Navigating the sea of choices on a seafood restaurant menu can be both a joy and a nutritional puzzle. Seafood, renowned for its omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality protein, offers a bounty of health benefits: "Seafood is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, an excellent source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium," says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics. "When it's prepared in a nutritious way, such as baked, air-fried, roasted, grilled or steamed it's a highly nutritious entrée option to choose."
However, if you don't look beyond the main protein to read how certain dishes are prepared, these seemingly innocent seafood orders may sabotage your health-conscious efforts. Ehsani cautions, "Some seafood dishes found at restaurants may be breaded, deep-fried, and/or cooked in butter, lots of oil, or coated in cream-based sauces which makes a healthy source of protein into an unhealthy dish."
The juxtaposition of nutritional benefits and potential pitfalls underscores the importance of mindfulness when dining out at seafood restaurants when you're keeping your health in mind. For that reason, we worked with Ehsani to unveil the healthiest orders at some of the most popular seafood restaurants in America.
These are great go-to orders when dining out at these eight chains, but you can order healthy seafood at any restaurant with the help of Ehsani's tips:
- Load up with veggies: "Ask for a side of grilled, steamed, or roasted veggies on the side and grain for a well-balanced plate," says Ehsani.
- Order sauces on the side: "If it comes with a sauce or dressing, ask for it on the side.
- Ask about where the seafood is sourced from: "And you can also always ask your restaurant where they get their seafood from or look for it on the menu," adds Ehsani. "I always look or ask for seafood options from Alaska, as all seafood that comes from Alaska is wild, natural, and sustainable. It also has such low levels of mercury that it's also a safe option for any high-risk groups to choose as well, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women or young children."
Without further ado, read on for the healthiest orders at eight major seafood restaurants.
Grilled Alaska Salmon Rice Bowl at Long John Silver's
For fast food, the Grilled Alaska Salmon Rice Bowl at Long John Silver's is a healthy meal when you're on the go.
"While they have no shortage of classic fried fish and chips dishes, they also have plenty of healthier grilled options too including my go-to Rice Bowl with Grilled Alaska salmon. It's available in a variety of seasonings like southwest or sweet chili and has the perfect balance of protein and carbs to keep you full at either lunch or dinner," says Ehsani. "A lot of people may not know, but Long John Silver's boasts a commitment to sustainable seafood, meaning much of their seafood comes wild-caught from the icy cold waters of Alaska and supports the state's fishermen and their families."
Alaskan Black Cod at Chart House
Ordering the Alaskan Black Cod is super healthy because of how it's prepared and the sides it comes with.
"Alaska sablefish, also called black cod, is an omega-3 powerhouse and has the most amount of omega-3 fats of any seafood! Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, we have to get from our diet and this dish makes for the perfect way to get your fill," says Ehsani. "This order also comes with plenty of veggies including bok choy and shiitake mushrooms and is served with rice, making it a well-balanced nutritious meal."
Fisherman's Choice at Joe's Crab Shack
This meal is all about variety—you get to choose between grilled or blackened tilapia, mahi mahi, or salmon.
"The Fisherman's Choice comes with your choice of blackened or grilled tilapia, mahi mahi, or salmon topped with lemon butter, served over rice and seasonal veggies. You can ask for the lemon butter on the side or just ask for lemon wedges as a substitute," says Ehsani. "It's great you have the option to choose how your fish is prepared (ask for grilled to limit sodium intake) and that it comes with a balanced plate of veggies and rice on the side too."
Mahi Mahi at Bonefish Grill
This meal has the lowest calorie count on the entire list, and includes fish with two healthy sides.
"Bonefish Grill has a 'wood-fired grill' option which allows you to choose your protein and two sides," says Ehsani. "The mahi mahi is a great lean protein option, pair it with seasonal veggies and the jasmine rice, and you've got yourself a nutritious balanced meal."
House Full Salad at Legal Sea Foods
If you want to get your greens in, opting for a salad with a side of seafood is a great option at Legal Sea Foods."The House Full Salad at Legal Sea Foods is a great entrée option that contains lettuce, apples, dried fruit, and walnuts, and you can ask for an extra topping of salmon or shrimp or any other grilled fish or fresh catch of the day to add a source of protein to this meal," says Ehsani.
Mediterranean Branzino at Eddie V's
This Branzino fish dish gets tons of added flavor from Mediterranean favorites like artichokes, tomatoes, and olives.
"The Mediterranean Branzino at Eddie V's is topped with roasted artichokes, oven-dried tomatoes, and olive tapenade, which you can pair with an additional side such as their mixed green salad for a balanced low-carb meal," says Ehsani. "Branzino is an excellent source of lean protein, contains brain-boosting omega-3s, and tastes delicious with the Mediterranean toppings."
Grilled Rainbow Trout at Red Lobster
Go with this freshwater fish at Red Lobster for a healthy fish order.
"Choose the Grilled Rainbow Trout at Red Lobster for a nutritious seafood option and pair it with a baked potato or orzo rice and seasoned broccoli for a well-balanced plate," says Ehsani. "The grilled trout provides a high amount of protein per fish and it's relevantly mild-tasting fish so can pair well with anything."
Wild Alaskan Salmon Salad at Captain D's
Thankfully, you can still get a healthy seafood dish when dining out if you order this salad topped with grilled salmon.
"Although Captain D's does have many fried seafood options they do have salads and grilled selection on the menu where you can find wild Alaskan salmon salad," says Ehsani. "Choosing a salad is always a great option to get your fill of veggies in for the day and the fact that it's topped with a wild Alaskan salmon makes it all the more nutritious. It packs a great source of lean protein, and heart-healthy omega-3s and is quite low in sodium for a restaurant-style meal."