Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Is Applebee's Bad For You?

Also Known As: Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar



Short answer

Eating at Applebee's can be challenging for those who are health-conscious or have dietary restrictions. While there are options that can fit into a balanced diet, many menu items are highly caloric, rich in hidden sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats. Being mindful of portion sizes and choosing items like steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes, sides of vegetables, and avoiding sugary drinks can help. For specific dietary needs, plan ahead and communicate with the staff. The key is moderation and informed choices to enjoy dining out without compromising health.



Long answer

Caloric Content and Portion Sizes at Applebee's

When it comes to dining out, especially at places like Applebee's, understanding the caloric content and portion sizes of the meals served is crucial for maintaining a balanced diet. Applebee's, like many casual dining establishments, is known for its extensive menu with a variety of options. While the choice can be a plus, it's important to navigate the menu with a watchful eye.

Many meals at Applebee's can be quite high in calories, sometimes constituting the majority or even exceeding an average person's daily caloric needs in a single meal. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average adult needs between 1,600 and 3,000 calories per day, depending on age, sex, weight, height, and physical activity level. However, a single meal at Applebee's could contain anywhere from 500 to over 1,200 calories. Here are some examples:

  • Classic Combo Appetizer – A platter could have upwards of 2,210 calories, which is more than a day's worth of calories for some individuals.
  • Riblet Platter – This hearty meal can come in at around 1,490 calories.
  • Four-Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders – A comfort food favorite that can carry about 1,400 calories.

Alongside the caloric content, portion sizes at Applebee's tend to be large, potentially encouraging overeating. Oversized portions can lead to increased calorie consumption, even if the calorie density is not as high. This is where the concept of "portion distortion" comes into play, where one's judgment of how much food constitutes a reasonable portion can become skewed over time.

To mitigate the potential for caloric overload, here are some strategies you might consider:

  • Share a meal with someone else to cut the portion size in half.
  • Ask for a to-go box at the start of your meal and put away half to take home for another meal.
  • Opt for the "Lighter Fare" options that Applebee's offers, which are typically lower in calories.
  • Choose sides like steamed broccoli or garlicky green beans instead of fries or mashed potatoes.

If you're tracking your nutrition or dieting, it's paramount to plan ahead before visiting Applebee's. Researching the menu and nutritional content on their website or looking for third-party calorie tracker apps can arm you with information to make healthier choices. Some diners opt for meals that focus more on lean proteins and vegetables, which tend to be lower in calories and more satiating due to their higher fiber and protein content.

Lastly, consider the psychological impact of dining out. It's easy to view restaurant outings as "treat" occasions, which can lead to rationalizing higher calorie choices. By being mindful and intentional about food selection, you can enjoy your dining experience without compromising your health goals. Remember, while everyone deserves to indulge from time to time, moderation is key to maintaining a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Nutritional Facts: Hidden Sugars and High-Sodium Dishes

When dining out, it’s essential to be mindful of what’s on our plate, beyond the tempting flavors and the comfort of a well-prepared meal. At popular chain restaurants like Applebee’s, certain dishes can be surprisingly high in hidden sugars and sodium, which may have implications for our health when consumed frequently.

High sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of several health conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that men limit their intake of added sugars to 36 grams per day and women to 25 grams per day. However, it’s easy to exceed these guidelines with just a single dish. For instance, some of the desserts and beverages at Applebee’s can contain upwards of 50 grams of sugar, exceeding daily recommendations in one swoop.

Similarly, high sodium intake is a concern at many restaurants, and Applebee's is no exception. Consuming too much sodium can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) and increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association suggests an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults, yet some main dishes at Applebee’s can contain more than that in just one serving.

Here’s a closer look at the nutritional content in some popular Applebee’s dishes:

  • Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad: This salad, often perceived as a healthier option, can contain more than 30 grams of sugar and over 1,300 mg of sodium.
  • Classic Buffalo Wings: An appetizer portion of wings can pack upwards of 2,000 mg of sodium, overshadowing the recommended daily limit.
  • Riblets Platter: A serving of the riblets with the honey BBQ sauce can contain significant amounts of sugar alongside a high sodium payload well above 2,500 mg.
  • Maple Butter Blondie Dessert: This dessert alone can bring in over 70 grams of sugar—almost triple the suggested daily amount for women.

