30 Mediterranean Diet-Approved Menu Items at Your Favorite Restaurant Chains
As more dieters search for healthy, heart-friendly options, a wide variety of restaurants now embrace meals that contain more vitamins and protein with less saturated fat, which works well for the popular Mediterranean diet. But with endless options at some chains, it's hard to determine which entrees are Mediterranean diet restaurant menu items. Never fear: we have a set list to refer to every time you're out.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet first entered the public's knowledge during the 1960s when doctors and dietitians first noted that coronary heart disease affected far fewer people in Mediterranean countries, such as Greece and Italy, than the rest of Western Europe and America. This eating plan has since been recognized by the World Health Organization as a healthy and sustainable dietary pattern, and it has been endorsed by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to decrease the risk of heart disease.
Despite the fact that nutritionists have yet to agree on a single definition of the Mediterranean diet, it generally emphasizes the daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats, a portion of fish, poultry, beans, and eggs each week, a moderate intake of dairy products, and a decrease in the consumption of red meat and processed carbohydrates.
Mediterranean diet-approved menu options at popular restaurants
Given the fact that restaurants tend to cram their entrees full of refined sugar and unhealthy fats, these guidelines may seem impossible to stick to when dining out. Luckily, restaurants provide a wide swathe of meal options that stick to the parameters of the Mediterranean diet. Most eateries also allow you to customize your meal to your liking, allowing you to cut out any excess carbs or fats. To help wade through the huge variety of options, we rounded up 30 popular restaurants and pinpointed which entrees best fit as Mediterranean diet restaurant menu items.
Applebee's: Grilled Salmon
Applebee's has always made a concerted effort to add healthier options to their menu, and this item might be your best bet. A common staple of the Mediterranean diet, salmon is a go-to for any dieter looking to boost their levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and potassium. One of the best things about this heart-healthy option is that you get to choose your own two sides, omitting any potatoes or other processed grains that might cut into your diet. Two great side dish options include the steamed broccoli (100 calories) and fire-grilled veggies (150 calories) to round out your meal and add extra vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin B6.
TGI Fridays: Dragon-Glaze Salmon (with jasmine rice and veggies)
Salmon is no stranger to any restaurant. TGI Fridays also has a healthy salmon option perfect for the Mediterranean diet. Their menu features a sweet and spicy glazed salmon that is rich in selenium and high in protein. Topped with a fresh mango pico, the salmon comes with lemon-butter broccoli on a bed of jasmine rice. If you want to limit your carb intake, just ask your server to hold the rice.
Outback Steakhouse: Tilapia with Pure Lump Crab Meat
It would be hard to imagine any Mediterranean diet-friendly options available at Outback Steakhouse, the chain known for their massive steaks and Bloomin' Onions. However, their tilapia crowned with pure lump crab meat, sliced mushrooms with a light lemon butter sauce, and fresh seasonal mixed veggies provide a whopping 63 grams of protein, vitamin D, and antioxidants that will easily keep you powering through the diet. While the meal has a butter sauce, this can be substituted for olive oil or removed entirely.
Panera: Greek Salad (Whole)
In a sea of carbs, salads are one of the best ways to stick to your Mediterranean diet. As its title suggests, this Panera Bread salad consists of romaine lettuce, kalamata olives, feta, red onions, salt, and pepper, then topped with Greek dressing and pepperoncini. The meal is loaded with vitamin E and healthy fats, and the olives and red onion's antioxidants help reduce inflammation. Just make sure to omit the baguette that comes as a side to stick to your diet.
Ruby Tuesday: Blackened Tilapia
Salmon typically dominates the image of what a healthy protein option looks like at most restaurants, but as of recently, tilapia has come to challenge this reigning fish. Ruby Tuesday is now embracing tilapia, and their version seasons it with Creole spices and grills it to perfection. Instead of opting for the sides that normally come with it, use the salad bar to perfectly round out your meal.
Red Lobster: Wild-Caught Snow Crab Legs
Help trim your waistline while sticking to the guidelines of the Mediterranean diet with the Wild-Caught Snow Crab Legs at Red Lobster. They are packed full of protein (just watch out for any accompanying butter sauce), and you have a meal that is full of omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy unsaturated fats that strengthen heart health.
Panda Express: String Bean Chicken Breast
Unbeknownst to many, poultry can be eaten on the Mediterranean diet, as long as it is eaten in moderation. Panda Express' string bean chicken breast nails this balance, coming in with lean portions and rounding out the protein with string beans full of vitamins C and K, plus silicon, which is necessary for healthy skin, bones, and hair.
