Strategies for Making Healthier Choices at Red Robin

Before last night, I hadn’t been to a Red Robin since I hopped on the healthy eating bandwagon. And since that’s been over 4 years now, I thought I’d take a gander at their on-line menu to see if they have any healthier choices — ones that aren’t loaded with calories and sodium.

Although I did end up finding a few things I could eat, it took some work as their on-line nutritional calculator is cumbersome at best. Instead of just putting up a simple nutritional chart containing information on all of their menu items, they have a nutritional calculator which only displays the information on selected items – one at a time. It’s hard to get a good overview of the menu that way.

The good news is, you should be able to do just fine at Red Robin, if you dodge a few of their calorie bombs. The key is – as always – just knowing what to order.

The first calorie bomb comes in the form of their Bottomless Steak Fries, which are served with most sandwiches and burgers. They add 434 calories and 444 mg. of sodium to your meal. That’s if you just have 1 serving, and don’t ask for more. After all, they are bottomless, so you can eat as many as you want for the same price –but you will pay with calories.

In my recent visit I instead opted for a Side Salad without the croutons, with some Honey Mustard Poppyseed Dressing on the side. I ended up eating about 1 t of the dressing, so my healthy side added 72 calories and 74 mg. of sodium to my meal. If I wanted to cut even more calories and sodium, I could have asked for the Steamed Broccoli, which weighs in at a very skinny 32 calories and 31 mg. of sodium. What can I say, I was in a salad mood.

For my sandwich, I chose the Bruschetta Chicken Sandwich, served on a bed of lettuce instead of in the ciabatta roll. The original incarnation clocked in at 615 calories and 1295 mg of sodium, but when I ditched the roll it was just 295 calories and 872 mg. of sodium. The chicken breast was topped with bruschetta salsa, pesto aioli and Provolone cheese, and it came with some balsamic cream on the side. It was very tasty and quite filling.

All it all it was a good experience, and the waitress didn’t even bat an eye at my special request. My dinner added up to 467 calories and 946 mg. of sodium. I’d like to see my sodium lower than that, but I knew I was going out for dinner so I watched it the rest of the day. In the end, I was still able to come in under my 1500 mg. daily sodium allotment.

Another healthier choice is the Grilled Turkey Burger served as a lettuce wrap, with tomatoes and chipotle aioli. It has jut 338 calories and 528 mg. of sodium without the bun. Again, pass on the fries and pick one of the healthier sides instead.

And if you want a good old fashioned hamburger, then opt for the Keep it Simple Burger, without the bun, for 319 calories and 370 mg. of sodium.

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly healthy Garden Burger though, as although it only has 479 calories, it also has a whopping 1619 mg. of sodium. Even if you skip the bun it still has 1249 mg. of sodium, which is really too much.

Stay away from the Gourmet Cheeseburger as well, as it has 816 calories and 1731 mg. of sodium. Paired with fries that comes to 1250 calories and 2175 mg. of sodium. And again, that’s if you just have one plate of fries.

If you’d prefer an entrée rather than a sandwich, then try the Ensenada Chicken Platter, which comes with two baja flavored grilled chicken breasts topped with salsa and a healthy side salad. Granted it has way too much sodium for 1 person (1636 mg.), but if you split it with somebody it’s only 220 calories and 818 mg. of sodium. Alternatively, you can order the entrée with one breast, tell them to hold the Baja Ranch Dressing on the chicken, and use the salsa for your salad dressing. That option adds up to 182 calories and 910 mg. of sodium. To be honest I’d probably opt for the latter choice even if I was dining with someone, as I like a lot of salad with my meal, and it doesn’t look like enough to split!

If you’d prefer a salad for your entrée, then go for the Simply Grilled Chicken Salad with no dressing. It features a grilled chicken breast on top of a bed of greens, and it’s served with some warm foccocia. It has 454 calories and 789 mg. of sodium; but if you want to lower the sodium even more, then skip the foccocia.

Whatever you do, don’t order the Crispy Chicken Tender Salad, as it has a whopping 1348 calories and 2325 mg. of sodium.

Another thing to stay away from are the Towering Onion Rings, with 1935 calories and 3648 mg. of sodium.

The Garden Hummus Platter is pretty deceptive too, as it has 774 calories and 2206 mg. of sodium.

Probably the worst nutritional bomb on the menu is Red’s Nantucket Seafood Scatter, which has 1246 calories and 4543 mg. of sodium. Wow. And go figure, as it comes with fried cod fillets, fried shrimp, fried clam strips, coleslaw and bottomless fries. It also has 75 gram of fat. Yikes!

Although I enjoyed my dining experience at Red Robin, I was disappointed that they didn’t list the calorie counts on their menu. That’s required in California, for restaurants like Red Robin that have 20 or more locations. Hopefully they will correct that soon.

In the end I’m glad I found a few doable things on the menu. It’s not like I will be frequenting the joint, but it’s a very doable option for the occasional after movie dinner. I’m glad I gave them another chance – things do change!

 

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