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The Best & Worst Menu Items at Ruby Tuesday

Known for their signature salad bar, Ruby Tuesday's menu runs the gamut from heart-healthy to heart-stopping.
The Best & Worst Menu Items at Ruby Tuesday

When you want to have an unlimited salad bar option, there might not be a better option than Ruby Tuesday. However, If you are looking to cut calories and are in the mood for anything from a steak to salmon, navigating the Ruby Tuesday menu packed with choices can prove to be a challenge. In order to make sense of all the options, we asked Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, and LA-based nutritionist and healthy cooking expert, to chime in on what she thinks are some of the best and worst items on the Ruby Tuesday menu.

Appetizers

Best: House-Baked Soft Pretzels

ruby tuesday soft pretzel
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

546 calories, 21 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 1,001 mg sodium, 67 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 16 g protein

The best way to eat an appetizer is to split it up amongst your group, and Rizzo agrees that the House-Baked Soft Pretzels are perfect for just that.

"I wouldn't necessarily call this a "healthy" item, but it's significantly lower in calories than all the other appetizers," Rizzo says. "I generally wouldn't recommend something that has half of your daily sodium intake in one item, but hopefully you can scrape off some of the salt and share with friends. I also don't love the liquid margarine because margarine can have trans fat, which is bad for your heart."

Worst: Spinach Artichoke Dip With Unlimited Chips

ruby tuesday spinach artichoke dip
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

901 calories, 57 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 1,670 mg sodium, 72 g carbs (8 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 21 g protein

An appetizer with spinach in its name seems like it would be a healthy option, but don't be fooled. "This fat-loaded appetizer has more calories than a hefty entree," says Bannan.

Salads

Best: BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad

Ruby Tuesday bbq salad
Courtesy of Ruby Tuesday

624 calories, 31 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 2,099 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 49 g protein

With each salad option on Ruby Tuesday's menu packing in a high salt content, it might be hard to say which salad is truly the best. When you have to choose a lesser evil, the BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad weighs you down the least with one of the lowest fat content of any salad and a high protein count to keep you full through your day. If you do feel like a salad, the best option may be to ignore the menu altogether and try out the signature salad bar, where you can pack your plate full of vegetables with minimal sodium content.

Worst: Crispy Chicken Ranch Salad

ruby tuesday crispy chicken salad
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

1,029 calories, 67 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 2,266 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 39 g protein

"Just because it's a salad, doesn't mean it's automatically a healthier choice," Bannan says. This salad proves her point, as it nearly contains as many calories as an order of cheese fries and a whopping teaspoon of sodium. If you are looking to eat healthy, stay far, far away from this salad.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Seafood

Best: Grilled Salmon

ruby tuesdays grilled salmon and broccoli
Kristi O./Yelp

326 calories, 17 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 1,062 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 42 g protein

When you are looking for a heart-healthy meal that will complement almost any diet, salmon is almost always a go-to, and Ruby Tuesday delivers. "The grilled salmon is one of the lowest-sodium options on the seafood menu, with less than a quarter teaspoon of sodium," Bannan says. "It also contains 39 grams of hunger-crushing protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats."

Worst: Crispy Shrimp Platter

ruby tuesday crispy shrimp platter
David B./Yelp

1,301 calories, 62 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 6,296 mg sodium, 136 g carbs (11 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 40 g protein

"'Crispy' often means fried, and fried food is high in calories and saturated fats," Rizzo says. The Crispy Shrimp platter is no exception. It packs in almost three days of the recommended sodium intake into one meal and with 1,301 calories, you are asking for health trouble when you order this.

Chicken

Best: Chicken Fresco, Single

ruby tuesday chicken fresco with a side of rice and zucchini
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

368 calories, 22 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 1,246 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 32 g protein

"Once again, I don't love the liquid margarine, but it's unavoidable on this menu," Rizzo says. "Other than that, this is a grilled chicken with veggies and balsamic dressing. It's less than 400 calories, but it's still rather high in salt."

Despite the high sodium content, this meal ends up being one of the more well-rounded options out of our picks on Ruby Tuesday's menu.

Worst: Hand-Breaded Buttermilk Chicken Tenders

ruby tuesday buttermilk chicken tenders
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

1,182 calories, 65 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 3,611 mg sodium, 101 g carbs (8 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 36 g protein

The Hand-Breaded Buttermilk Chicken Tenders may be the perfect storm of poor nutrition on Ruby Tuesday's menu. "This is essentially a plate of fried chicken fingers and French fries," Rizzo says.

"It has over 1,100 calories, more than the daily limit of sodium, and 65 grams of fat. After eating this, you will likely feel bloated from all the fried food and salt." With this many calories, you could eat two of Ruby Tuesday's Classic Burgers and still consume fewer calories than are in this meal.

Steaks

Best: Top Sirloin, 6 oz

ruby tuesday top sirloin
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

401 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1,665 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 37 g protein

"You can still have a steak dinner without overdoing it on calories and [saturated] fat," Rizzo says. "This six-ounce sirloin is a good-sized portion for just 400 calories and 1 gram of saturated fat. It also comes with healthy sides, like zucchini and rice." You can't beat a steak like that.

