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The Best & Worst Menu Items at O'Charley's

A registered dietitian analyzes the menu, picking out the healthiest and unhealthiest meal options.
The Best & Worst Menu Items at O'Charley's

The original O'Charley's restaurant was founded by Charlie Watkins and was built across the street from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The menu consisted of his wife's popular recipes, and the restaurant had a welcoming atmosphere. Today, O'Charley's has over 200 locations in 17 states and serves generous portions of classic American food with a Southern spin. As such, you will find many high-calorie choices on the menu, but if you carefully scout the O'Charley's menu, you can find a handful of healthier fare to order when you dine there, too.

Below are the best and worst menu items you'll find on the O'Charley's menu.

Sharable Starters

Best: Chips and Spicy White Queso

Per plate: 520 calories, 38 g fat (17 g saturated fat), 1,590 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 16 g protein

Although there are no true "healthy" appetizers on O'Charley's menu, you could opt for the chips with cheese sauce and share it among three or four people.

Worst: Top Shelf Combo Appetizer

Per plate: 1,880 calories, 132 g fat (48 g saturated fat), 3,300 mg sodium, 74 g carbs (4 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 88 g protein

This sharable appetizer is loaded with spicy Jack cheese wedges, chicken tenders, and overloaded potato skins. All the foods are high in calories, artery-clogging saturated fat, and sodium. Even sharing this dish among four people is plenty of food for each person for an entire meal that isn't even packed with a balance of necessary nutrients to help keep your body healthy.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Soups and Salads

Best: Chicken Tortilla Soup

chicken tortilla soup Shutterstock
Per bowl: 190 calories, 7 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 13 g protein

Warm up on a chilly day with O'Charley's signature soup with a broth base, which means you're getting a reasonable amount of calories in your meal starter. The sodium is slightly on the high side, but pretty reasonable compared to sodium in most restaurant soups.

Best: California Chicken Salad

Per half serving: 660 calories, 43 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 850 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (4 g fiber, 31 g sugar), 33 g protein

If you're in the mood for a salad, opt for half portions, which are usually available. The California Chicken Salad is made with grilled chicken, bleu cheese crumbles, candied pecans, fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, and dried cranberries served on a bed of romaine and iceberg lettuce and dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. Although the calories are a bit on the high end, you can slim this dish down by holding the cheese and getting the dressing on the side (and only using half).

Worst: Overloaded Potato Soup

Per bowl: 470 calories, 27 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 3,620 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 12 g protein

This soup is not only overloaded with cheddar cheese and bacon, but also with calories and sodium. Eat just one bowl of this soup, and you'll be taking in more than 150 percent the daily recommended maximum of sodium.

Worst: Southern Fried Chicken Salad

Per full serving: 1,550 calories, 110 g fat (26 g saturated fat), 2,210 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (5 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 82 g protein

Not all salads are healthy and this one, in particular, is a calorie bomb! Made with double hand-breaded tenders, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, and shredded cheese on a bed of crisp greens and mixed with honey mustard dressing, you'll be taking in 78 percent of the average daily recommended calories in just one meal. And salads are supposed to be good for you!

Sides

Best: Grilled Asparagus

grilled asparagus on wooden surface Shutterstock
Per side: 60 calories, 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

This side is simple, delicious, and filled with nutrition. One-half cup of cooked asparagus is an excellent source of the B-vitamins folate and thiamin and a good source of fiber, iron, vitamin C and beta-carotene. With an extremely reasonable amount of calories and not much added fat, it's one of the best side choices on this menu.

Worst: Classic Blue Cheese Wedges

Per side: 580 calories, 57 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 1,370 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 13 g protein

Although cheese is certainly a healthy food that provides an array of nutrients, it should be eaten in small amounts, as it has a hefty amount of calories and saturated fat. This oversize side has enough calories to be a meal on its own. Plus, this amount of cheese may also lead to some discomfort, especially if you're sensitive to large portions of cheese.

Burgers and Sandwiches

Best: Chicken Sandwich with Carolina BBQ

Per sandwich, no sides: 650 calories, 22 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 2,570 mg sodium, 74 g carbs (2 g fiber, 33 g sugar), 41 g protein

This sandwich is made with grilled chicken breast topped with applewood-smoked bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, and sweet and tangy Carolina Gold BBQ sauce on a bun with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles. The calories, sodium, and added sugar are on the higher side, but you can take off part of the bun to cut back on calories and sodium or just split it with a friend.

Worst: Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with French Fries

Per plate: 2,000 calories, 101 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 3,020 mg sodium, 119 g carbs (8 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 47 g protein

This sandwich is made with deep-fried boneless chicken breast that's been basted with spicy hot chicken sauce, stacked with Southern coleslaw, and topped with dill pickles and served on a toasted brioche bun. It provides 100 percent of the average daily calories, 131 percent of the recommended daily max of sodium, and 95 percent of the daily recommended max of saturated fat. Although it's a dish created for one, it should really be feeding at least four people.