Moreover, many items on Applebee's menu that are seemingly healthier or lighter options, such as wraps or sandwiches, can also be deceptively high in sugars and sodium due to dressings, sauces, and condiments. It is important for diners to be proactive in seeking out nutritional information before making their selections—a step that can be quite helpful in maintaining a balanced diet.

To limit hidden sugars and sodium at Applebee's or similar restaurants, consider the following strategies:

  • Opt for grilled items over fried.
  • Ask for dressings and sauces on the side to control the quantity you consume.
  • Choose water or unsweetened beverages instead of sugary drinks or alcoholic beverages with sugary mixers.
  • Share entrees or pack half to take home to manage portion sizes and, consequently, the intake of sugars and sodium.
  • Request nutritional information from the server or consult the restaurant's website or app beforehand.

In conclusion, while the convenience and flavors of Applebee's menu items can be a delight, being aware of hidden sugars and high-sodium content is crucial for making informed choices that align with a health-conscious lifestyle. By being proactive about the nutritional content of our meals, we can enjoy our dining experience without compromising on health goals.

The Healthiness of Applebee's Salad and "Healthy" Menu Options

When scanning the Applebee's menu for healthier options, salads and dishes labeled as "healthy" or “light” may seem like the safest bet. However, looks can be deceiving and it's vital to peel back the layers of these dishes to evaluate their true nutritional content. Opting for a salad doesn't automatically equate to the healthiest choice, nor does choosing a dish from the "healthy" menu ensure that it aligns with your dietary goals. Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding Salad Nutritional Content

Salads at Applebee's, like at many chain restaurants, can be a bit of a mixed bag. Some are loaded with fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and beneficial fats, while others are drenched in high-calorie dressings and topped with less than healthy add-ons like croutons, fried onions, or cheese.

  • Greens: Starting with the base, the greens in Applebee's salads—whether it’s romaine, spinach, or a mixed blend—offer essential vitamins and minerals. It's a positive beginning, as leafy greens are low in calories and high in fiber.
  • Proteins: Many salads come with a protein option such as grilled chicken or shrimp. Choosing grilled over fried protein can drastically reduce caloric intake and eliminate unhealthy fats.
  • Dressings: The dressing can make or break the health factor. Creamy dressings often bring in hidden calories and unhealthy fats. Opting for vinaigrette-or oil-based dressings on the side allows you to control the amount used.
  • Toppings: Toppings like nuts or seeds can add nutritional value, though it’s crucial to watch for candied versions which add extra sugar. Be cautious with cheese and croutons, as these can quickly increase the calorie count.

Navigating the "Healthy" Menu

The "Healthy" menu at Applebee's generally includes options with lower calorie counts. However, lower calorie doesn't always mean more nutritious. It's essential to look at the meal as a whole.

  • Ingredient Quality: Consider the variety and quality of the ingredients. Are there plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, or does the dish rely on processed components and filler items?
  • Portion Size: Even if a meal is part of the “lighter” fare, portion sizes can still be quite large, potentially leading to overeating. It could be beneficial to plan ahead for taking half to go.
  • Preparation Method: How is the food prepared? Look for options that are steamed, grilled, or baked rather than fried or sautéed in heavy oils.
  • Hidden Extras: Be mindful of sauces and condiments that can add significant calories, sodium, and sugar to otherwise healthy dishes.

For those eager to dive into the specifics, reviewing the nutritional information that Applebee's provides online or in the restaurant is a fundamental step. This detailed information can guide you in avoiding menu items that may jeopardize your health goals. It's also worth noting that even within the healthier menu sections, individual dietary needs can vary greatly, so personalization is key.

Studies such as one published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest that many people underestimate the caloric content of restaurant meals, especially salads. Therefore, being informed and vigilant about what actually constitutes a “healthy” option is crucial in making the best choices for your individual health journey.

In essence, navigating Applebee's menu with a health-conscious eye requires a bit of strategy. By dissecting the components of salads and "healthy" menu items, we can make choices that are satisfying and aligned with our wellness objectives—remembering that moderation is a friend and that the truest form of health comes not only from what we eat, but also from enjoying our meals and the experiences that come with them.

Trans Fats and Cooking Oils Used in Applebee's Kitchens

Let’s unfold the parchment concerning the fats and oils used in a bustling chain like Applebee's. It’s no secret that the America’s love affair with dining out often leads us to the welcoming doors of casual dining chains. While we all cherish the convenience and variety, it's crucial to peek behind the kitchen doors and understand what goes into crafting those crave-worthy dishes. In the case of Applebee's kitchens, the types of fats and oils used in cooking can have a significant impact on the nutritional profile of the meals served.

