Applebee’s, Calgary

How awesome would it be if you could go to a restaurant and know exactly how many calories were in the meal you’d chosen to order?

I’m not much of a calorie counter myself, but as a Holistic Nutritionist I see value in the public knowing what’s in their meals when eating out.

Lucky for us; and to my surprise, Applebee’s publishes the calorie count of many of their menu items and has even gone as far as creating an entire menu dedicated to meals under 550 calories.

When Applebee’s contacted me to see if I’d be interested in stopping by their Calgary location to check out their under 550 calorie menu, I jumped at the chance. It’s not every day I get invited to try out free food with a group of friends! And better yet, potentially find a health conscious restaurant that I could recommend to my clients.

After a bit of planning and coordinating, Kevin and I headed out to the restaurant this past Sunday with our neighbors; Shane and Shawna.

The atmosphere is very similar to Swiss Chalet, with a bit more of a neighborhood, home style feeling. The staff weren’t rushed or stressed and there was a positive vibe throughout the place.

We arrived at 5pm, were seated immediately and presented with a rather large menu. Had I not had a goal in mind – order from the under 550 calorie menu, I think I would have been a bit overwhelmed at all the choices.

Just for fun, I perused the menu for some vegan options and came up quite short. While you could get any of the salads without chicken, you may be left a bit hungry afterward.

Alicia; our waitress, pointed out which of the items on the menu were gluten and dairy-free. It didn’t take long for me to decide what I wanted…

 

French onion soup! It’s rare that I get to enjoy gluten-free soup at a restaurant, let alone gluten-free French onion soup (my absolute favorite). Although my version had no bread or cheese, I didn’t mind one little bit.

Kevin’s was without cheese, and Shane and Shawna had a normal order, cheese and all. It looked so gooey and perfect.

I was very happy with my bowl of soup. It had the perfect amount of salt and sweet onions, served up in a cute little ramekin. While not on the 550 calorie menu, everyone agreed it was a great starter.

About 15 minutes after our soup bowls had been cleared, our dinner arrived.

I immediately noticed that the meals were very similar to something I’d enjoy at my parents house. If you’re looking for a home cooked spot away from home, with more than reasonable prices, this is your place. The ingredients are simple, presented with basic plating and not too much pizazz, but delicious nonetheless.

Shane ordered the signature sirloin with garlic herb shrimp, a 7 oz. sirloin topped with shrimp and cream sauce. It was love at first bite, he explained after he’d cleared his plate. The brocolli was steamed to perfection, the steak was cooked just the way he’d asked for it, and the cream sauce was great with the shrimp.

Shawna and I both ordered the grilled dijon chicken and portobellos. The chicken was topped with roasted onions, red peppers and portobello slices with a creamy dijon sauce. The sauce had a sour cream base so I had mine without and am very happy I did. I wouldn’t have wanted to mask the taste of the roasted onions, they were spectacular.

Although Shawna said she enjoyed the tangy sauce, halfway through her meal she found it a bit too over powering and wish she’d ordered her meal without it.

Kevin went for the roasted garlic sirloin, a 7 oz. sirloin topped with sautéed onions which we learned later is their most popular menu item!

Kevin is pretty particular about his steak. He’s the guy at the table that could spend up to 30 minutes cutting around the edges of the steak ensuring all remnants of fat have been removed. He usually pushes the pieces to the side of his plate for me to snack on (I know, it’s gross… but I LOVE steak fat) but when I looked over at his plate halfway through the meal, I was surprised to see absolutely no fat on his plate. Now that’s a lean steak!

We were all given a side of herbed potatoes with our meal but I wasn’t a big fan of them. I found them too mushy and tasteless, but everyone liked them. I guess you could say I’m picky about my potatoes! Next time, I do the coleslaw.

All in all, we had a great time and plan on a second visit in the future.

Have you ever been to Applebees?

Does your favorite restaurant post the nutrition facts in their menu? If so, I’d love to know who they are!

Applebee's Restaurant‎ on Urbanspoon

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  1. I was surprised. When Leanne told me about this “550” calorie menu I was pretty skeptical, but the steak was yummy. Now I want more!