Worst: Cajun Ribeye, 12 oz

Cajun Ribeye at Ruby Tuesday's with onion rings and zucchini
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

726 calories, 56 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 953 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 56 g protein

Coming in at 3/4 of a pound, the Cajun Ribeye steak is one of the biggest steaks on Ruby Tuesday's menu, and its heavy fat and sodium content show this off. The average person should eat no more than 30 grams of saturated fat a day, and this steak pushes that limit. Eating this steak would be similar to consuming the fat content of 1 and a half large bags of potato chips.

Pasta

Best: Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Pasta

ruby tuesday chicken and shrimp pasta
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

602 calories, 21 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 2,763 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 46 g protein

"This is the lowest calorie pasta on the menu because it's just grilled chicken and shrimp with veggies in a light butter sauce. There's nothing fried here, so I would recommend this over a lot of other options on the menu," Rizzo says. With almost 3,000 milligrams of sodium, it still might be a good option to head to a different section of Ruby Tuesday's menu if you need to stick to a tighter eating plan.

Worst: Crispy Chicken Mac & Cheese

ruby tuesday mac and cheese with crispy chicken
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

1,411 calories, 73 g fat (38 g saturated fat), 3,752 mg sodium, 107 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 73 g protein

"Stay away from this combination of fried food and cheesy pasta," Rizzo says. "It's no surprise that a mac & cheese with fried chicken tenders is close to 1,500 calories and over 3,700 milligrams of sodium." Eating this meal by yourself would be similar to eating half a pizza, and the carbs will leave you feeling stuffed all day.

Ribs & Chops

Best: Half-Back Baby-Back Ribs—Classic Barbeque

ruby tuesdays ribs
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

471 calories, 22 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 414 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (0 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 43 g protein

Ribs & Chops proves to be one of the hardest categories at Ruby Tuesday to find healthy options. Bannan even initially suggested that the entire section be skipped over because every option is calorie-packed. It wasn't easy to find a healthy option, but we still picked the lesser of several evils.

"If you're in the mood for ribs, this entrée is the best on the menu, with only 470 calories and not too high in fat or sodium," Bannan says. "Plus, it has 44 grams of protein for staying power."

Worst: Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs—Nashville Hot

ruby tuesdays baby back ribs
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

1,168 calories, 83 g fat (27 g saturated fat), 694 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 88 g protein

The full rack of ribs with a Nashville Hot glaze beat out other worthy contenders like the Triple Play due to its impressively high calorie and fat content to seal the item's fate as the most unhealthy meal on the Ribs & Chops section on Ruby Tuesday's menu. Eating a full portion of this meal packs in more fat than three cheeseburgers.

Burgers & Sandwiches

Best: Classic Burger

Classic Burger from Ruby Tuesday's
Ruby Tuesdays/Facebook

666 calories, 35 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1,119 mg sodium, 36 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 38 g protein

"If you're in the mood for a burger, less is best," Bannnan says. "The classic burger is one of the lower-calorie and saturated fat options on the menu, but still contains almost 1/3 of daily calories, and over 1/2 the amount of saturated fat recommended for the entire day."

Worst: Smokehouse Burger

ruby tuesdays smokehouse burger
Connie W./Yelp

973 calories, 52 g fat (18 g saturated fat), 1,882 mg sodium, 61 g carbs (1 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 48 g protein

Packed full of fat and carbs, your diet doesn't need this burger hitting your body. "The smokehouse burger has 1 1/2 times as many calories as the classic burger, and 3/4 the amount of sodium recommended for the entire day. That's before you even add a side of fries or end with a dessert," Bannan says.

Sides

Best: Grilled Zucchini

ruby tuesdays grilled zucchini
Gina H./Yelp

22 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 1 g protein

"Opting for a veggie is always a good idea, especially when it is grilled, steamed, or roasted," Bannan says.

Worst: Loaded Baked Potato

ruby tuesday loaded baked potato
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

562 calories, 27 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 1,519 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (5 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 18 g protein

Like its name suggests, the Loaded Baked Potato is packed with fat and salt, not to mention 51 heavy-hitting grams of carbs. If this was your only meal, you might be OK, but if this side is accompanying one of our other picks above, say goodbye to your diet for the day. Instead, opt for the signature unlimited salad bar, or our best side pick below.

Desserts

Best: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

ruby tuesday pineapple upsidedown cake
Ruby Tuesday/Twitter

495 calories, 19 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 386 mg sodium, 73 g carbs (1 g fiber, 56 g sugar), 5 g protein

When you are looking to cut your waistline, you probably ought to skip dessert, but if you are craving something sweet to finish off your meal, look no further than the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

The dessert has almost three times fewer calories than the cookie skillet and a minimal amount of sodium. "Split it with multiple people to get your sweet fix without the full amount of sugar or calories," Bannan says.

Worst: Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet

ruby tuesday chocolate chip cookie skillet
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook

1,350 calories, 69 g fat (37 g saturated fat), 1,141 mg sodium, 172 g carbs (5 g fiber, 110 g sugar), 19 g protein

Steer clear of Ruby Tuesday's variation of the cookie skillet at all costs if you are trying to watch your diet. "Even if you went straight for dessert, you'd still be getting over half the amount of calories for the day, as much saturated fat as 20 strips of bacon, and as much sugar as 2 1/2 cans of soda," Bannan says.

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