Firstly, let’s tackle the infamous trans fats. Although Applebee's, like many other restaurants, has made strides in eliminating artificial trans fats from their menu, vigilance remains key. Partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary source of artificial trans fats, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's ban that took full effect in 2020, PHOs are no longer generally recognized as safe and have largely been eradicated from the food supply.

However, it's still worth mentioning that naturally occurring trans fats, which appear in small quantities in meat and dairy, are present and are considered by some experts to be less harmful than their artificial counterparts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends minimizing the intake of trans fats as much as possible, regardless of the source.

Now, let's drizzle some light onto the oils. The selection of cooking oils can make a considerable difference. Applebee’s, much like other restaurants, often uses a blend of soybean and canola oils for their general cooking and frying. Both of these oils have a higher smoke point which makes them suitable for the high-heat demands of a professional kitchen. They are also lower in saturated fats compared to options like palm oil or partially hydrogenated oils. Soybean oil is particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats, which can be beneficial to heart health when used in moderation.

While these oils may be a better alternative to trans fats, it’s important to consider their omega-6 fatty acid content. A high intake of omega-6s in relation to omega-3s can contribute to inflammation and other health issues. Balancing our intake of these fatty acids is key, and the predominance of omega-6 rich oils in restaurant cooking doesn't necessarily aid in this balance.

For the health-minded diner, it's worth noting that some Applebee's dishes may be prepared with butter or other animal fats. While these can contribute to the savory flavor profile we often enjoy, they also increase the saturated fat content of a meal, which should be moderated as part of a heart-healthy diet.

In conclusion of this section, while the efforts to minimize harmful trans fats at Applebee's reflect a positive shift in the food industry, the prolific use of high-omega-6 oils and occasional use of saturated fats in cooking still requires consumer awareness. Moderation is key, and integrating these restaurant meals into a balanced diet that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fat will help manage the potential health impacts.

How Applebee's Menu Can Affect Those With Dietary Restrictions

Navigating a menu at popular chains like Applebee's can be quite a task for those with specific dietary restrictions. From allergies and intolerances to lifestyle choices and chronic health conditions, it's essential to understand how restaurant menus can impact your health and well-being. Let's break down a few common dietary restrictions and how the Applebee's menu stacks up in offering suitable choices.

Gluten Sensitivity or Celiac Disease

  • Challenges: Gluten-free options are not always clearly marked, posing a challenge for those who must strictly avoid it.
  • Solutions: Look for restaurants that have a dedicated gluten-free menu or items. Applebee's offers some dishes that can be modified to be gluten-free, but cross-contamination is a risk in any non-specialized kitchen.

Lactose Intolerance

  • Challenges: Dairy is a common ingredient in many menu items, from salads with cheese to creamy sauces.
  • Solutions: Applebee's can substitute or omit cheese and dairy-based sauces upon request, although the availability of dairy-free alternatives varies.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

  • Challenges: While vegetarian options may be more readily available, vegan choices are limited as many dishes contain animal products or by-products.
  • Solutions: Select the few vegetarian or plant-based sides and salads available, and inquire about modifications to make them vegan-friendly.

Nut Allergies

  • Challenges: Cross-contamination and undisclosed nut ingredients can pose serious risks to individuals with nut allergies.
  • Solutions: It's imperative to communicate your allergy to the staff; however, the kitchen environment may not be completely nut-free.

Low-Sodium Diets

  • Challenges: High sodium content is common in many dishes, making it tough for those managing blood pressure or heart conditions.
  • Solutions: Ask for nutritional information and request dishes without added salt or sauces, which are often high in sodium.

Diabetic Meal Planning

  • Challenges: Managing carbohydrate intake is key for those with diabetes, and many Applebee's dishes are rich in sugars and refined carbs.
  • Solutions: Opt for protein-rich dishes and non-starchy vegetables while steering clear of sugary drinks and desserts.

It's worth noting that while modifications can be made, the risk of cross-contamination is always present in a bustling restaurant kitchen. For those with severe allergies or strict dietary restrictions, dining out requires extra vigilance. Be sure to speak to a manager or chef about your needs, and whenever possible, review the menu online in advance to plan accordingly.

Eating out with dietary restrictions doesn't mean you have to miss out on the fun. A bit of preparation and clear communication can go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable dining experience.