  2. Looks like fun! Like you, I can see the value to those trying to watch their weight in calorie posting. I think it shows responsibility on the part of the restaurant as well. I was a little taken aback by the fact that when I visited a Subway in San Francisco, there were at least 2x as many numbers on the menu board than I was used to – prices and calorie counts everywhere! Not that it was a bad thing, just different. I think providing nutritional info (at least online) is something that a lot of restaurants could do in order to win over people aiming to eat healthier. Might not be such a good idea for less-healthy venues though… it would probably scare people away!

  3. I’ve tried that portabello chicken as well, but don’t really trust their calorie count. The mushrooms were soaked in oil, and the veggies were in a buttery sauce. Not sure if you had the same experience?

  4. I can’t even remember the last time I went there. That sucks about the vegan options – that’s the reason why I hardly eat out anymore, plus, I’m scared they’ll accidentally make something with dairy or in a chicken broth. I don’t know how or when I turned into one of those paranoid eaters, but it’s happened. The hubby and I are going to Toronto in a week for a concert, so I’m reeeeally hoping we go to a vegan specific restaurant so I have one night of not cooking! haha

  5. We used to eat at Applebee’s quite often until we started eating clean. The calorie count is all well and good, but I feel that if the restaurant is going to try to look like they are offering healthy options they should cut the sodium counts by 7/8. For example the sirloin dinner you had contained 2440 mg of sodium and the soup contained 1230. That is well over the daily allowance and it was all in one meal. There are no restaurants these days who are low sodium and that makes me sad. =(

    • Thanks Izzy, you bring up a great point. Sodium is always a challenge when we eat out. Because we don’t do it too often; maybe once a month, I try not to worry about it too much. But unfortunately there are those that have to watch their sodium intake which can make eating out a HUGE challenge, which you mentioned. Hopefully in a couple of years there will be more and more low sodium options out there?

  6. I used to eat at Applebees a lot in middle school and high school, but I haven’t eaten there in the last couple of years. In my town there are a lot of places that post where they get their meat and produce which is sometimes more important to me than calorie counts. It’s always nice to have the calorie counts though; even when I choose a higher calorie option at least I know what I’m getting myself into and can compensate (if I want) by only eating half or subbing out an ingredient or two.

  7. I like that they’re trying at least! That’s more than most chain restaurants can say.
    …But after my boyfriend and I BOTH got food poisoning from there…never again :/

  8. Interesting.
    I went to one here and thought my meal was terrible.

    They had a lot of problems working with my allergy. I ended up getting a salad with chicken and it wasn’t good. The lettuce was limp and the whole salad seemed like it had been sitting in the cooler for a day or 2. The salad sounded fantastic (I think it was a tropical chicken?) so I was super disappointed.

    My husband got the pork sliders and he actually only ate 1 of them (I’ve NEVER seen him not finish a meal).

    On the other hand my parents in law LOVED their meal – that being said everything they got was deep fried ;)

    Glad your meal was great – it really looked fantastic!! :)

  9. I can’t remember the last time I went there as I usually like to seek out more unique restaurants to the area I’m visiting. But good to know about the GF and somewat healthier options now being offered for sure!

  10. Applebee’s is my mom’s favorite restaurant, she always gets the chicken quesadilla. The last time I went there, it was with my boyfriend and I was actually a little disappointed. Only because their whole menu is basically meat based. You can order the salads or pastas without meat, but it’s still a bit limited. :( I’m glad you had a great time though and it’s pretty cool that they offer a gluten free menu!

  11. Have you ever been to Applebees? = Yeah, I practically lived there in my early 20s. They had great happy hour specials :)

    Very cool that they contacted you and that you were pleased with the food…and Im impressed about the 550 cals. Most restaurant put that much butter…in one side dish.

