars scratch kitchen grilled whitefish
Courtesy of Cheddar's
340 calories, 10 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,200 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (less than 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 28 g protein

This white fish over rice is one of your better options on the menu.

"This is one of the leaner proteins that I have seen on the menu, Lanzillotto says. "It's low in saturated fat and a significant protein source." But Lanzillotto pointed out that the high sodium content is an issue.

"Beware though, as the sodium is still approximately 1,200 milligrams, which is close to 50 percent of the recommended sodium intake for the entire day," she says.

Worst: Lemon Pepper Chicken

cheddars scratch kitchen lemon pepper chicken
Courtesy of Cheddar's
520 calories, 12 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,340 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (less than 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 68 g protein

This grilled chicken with lemon pepper seasoning over rice has a very high sodium amount, unfortunately, which makes it a no-go.

"This one entree contains 2,340 milligrams of sodium, and the AHA recommends 2,300 mg of sodium for the entire day," Lanizillotto says.

Made From Scratch Sides

Best: Fresh Steamed Broccoli

cheddar scratch kitchen steamed broccoli
Courtesy of Cheddar's
100 calories, 8 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 105 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

This side dish is proof, yet again, it's always best to eat your greens!

"Steamed broccoli is a great side because it contains fiber and important nutrients," Lanzillotto says. "Broccoli is a good source of calcium, folate, potassium, and iron, all minerals that are vital for bone and heart health."

Worst: Loaded Potato

cheddar scratch kitchen loaded potato
Courtesy of Cheddar's
430 calories, 22 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 720 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (5 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 10 g protein

Loaded with shredded cheese and sour cream, "this [potato] can be considered a meal with its high calories, saturated fat, and sodium amount," Lanzillotto says about the side dish you should be wary of.

Dessert

Best: Cheddar's Painkiller Mini Cake

cheddars scratch kitchen mini cake
Courtesy of Cheddar's
480 calories, 22 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 380 mg sodium, 64 g carbs (1 g fiber, 47 g sugar), 4 g protein

This coconut cake filled with Pusser's Rum-Butter sauce and topped with whipped cream, freshly toasted coconut, and a cherry contains the least amount of calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium out of all the dessert options.

"Even though this is the best option, it's still important to keep in mind that this dessert contains approximately 12 teaspoons of sugar," Lanzillotto says, noting that a 12 oz. of Coca-Cola has approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Worst: Hot Fudge Cake Sundae

cheddar scratch kitchen hot fudge cake
Courtesy of Cheddar's
2,510 calories, 116 g fat (56 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fat), 2,000 mg sodium, 351 g carbs (12 g fiber, 275 g sugar), 23 g protein

It's no surprise that a huge slice of fudge cake topped with vanilla ice cream and covered with homemade hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry is the worst dessert option, and it happens to be the worst option on the entire menu.

"This item contains the most saturated fat on the entire menu, as it contains 56 grams of saturated fat," Lanzillotto says. "This is four times the amount of saturated fat recommended by the AHA for those following a 2,000 calorie per day diet."

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Samantha Faragalli Younghans
Samantha Faragalli Younghans is a freelance food, health, and lifestyle writer. Read more
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