Bonefish Grill: Georges Bank Scallops and Shrimp
At a restaurant like Bonefish Grill where seafood dominates the menu, it may seem hard to find an option that doesn't embrace a mix of healthy grains, vegetables, and fish protein. Upon closer inspection, many entrees come with white rice or other processed grains that will offset your balanced diet. Luckily, the Georges Bay Sea Scallops pair with sweet jumbo shrimp to round out your meal with heart-healthy fats, the antioxidant astaxanthin, magnesium, and potassium.
P.F. Changs: Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (steamed)
One of the challenges of eating the Mediterranean diet at any Asian chain like P.F. Changs is navigating the inclusion of white rice with the meal, but have no fear. The shrimp in lobster sauce stands alone, as it pairs Asian mushrooms, chopped black beans, peas, egg, and green onion with protein-rich seafood. Make sure you get the steamed option and you are guaranteed to get proper servings of protein, vitamin B2, and choline, a commonly overlooked nutrient that shuts off the genetic switches that cause your body to bank fat around your liver.
Olive Garden: Herb-Grilled Salmon
The classic staple of the Mediterranean diet menu makes an appearance again at Olive Garden, as their salmon is grilled to perfection and topped with garlic herb butter and served with parmesan garlic broccoli. Omit the garlic herb butter and replace it with their house olive oil and you have a fully balanced meal packed with vitamin C, healthy fat, and flavor.
Carrabba's: Wood-Grilled Tilapia
A true contender for the Mediterranean diet, the Wood-Grilled Tilapia eschews butter for a signature grill seasoning and olive oil. The roasted tomatoes provide extra levels of vitamin C and brighten the flavor of the dish, making it a standout diet option if you find yourself searching for a healthy option at Carrabba's.
Chick-fil-A: 8-piece Grilled Nuggets
Finding an approved item at any fast food restaurant can be difficult, and no place may seem as unlikely as Chick-fil-A, but their grilled chicken tenders provide a healthy alternative to their other fried chicken products and are lean enough to satisfy any diet parameters and are packed with vitamin B6 and protein. They come in multiple amounts, but the 8-piece pack is an ideal balance between getting enough for a meal and keeping your diet on track.
Boston Market: Turkey Breast Bowl with Steamed Vegetables
Boston Market would be the last place you would expect Mediterranean diet restaurant items, but do not fret, there are options. The chain's versatile model of letting you build your own plate actually helps in constructing a Mediterranean diet-approved plate consisting of lean turkey breast paired with steamed vegetables. The turkey provides healthy cholesterol and protein, while the vegetables provide keratin, vitamins C and D, and fiber, making for a balanced meal.
Denny's: Wild Alaska Salmon
Like many other restaurants, Denny's jumped on the Mediterranean diet bandwagon and introduced a salmon option. Their grilled wild-caught Alaska salmon fillet is served with a buttery herb glaze, red-skinned mashed potatoes, and broccoli and without dinner bread. If you can, opt to omit the potatoes, and you will have an optimal diet experience.
Pret a Manger: Egg and Quinoa Pot
If you are craving Mediterranean diet restaurant menu items that don't include fish, look no further than the egg and quinoa pot at Pret a Manger. Pret's grain mix comes topped with avocado, grape tomatoes, sliced cage-free hard-boiled egg, and arugula. The quinoa featured provides a good boost of fiber, iron and is a slow-burning carb, keeping you full longer.
Starbucks: Strawberry and Toasted Almonds Overnight Grains
If you are vegan and sticking to the Mediterranean diet—have no fear! The Starbucks morning menu features a blend of oatmeal, quinoa, and chia seeds soaked overnight in coconut milk. The grains then get a generous topping of shaved coconut, strawberries, and toasted almonds. This combo not only provides essential iron and fiber, but the superboost of vitamin C in the strawberries and healthy fat in the chia seeds are sure to keep you powered up through your morning.
Long John Silver's: Salmon (1 piece)
While other fast-food chains embrace frying their food and adding huge amounts of salt and fat, Long John Silver's bucked the trend by finding a healthy alternative to accommodate those looking to lose some weight and improve their overall health. The single grilled salmon filet comes with a choice of sides, and you can opt to include more vegetables, like their broccoli, to round out your meal.
Texas Roadhouse: Grilled Shrimp
Another unlikely contender for the diet is at Texas Roadhouse. Among an ocean of red meat and carbs is the grilled shrimp on their dockside favorites menu. Large shrimp are seasoned and grilled, then served over seasoned rice with two more sides. Opt for brown rice to round out this meal for a heart-healthy experience that is full of iron, fiber, and omega-3 acids.
