The Best & Worst Menu Items at Hooters

These items at the popular wing chain will keep your diet on track—or set you back!
hooters

If you love eating at Hooters, but need to lose some weight, you might think you need to steer clear of the restaurant altogether. After all, this chain known for its fried food has become established as a wings-and-beer hangout. Luckily, its menu has expanded since its founding to include not just their fried chicken specialties, but also health and diet-conscious options that can please anyone who comes in to grab a bite.

With so many options available, navigating the Hooters' menu can seem like a nightmare. In order to pick out which options will keep you on the straight-and-narrow while still packing in flavor, we consulted with Rachel Paul, PhD, RD from CollegeNutritionist.com, to figure out which options are the best and worst to order from the Hooters menu.

Appetizers

Best: Cheese Sticks

hooters cheese sticks
Courtesy of Hooters
620 calories, 35 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 1560 mg sodium, 50 g carbs (4 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 26 g protein

When you need to eat healthy at a restaurant, mozzarella sticks probably don't even cross your mind. At Hooters, these fried cheese sticks will be your best bet if you want to indulge in an appetizer while maintaining your diet.

This choice is "not only the lowest calorie option, but the cheese will keep you full for hours with its protein and fat," says Paul. "Because it's still over 600 calories, either split [this item] with a friend or you could even have this app as a main meal."

While this appetizer may be the best option out of a plethora of junk food, you could also bypass appetizers altogether if you want to spare your waistline.

Worst: Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas

hooters buffalo chicken quesadilla
Courtesy of Hooters
1310 calories, 79 g fat (40 g saturated fat), 2,680 mg sodium, 90 g carbs (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 61 g protein

"Don't waste a day's worth of calories on an appetizer," says Paul.

If you polished off this item by yourself, you can kiss any chance of losing weight goodbye, as these quesadillas pack in more calories than five McDonald's hamburgers. If you plan on ordering an entree or any other menu item, stay away from this section!

Burgers

Best: Build-Your-Own Burger

hooters build your own burger
Courtesy of Hooters
1180 calories, 60 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 2,770 mg sodium, 107 g carbs (9 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 51 g protein

"Instead of ordering [a burger] off the menu, build your own burger with sauteed green peppers, mushrooms, lettuce, onion, and tomato," says Paul. "There's enough fat in the burger patty itself, so we don't need to add cheese or bacon."

With a whopping 1180 calories, this sandwich still contains the least amount of calories out of all the choices if you crave a burger at this restaurant. Make sure to back off on any extra toppings, and even opt to skip an included side to make sure you don't overload on one meal alone.

Worst: Western BBQ Burger

hooters western bbq burger
Courtesy of Hooters
1510 calories, 82 g fat (29 g saturated fat), 3,500 mg sodium, 125 g carbs (10 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 65 g protein

If you ever wanted a burger to send you to the emergency room for cardiac arrest, this might be a prime contender. If you eat a whole Western BBQ Burger from Hooters, not only will you consume more calories present in a standard tub of vanilla ice cream, but you also intake more than 1.5 times the daily recommended amount of sodium in one sitting. Do your body a favor and pass this option over.

Sandwiches & Tacos

Best: Original Buffalo Chicken Tacos

hooters original buffalo chicken tacos
Courtesy of Hooters
580 calories, 18 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 1,480 mg sodium, 79 g carbs (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 26 g protein

"Order the original buffalo chicken tacos with [grilled] chicken—this is a lighter meal but still with a good amount of protein to keep you full through the afternoon," says Paul.

In a restaurant packed with fried options, finding something wholesome seems nearly impossible. Luckily, Paul pinpointed one of the best items on the entire menu for your diet. While these tacos are still loaded with sodium, the minimal amount of calories will help keep you slim and full, while not weighing you down all day.

Worst: Philly Cheesesteak (Chicken)

hooters philly cheesesteak
Courtesy of Hooters
1500 calories, 85 g fat (25 g saturated fat), 4,420 mg sodium, 116 g carbs (10 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 68 g protein

This sandwich has "over 1000 calories and [is] higher in refined carbs than other high-calorie sandwiches," says Paul.

Diabolically, Hooters has two versions of this classic sandwich, and going against conventional wisdom, the chicken version actually packs in about 100 more calories than the beef equivalent. If you were to indulge in this sandwich, your saturated fat intake would approximately equal that of a whole bucket's worth of fried chicken. Definitely pass this option over for anything lighter.