Steaks, Ribs, and Prime Rib

Best: Grilled Top Sirloin Steak

Per 6 oz steak: 270 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 850 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 25 g protein

Top sirloin is a lean cut of beef and provides a wide variety of nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc, and many more. The 6-ounce size is a reasonable portion that is perfect for a meal. Pair with the grilled asparagus for a complete meal.

Worst: O'Charley's Baby Back Ribs, Nashville Hot

Per plate with no side: 1,540 calories, 110 g fat (33 g saturated fat), 4,750 mg sodium, 63 g carbs (5 g fiber, 52 g sugar), 70 g protein

These baby back ribs are rubbed with Nashville hot sauce and then slow-roasted for tenderness. However, the cut of meat is high in fat and the dish provides 150 percent the daily recommended maximum of artery-clogging saturated fat. That's the amount of saturated fat you should be consuming in one-and-a-half days!

Seafood Favorites

Best: Fresh Atlantic Grilled Salmon, Blackened

6 oz: 340 calories, 21 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 51 g protein

Six ounces of salmon is the perfect amount and will provide a healthy amount of calories and protein. Salmon also has a healthy dose of omega-3s, which has been shown to support brain, heart, and eye health.

Worst: Hand-Breaded Catfish Dinner with Fries and Coleslaw

Per plate: 1,720 calories, 124 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 2,660 mg sodium, 103 g carbs (7 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 43 g protein

This farm-raised catfish is breaded with cornmeal and served with French fries and coleslaw. The dish is heavily fried and the coleslaw is high in calories and saturated fat from the mayo. The dish provides 116 percent the average daily calories, 115 percent the recommended daily max of sodium, and 109 percent the daily recommended maximum of saturated fat. It's certainly one to take off your radar as you're better off opting for better fish dishes on the menu.

Chicken and Pasta

Best: Honey-Drizzled Southern Fried Chicken

Per dish, no side: 430 calories, 25 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 980 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 30 g protein

If you really want some fried chicken, you can order it without any sides. You can also opt to share the dish with a friend and add grilled asparagus or broccoli and split a baked potato. It's all about thinking outside the box on how you can pair your food items.

Worst: Chicken Tenders and Fries

Per plate: 1,410 calories, 85 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 1,660 mg sodium, 74 g carbs (6 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 68 g protein

These babies are dipped in buttermilk and hand-breaded twice and then served with more fried food (aka French fries) on the side. The number of calories, fat, carbs, and sodium really outweigh the limited nutrients that are found in this dish. There are certainly better ways to get a well-balanced meal with lesser amounts of these generally overconsumed nutrients.

Desserts

Best: French Silk Pie

Per dish: 580 calories, 43 g fat (22 g saturated fat), 310 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (1 g fiber, 33 g sugar), 5 g protein

This dessert comes in with about two-thirds fewer calories than the Brownie Lover's Brownie, but still allows you to get a nice chocolate fix. The pie is made with semi-sweet chocolate blended into a velvety smooth filling inside a flaky pastry crust and topped with real whipped cream and milk chocolate shavings. It's a good dessert to split with a friend, or ask for whipped cream on the side so you can control how much you take.

Worst: Brownie Lover's Brownie

Per dish: 1,650 calories, 77 g fat (45 g saturated fat), 1,420 mg sodium, 227 g carbs (9 g fiber, 154 g sugar), 24 g protein

This decadent brownie is filled with toffee morsels, drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauces, and topped with vanilla ice cream. The calories in this dessert are 121 percent the average amount you should consume in one day! It also provides over several days' worth of added sugar.

Sunday Brunch

Best: Eggs to Order

scrambled eggs on white plate with garnish Shutterstock
Per 2 side eggs: 290 calories, 25 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 270 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

When you find the calories in the mains are just unreasonable, it's time to check out the sides. You can order two eggs any style for just under 300 calories. Pair it with dry whole-wheat toast and/or fresh fruit for a balanced breakfast.

Worst: Country Sausage Scramble with White Toast

Per plate: 1,780 calories, 125 g fat (34 g saturated fat), 4,190 mg sodium, 83 g carbs (7 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 76 g protein

This egg dish is made with sausage, ham, bacon, peppers, and onions and served over parmesan brunch potatoes that are covered with cheese, along with fresh fruit and white toast. Although you have all your food groups including carbs, protein, vegetables, dairy, and fruit, the portions are well above moderation.

Worst: Southern Pecan Waffle Combo, with Ham Steak

Per plate: 1,650 calories, 104 g fat (38 g saturated fat), 3,330 mg sodium, 132 g carbs (4 g fiber, 43 g sugar), 48 g protein

This breakfast combination has as many calories as two-and-a-half McDonald's Quarter Pounders with Cheese Deluxe. The saturated fat is also out of control with close to double the recommended daily max, and the sodium is equivalent to one-and-one-third teaspoons. It's just way too much unhealthiness for one meal.

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