Friday, January 28, 2011

Enjoy Applebee's New Unbelievable Under 550 Calorie Entrées for Free

As with most moms, finding ways to eat healthier and squeeze workouts into my life are priorities for me. My mom died of a heart attack at just 59 years old. Not the path I want to follow since I want to be around, strong and healthy for my boys as long as I can be.

Of course, being someone who loves food and who loves to dine out, it can be tricky to find healthy options, especially at chain restaurants, where creative, healthful choices take a backseat to large portions and high-fat, low-cost alternatives.

Applebee's may be changing that with the relaunch of their "Unbelievably Great Tasting and Under 550 Calories" menu. On Monday, I had the chance to try all of these entreés and their new SkinnyBee® Cocktails.

Let me preface this review by saying that I never eat at chain restaurants except fast food. Just not a fan of homogenized cuisine. That said, I would definitely go to Applebee's specifically to get one of these new healthy, low-calorie options.

The new entreés are:

• Grilled Dijon Chicken and Portobello
• Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp
• Asiago Peppercorn Steak
• Teriyaki Shrimp Pasta
• Teriyaki Chicken Pasta
• Grilled Shrimp and Island Rice

The first three items listed are served with steamed veg and creamy herb potatoes. Every one of the dishes was flavorful and very filling. Calories are controlled via portion size and by using Pam to cook with instead of oil or butter.

Although each of the bloggers in attendance was given a quarter of each dish to sample and there were only six items to try, we were all stuffed. By our calculations, we still stayed under 550 calories total for the lunch.... Surprising given how tasty these items were.

I'm actually hard-pressed to choose a favorite. The Grilled Dijon Chicken and Portobello was fantastic. Moist. A great dijon flavor. I loved the steamed veggies and potatoes on the side. The veggies had a great flavor and were still crisp while the potatoes were creamy and satisfying in a "comfort food" kind of way that is lost when dieting.

But then, I had the Asiago Peppercorn Steak. I don't love red meat. But the steak was moist and seasoned very simply. The asiago provided just a hint of tang and creaminess that was just right with the simple flavor of the steak.

Still, the shrimp dishes! They had me at hello! The Teriyaki Shrimp Pasta had an incredible flavor. It's made with low-sodium soy sauce, is filled with a huge variety of great filling vegetables like bok choy, red peppers, broccoli, water chestnuts, and sugar snap peas. Those are topped with 14 shrimp and all of that is atop a mound of whole wheat angel hair pasta. Kind of a weird combination and I could have lived without the pasta, frankly. There wasn't quite enough of the teriyaki sauce to cover the pasta, so it was a bit dry, but the flavor was fantastic and when you're trying to eat healthy and lose weight, you can't go wrong with all those vegetables! This dish also comes in a version with grilled chicken instead of shrimp and it was equally tasty. The chicken had a good char on it from the grill which was nice.

When it comes down to it, if I have to choose a favorite, it would have to be the Grilled Shrimp and Island rice. It was like a tropical vacation for my mouth.

The shrimp are basted in a Southern-style BBQ sauce then covered in spicy dry rub. Damn! It was good. The intricate spiciness of the shrimp is perfectly offset by the "Island" rice, which was white rice (brown would have been a healthier choice, I agree) tossed with bits of orange and pineapple. This also came with steamed veggies which were excellent. The one thing I hated about this dish, though, is that the shrimp have their tails on and it's hard to eat them when they're covered in BBQ sauce. Just plain messy, but the taste was worth it.

The only new menu item that I wasn't crazy about was the Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp. And even that was good. It's a tender 7 oz. sirloin with bruschetta style sauce topped with 7 shrimp in their own creamy herb sauce. Again, excellent flavor and so hard to believe that this particular entrée is under 550 calories. In fact, while I can't access the nutritional info at this moment, I believe this dish was under 500 calories.

So, what didn't I love about it? It has almonds as part of the bruschetta sauce and I wasn't crazy about the texture that created. I like nuts, but they didn't work for me in this dish. Other than that, it was great.