Seafood

Best: Alaskan Snow Crab Legs

hooters alaskan snow crab legs
Courtesy of Hooters
520 calories, 48 g fat (29 g saturated fat), 1,270 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 22 g protein

Whenever you see fresh snow crab legs on the menu, there is a good bet that they will fill you up and preserve your diet. Most of the fat content comes from added butter, and this element can easily be limited or rejected altogether. With 22 grams of protein, the crab legs can also keep you full.

"This can make a good meal with a sufficient amount of calories and a good amount of protein," says Paul. Just watch out for the sodium content, and these crab legs will be one of your best bets at Hooters.

Worst: Fish and Chips

hooters fish and chips
Courtesy of Hooters
1590 calories, 101 g fat (17 g saturated fat), 1,290 mg sodium, 1289 g carbs (13 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 42 g protein

It might seem obvious, but ordering a seafood option that has been batter-fried and served with french fries not only overloads your body with processed fat, but probably also weighs you down with salt. If you were to knock out this whole dish by yourself, you would eat over 200 percent of your daily recommended intake of fat, an equivalent of eating about seven packages of Reese's Cups.

Paul says it best. "Let's skip this whole day's worth of calories and refined carbohydrates in one meal."

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Salad

Best: Chicken Garden Salad

hooters chicken garden salad
Courtesy of Hooters
320 calories, 20 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 18 g protein

This low-calorie option not only keeps your diet on track but fills you up with 18 grams of protein and just enough carbs to keep you going through your afternoon. The fat content is slightly high, but out of a salad section filled with fried options and a high amount of processed ingredients, this will be one of the best standards. Ask your server to place the dressing on the side to help control how much fat appears in this salad.

Worst: Chicken Caesar Salad—Fried

hooters chicken caesar salad
Courtesy of Hooters
890 calories, 77 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 2,630 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 35 g protein

This take on a classic salad is sure to break your diet quicker than the time it takes to order it. With added fried chicken, an extra addition of fat now appears in the meal, pushing it over the brink for anyone looking to stay healthy when visiting Hooters. With over a teaspoon of salt, you consume over 100 percent of your daily sodium if you finish a whole caesar salad.

"Let's skip this high calorie and very high sodium salad option," says Paul.

Sides

Best: Side Garden Salad

hooters side garden salad
Courtesy of Hooters
160 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 9 g protein

"Get in some veggies while you're there!" says Paul.

This salad will do just that, as it is a pared-down version of the healthiest standard salad option at Hooters. Just as with the entree portion, request the salad dressing on the side and you can pare down the fat content while enjoying a side that won't offset the rest of your day.

Worst: Tater Tots

hooters tater tots
Courtesy of Hooters
1310 calories, 93 g fat (22 g saturated fat), 3,140 mg sodium, 95 g carbs (8 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 23 g protein

This side option is the wholehearted antithesis of a salad—a plate of these tater tots pack in "a whole lot of calories, sodium, and refined carbohydrates," says Paul. Getting a basket of these fried potatoes contains more fat and salt than many menu items at Hooters, not to mention as many calories as approximately three slices of birthday cake! Do yourself a favor and avoid any more fried options when you look for a side to your meal.

Desserts

Best: Dessert Shooters

hooters dessert shooters
Courtesy of Hooters
1110 calories, 71 g fat (41 g saturated fat), 710 mg sodium, 145 g carbs (2 g fiber, 105 g sugar), 13 g protein

"These are good if you're in a group," says Paul "They're just a little bite of dessert to satisfy that sweet tooth, but still come in around 200 calories each."

As Paul explains, a selection of bite-sized morsels in tiny cups are brought to your table. With each smaller item containing fewer calories than your standard restaurant dessert, these mini treats should be shared with a group, or else you are looking at a fat-packed dessert option.

Worst: Chocolate Mousse Cake

hooters chocolate mousse cake
Courtesy of Hooters
1070 calories, 53 g fat (30 g saturated fat), 530 mg sodium, 151 g carbs (7 g fiber, 116 g sugar), 10 g protein

If you have eaten any of the above selections at Hooters and still feel like you have room for dessert, avoid this final offering at all costs. With 151 carbs packed in, eating all of this chocolate mousse cake would be the equivalent of consuming almost half a bag of frozen french fries.

Paul says it best when it comes to this cake: "Save your calories for your meals, don't waste too many on dessert."

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Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more