Longhorn Steakhouse: LongHorn Salmon (7 oz)
Guess what, it's another salmon! Longhorn Steakhouse's hand-cut, fresh Atlantic salmon is marinated in their signature bourbon marinade, grilled to flaky perfection. It is always a solid alternative to steak and features a good dose of protein and healthy fat, and it even comes in at 300 calories!
IHOP: Tilapia Florentine
While many restaurants tend to pair tilapia with a processed carbohydrate, IHOP dishes out two seasoned fillets grilled & served over a bed of creamy spinach and a choice of sides. While everyone else in your party is gorging themselves on pancakes, you can take the healthy road with this option that is full of iron, vitamin D, and protein.
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Cracker Barrel: Lemon Pepper Grilled Rainbow Trout Plate
When you are traveling the country and need to detour off for a meal, don't fret. Hope is still there if you want to stick to your Mediterranean diet—Cracker Barrel has you covered. Their lemon pepper grilled rainbow trout is a lightly seasoned boneless spring water trout fillet grilled until fork tender. Opt for the country dinner plate instead of the fancy fixin' platter to limit the calories and get a meal rich in vitamin B6, B12, iron, potassium, and thiamin.
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse: Enlightened Roasted Salmon Quinoa Bowl
A Peruvian quinoa and brown rice bowl with roasted salmon, sauteed red onions, mushrooms, sauteed spinach, seasoned tomatoes, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice with a choice of herb-roasted vegetables is the spitting image of a Mediterranean diet restaurant menu item. Rich in iron, fiber, healthy fats, and vitamin C, this bowl from BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse was made for you.
Cheesecake Factory: Skinnylicious Lemon Garlic Shrimp
If you have been craving the flavors of Italy, you can embrace the Cheesecake Factory's sauteed shrimp, basil, tomato, and lemon-garlic sauce served with asparagus and angel hair pasta all while remaining on the diet. The asparagus adds extra vitamins A, C, and K to the dish, while the grains of the pasta round out the meal.
Jason's Deli: Nutty Mixed-Up Salad
The hardest Mediterranean diet restaurant menu items to find are ones that feature a healthy amount of nuts, but Jason's Deli has you covered. Their Nutty Mixed-Up Salad provides healthy fats from nuts as well as vitamins C and D and even folic acid.
Bob Evan's: Potato-Crusted Flounder
A wildcard entrant into the list, Bob Evan's approaches the diet menu with their potato encrusted flounder. Their mild white fish grilled to perfection in a delicious potato crust is a Mediterranean diet menu item, and the crust can even be ordered off the fish. With a healthy amount of omega-3s and low in calories, this Mediterranean diet restaurant menu item is one of the healthier options if you find yourself at a Bob Evan's.
Chili's: Shrimp Fajitas
Like Applebee's or any other family-oriented sit-down chain, Chili's knows what their customers want, and they want heart-healthy Mediterranean diet restaurant menu items. This entree delivers protein, omega-3s, and iron to your diet. Just opt to skip tortillas, guacamole, and sour cream, and you have a surprisingly healthy option that can beat out many of their other dishes.
Perkins: Grilled Cajun Tilapia and Shrimp
Perkins comes in with a strong contender for a Mediterranean diet restaurant menu item with their garlic-seasoned tilapia topped with grilled shrimp and drizzled with garlic butter. Served over herb rice pilaf with grilled asparagus. Like many other options, the rice and garlic butter is optional and can be removed from the order.
McDonald's: Greek Feta Salad with Grilled Chicken
Salads get a lot of love on this list, and the Greek Feta Salad with Grilled Chicken that McDonald's offers is a great example. Mixed greens and baby kale are topped with feta cheese, couscous, red pepper, sliced cucumber, and garlic pita crisps (which you can remove to lower the carbs), making for a salad full of iron, folic acid, and antioxidants.
Caribou Coffee: Blueberry Almond Oatmeal
Offering a great way to start your morning with a healthy option, Caribou offers a variety of oatmeal choices, a healthy grain that has been shown to stave off heart disease while being a slow-burning carb, great to fuel you all day. Their blueberry almond oatmeal is a standout, with all-natural whole grain oats topped with blueberries and honey roasted almonds complete with healthy fats and vitamin C.
Joe's Crab Shack: Grilled Shrimp Skewers
Any seafood restaurant worth their salt will have some good Mediterranean diet restaurant menu items by default, and Joe's is no exception. Their grilled Shrimp skewers feature two skewers served over rice with steamed vegetables. Just leave out the rice and you are good to go with a meal full of protein, silicon, and iron.