  12. I think it totally depends on the location and how they cook and prepare your food. Here it was always yummy. Awesome they asked you to come sample their things! I used to go all the time with a former boyfriend, as you mentioned Averie, great happy hour specials, also they have the after 9 half price appetizer or something. I just am always sooooo thirsty after and feel parched all next day, that we stopped going regularly. I guess the body gets used to cleaner eating and can’t handle the standard american fare anymore :(

    @Izzy: where were you able to get the sodium content? Here I thought they did not publish that, I had looked for it at some point but all I came up with was the calories…

  13. Hmmm, I definitely have mixed feelings. Let’s be clear, I don’t believe that Applebee’s will ever be optimal food, everything they serve (I have to presume) is sourced from giant national/international industrial agricultural operations.
    Organic? I seriously doubt it.
    Sustainably grown ingredients? Highly unlikely.
    Locally grown food? Probably not.
    On the other hand, people are going to want to eat at giant chains like this where the food is familiar and expected, either for comfort or convenience or in certain circumstances like travel for work or whatever, so I supposed there’s some value in being able to select the best option at a place like this.
    But it worries me when people start thinking this is healthy food (because I don’t think it is, no matter what you order).

    • You bring up some great points, Janna! You’re far better off going to a local restaurant that you know is using locally grown, organic foods. Especially if you’re going there often. I also love going to those businesses because you know you’re supporting a local business, and supporting your own community. But you’re right, it’s good to know that there are some chains that are trying to be just a bit healthier for those that don’t like the local, organic, sustainable type of places, or for those that are on-the-go traveling and such!

  14. In my twenties..I used to go there often for their incredible brunches…Eggs Benedict and fabulous Bloody Mary’s….they also had great Happy Hour specials which were an economical way to eat and celebrate surviving the taxing week of full-time graduate studies and full-time jobs (simultaneously)…I’m so glad to find they are engaged in dedicating menus to healthy eating and keeping up with this general …finally changing mindset…It’s time to rediscover Applebee’s as soon as we find ourselves States-side again!

  15. I honestly thought Applebees went out of business. When I’m in the States, I tend to avoid the chain restaurants because their food is usually preprepared and then shipped frozen to be thawed at the restaurant location. Watching calories is definitely a plus with any restaurant, but I’d rather have a 700 calorie dish and know it was freshly prepared that day than eat something that was frozen. That’s just me though. I’m spoiled by the fresh, local cooking of France. (Which admittedly has it’s own problems when dining out.)

  16. Hmmm…hate to be a naysayer – but I’ve had 2 pretty yucky experiences there….the sodium levels and prepackaged food I saw in the back (on the way to the restroom) really made me not want to spend my money at this establishment….also I have a hard time knowing that the person serving me just sucked on a cancer stick out back before they served my meal.
    :( Sorry….BUT love your blog – YOU are amazing!

    • Oh no, that’s horrible Natasha! Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us, and for your kind words about my blog :)

  17. I’ve actually only been to an Applebee’s once (living in an Asian family, my parents only, only went to Vietnamese or Chinese restaurants, but most of them would care less, and then add tons of oils, butters, and sodium. I have seen a vegan Vietnamese restaurant however) with my Aunt.
    I loved the atmosphere of the place, but the desserts are total calorie, sugar, and fat-bombs! lol.

  18. Thank you so much for this post. It is so difficult to know what you are really getting when eating out. We haven’t been to Applebee’s in years, but we will definitely go soon!

  19. Applebee’s, chilis, TGIFridays, outback, etc, all use MSG in 99% of their menu items! Sometimes their low calorie options don’t have added MSG but they cook it all on the same grill so it still is not MSG free. For someone like me who has a severe reaction to MSG, restaurants like Applebee’s are not only a nightmare, but categorized as “toxic” in my mind!!!

  20. I stumbled upon this blog because I was researching MSG at Applebee’s. last night the kids were allowed to choose where we ate out, and Applebee’s was their choice. My girls both ordered chicken strips and fries, my son ordered a burger, my husband ordered steak with a shrimp Parmesan sauce, and I ordered a steak meal off the 550 or under menu. We all enjoyed our food, the atmosphere, and the service. Applebee’s in our town is never crowded, while all the other restaurants are always busy. I’ve often wondered why. I am very sensitive to wheat, gluten and MSG, so I try to be careful what I eat. Last night, a few hours after eating, my girls were both sick. My youngest had a terrible headache ending in vomiting, and my other daughter had stomach cramps and felt sick, ending in vomiting. Their sickness wasn’t bad enough for food poisoning, so I decided to see if I could find out if Applebee’s uses MSG. Sadly, we will not be eating there again, because a few of us felt terrible later.

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