The Prospect of Moderation and Mindful Ordering at Applebee's

Dining out at popular chain restaurants like Applebee's can be a delightful social experience, but it is often associated with large portions and calorie-dense foods. The key to enjoying your meal at Applebee's without compromising your health lies in the art of moderation and mindful ordering. Let's break down how you can balance indulgence with health-conscious choices.

Understanding Portion Sizes

Portion control is paramount when eating at any restaurant. Applebee's, like many chains, tends to serve generous portions that can be double or even triple the recommended serving sizes. By being aware of how much food is enough, you can avoid overeating. Consider these strategies:

  • Ask your server about portion sizes before ordering.
  • Request a to-go box at the beginning of your meal and pack away half to enjoy later.
  • If available, opt for lunch portions or "lighter fare" menu items which are typically more appropriately sized.
  • Share an entrée with a dining companion to keep portion sizes in check.

Calorie Conscious Choices

Many meals at Applebee's can be high in calories. To make more mindful choices, look for menu items that provide nutritional information. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Select dishes advertised as being lower in calories or part of a "lighter" or "healthier" options menu.
  • Avoid menu items labeled as "crispy," "fried," or "creamy," as these are often higher in calories.
  • Opt for grilled, steamed, or broiled options which tend to be prepared with less fat.

Navigating Nutrition

Nutritional balance is just as important as calories. Aim for a balanced plate that includes protein, vegetables, and a healthy source of carbohydrates:

  • Look for entrees with a good portion of lean protein, like chicken or fish, to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
  • Always add a side of vegetables. If they don't come with your meal, request a side salad or steamed vegetables.
  • Watch out for hidden sugars and excess fats in salad dressings and sauces by asking for them on the side.
  • Choose whole-grain side options if available, or swap out for a baked potato or extra vegetables in place of fries or onion rings.

Alcohol and Beverages

Drinks can add a significant amount of empty calories to your meal. Consider these alternatives:

  • Choose water, unsweetened iced tea, or other non-caloric beverages over soda and alcoholic drinks.
  • If you opt for alcohol, stick to one drink and choose lighter options like a glass of wine or a light beer.

Dealing with Dietary Restrictions

If you have specific dietary needs or preferences, such as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, check the menu in advance. Applebee's may offer certain dishes that cater to these requirements or might be willing to modify menu items to meet your needs. Communicating clearly with your server can help ensure that your meal aligns with your dietary restrictions.

In summary, enjoying Applebee's in a healthy way is all about making informed choices and listening to your body. By practicing moderation and being mindful of what you order, you can relish your dining experience without overindulging. It's all about balancing the pleasure of eating with the principles of nutrition, and with a little bit of planning, you can have the best of both worlds.

Frequently asked questions

Vegetarian options are more common at Applebee’s, such as salads (request no meat) and specific sides. Vegan-friendly dishes are limited, as many include animal products. Communicate with your server about your dietary preferences, as some items can be modified upon request to remove cheese or swap out animal-based ingredients for plant-based ones.

Yes, you can dine at Applebee's while adhering to a low-carbohydrate diet by choosing protein-centric dishes like steak or seafood with sides of steamed vegetables. Avoid dishes with breading, high-sugar sauces, or heavy starches like pasta and rice. Customizing your order to replace high-carb sides with salads or extra vegetables can also be a suitable strategy.

Healthier dining at Applebee’s can be achieved by prioritizing dishes with lean proteins, such as grilled chicken or fish, and pairing them with non-starchy vegetables or a side salad. Avoid items described as creamy, crispy, or smothered, as these often contain higher calories and unhealthy fats. Additionally, request any dressings or sauces on the side to control added sugars and sodium.

Many chain restaurants, including Applebee’s, provide nutritional information for their menu items, which typically includes calorie counts. This information can often be found on their website or in a nutritional guide available upon request at the restaurant. Using this resource allows you to determine the calorie count and make more informed choices about your meal.

Ask a question about Applebee's and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • potential overeating
  • caloric and nutrient imbalance
  • spike in blood sugar
  • high sodium intake

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • elevated blood pressure
  • insulin resistance
  • risk of type 2 diabetes

Ingredients to be aware of

  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • artificial trans fats
  • sodium
  • added sugars
  • saturated fats


  • protein from lean meats
  • vitamins and minerals from vegetables
  • pleasure and social enjoyment from dining out

Healthier alternatives

  • salad with vinaigrette on the side
  • grilled protein options
  • steamed vegetables
  • whole-grain sides
  • non-caloric beverages

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 02-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 02-17-2024

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