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The Best Restaurant Dishes of 2020

Even if you're trying hard to stay on track with your health goals, you can still enjoy a meal from your favorite chain restaurants.
healthy meal

While 2020 was a year when heading out to a restaurant wasn't as easily accessible, thanks to pickup and delivery options, there's a good chance you were still able to enjoy a meal from your favorite spots. Sometimes, you just want to indulge in a dish from a classic chain restaurant! If you're really focused on sticking to your weight-loss goals, you most likely want to make a healthier choice. And we know how hard it can be to find a healthy option on chain restaurant menus.

But not all was doom and gloom in 2020! In fact, there are a few chain restaurant dishes that aren't all that bad. So to help you choose the best meals, we rounded up the healthiest restaurant dishes of the year. You're welcome. And if you're really looking to stay on track, here are The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

Applebee's Grilled Chicken Breast

applebees grilled chicken
Courtesy of Applebee's
190 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 860 mg sodium, 0  g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 40 g protein

If you're an Applebee's fan, then you know it's hard to find many menu items that are under 1,000 calories! When in doubt, always go for a classic grilled chicken option. This dish is low in calories and fat and serves as a forever reliable, healthy protein fix.

2

Culver's Harvest Veggie Burger

culvers veggie burger
Courtesy of Culver's
590 calories, 25 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,075 mg sodium, 72 g carbs (6 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 19 g protein

Culver's stepped into the plant-based space with the introduction of its veggie burger in 2020. This burger is made of fire-roasted chickpeas, mushrooms, peppers, corn and real Wisconsin cheese, all in one patty. If you eliminate the mayonnaise that comes on the sandwich and then kick the bun to the curb, you'll shave off 320 calories, 435 milligrams of sodium, and fat, too. Keep in mind the FDA says the maximum standard of total fat the average person should eat per day if you follow a 2,000-calorie a day diet is 78 grams.

3

BJ's Restaurants and Brewhouse Kale Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

bjs brussels sprouts kale salad
Courtesy of BJ's
440 calories, 20 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 837 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (8 g fiber, 34 g sugar), 11 g protein

It's no secret that restaurant salads can actually be some of the worst menu options at any restaurant. Surprisingly, they're often loaded up with tons of sodium and sugar! This Kale Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad from BJ's Restaurants and Brewhouse is relatively lower in calories than many other options, but you'll want to skip the strawberry vinaigrette dressing and swap it for a lighter option, such as the classic oil and vinegar combo to lower the sugar here.

Looking for more helpful tips? Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

4

Olive Garden Herb-Grilled Salmon

olive garden herb-grilled salmon
Courtesy of Olive Garden
460 calories, 29 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,110 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 45 g protein

While Olive Garden may have added some eyebrow-raising new menu options in 2020—Asiago Tortelloni Alfredo with Grilled Chicken, we're looking at you—there are a few options that aren't all that terrible for you. A great example? None other than the herb-grilled salmon.

This dish serves up a salmon filet that is grilled and topped with garlic herb butter, alongside some Parmesan garlic broccoli. It's no secret that salmon is packing when it comes to nutritional benefits. It's rich in omega-3s, a healthy fat that fights off inflammation, and is another solid source of protein for when you want a break from chicken.

5

Cheesecake Factory Mexican Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos

cheesecake factory lettuce wraps
The Cheesecake Factory/ Twitter
220 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 690 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 24 g protein

When dining at The Cheesecake Factory, finding a healthy meal is a bit of a challenge. But if you closely examine the huge menu, you'll spot the Mexican Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos that come in at just 220 calories. Each wrap features chicken, avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, roasted corn salsa, and crema.

6

IHOP Classic Avocado Toast

ihop avocado toast
Courtesy of iHOP
360 calories, 20 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 720 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (9 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein

IHOP is known for its sugar-filled pancake stacks that seem like more of a dessert than a breakfast option. But they do offer avocado toast that you can even add eggs to, in order to get that protein fix. Avocadoes are a great way to add some fiber to your meal, and can even improve your heart health, as they're rich in potassium yet lower in sodium. Just be sure to go with the side option of fresh fruit and not the hash browns!

7

Denny's Fit Fare Wild Alaska Salmon

dennys salmon
Courtesy of Denny's
470 calories, 24 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,190 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 37 g protein

Denny's, like IHOP, tends to offer up some over-the-top breakfast options that might have you thinking it's impossible to find anything relatively good for you. Well, you might be surprised to uncover that they have a "Fit Fare" section of the menu and there is a salmon entrée! You can enjoy a grilled wild-caught Alaska salmon fillet that is served with red-skinned mashed potatoes and broccoli.

8

Panera Bread Bacon, Scrambled Egg & Tomato Wrap

panera breakfast wrap
Courtesy of Panera Bread
430 calories, 23 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 810 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 28 g protein

Panera Bread is another breakfast staple spot, as it's a way to get something delicious, and quickly. You'll want to stick with the bacon, scrambled egg, and tomato whole grain wrap. It's loaded up with grape tomatoes, emerald greens, Vermont white cheddar, mustard horseradish sauce for a protein-packed way to start your morning. One study actually found that participants who ate a high-protein breakfast lost more weight than those in the study who consumed a low-protein breakfast. So think of it as your weight-loss secret weapon!

Jennifer Maldonado
Jennifer Maldonado is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and health content. Read more