Now... How about a drink? Usually calorie conscious drinkers are forced to stick with basics like white wine, light beer, or maybe a vodka and soda. No more, my friends. At least not if you're at Applebee's where you can try one of their new SkinnyBee cocktails. You can choose among margaritas, mojitos, or their Long Island Tea. While each drink is made with premium spirits, calories are saved by using sugar-free syrups and diet sodas to complete each drink.

I sampled all three and was most impressed with the LIT. I know? How '80s is that? But it was the one that tasted the most like it's sugary, high-calorie Doppelganger.

So, just how many calories do you save by drinking a SkinnyBee cocktail instead of a regular drink? With each drink well below 150 calories, a lot. A typical margarita can have between 300 and 600 calories depending on the mix and pour of liquor included while the SkinnyBee margarita made with Hornitos tequila checks in at 100 calories. The typical Long Island Iced Tea has around 500 calories, while the SkinnyBee version has just 110 and the SkinnyBee mojito is just... wait for it... 90 calories, a savings of around 110 calories compared to the full sugar version.

Not convinced just how good and good for you Applebee's new menu items are? Well, you can find out for yourself by winning a gift certificate good for one of the new "Unbelievably Great Tasting and Under 550 Calories" menu items courtesy of Applebee's Atlanta.

Here's how to win:

1. Add a comment below to tell us how you plan to stay healthy in the new year.  Diet, exercise, meditation? A little of this and a little of that? I'd love to know your best tips for staying fit. Also include which of Applebee's new menu items you're looking forward to trying. (Steps 1 and 2 are musts for entry. For additional entries, see steps 3 and 4.)

2. Post a link to this blog post on your blog.

3. For an extra entry into the contest, Tweet this post or add a link to your Facebook while. When you're done, include the links to your tweet and FB post in your comment. 

4. If you're not a Follower of Belle of the Blog already, follow me and let me know in your comment and you'll get one more entry.

The winner will be chosen at random.

The contest opens now and will close at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, February 4th. Good luck!


Kaki Colvin said...

I can't wait to try their new menu! I think I had their french onion soup when it was on weight watcher points, but that was forever ago. I try to watch what I eat everyday since they say it is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I try to workout at least 5 days a week - Insanity, Zumba, elliptical, weights, Wii Activ, etc!! Thanks for posting this! There is an Applebees around the corner from my house. :)

Marina @ My Busy Children said...

I would like to try The Grilled Dijon Chicken and Portobello

I signed up for a gym! Yeah!!! Now I will have to go since I spend so much money!

Marina @ My Busy Children said...

published -

Dawn said...

Thanks, Kaki. Those are great tips.

@Marina, thanks for visiting and for your comments. Money is a good motivator! Don't forget, too, to reward yourself when you hit a goal! Flowers, a long bubblebath, or even a gold star! Keep up the good work! said...

I stay healthy by TRYING to eat healthy and also going for walks which I enjoy both for health reasons and stress relievers...very relaxing.

I am now following you and tweeted the story!/jryandunn/status/32479504672751616

Connie said...

Dawn - I appreciated your review of AppleBees newest lower cal treats which was reposted on FB by our local Applebees. This one statement you made: "Let me preface this review by saying that I never eat at chain restaurants except fast food. Just not a fan of homogenized cuisine." was not clear to me as it relates to the restaurant in question.

My newest additions to my stay fit plan are to actually eat the fruits & veggies I purchase before they spoil, & to develop some inside work-out routines so that when it is unendurable outside (-8F today) that I don't miss out.

Dawn said...

Thanks, Rockets15 and Connie, for visiting and for your comments.

Connie, in answer to your question, I generally prefer to eat at local establishments as opposed to chain reastaurants. I intended no offense. I tend to feel that the quality of the food and ingenuity in the kitchen are above most chains.

I was very pleased, however, with both the quality and creativeness of these low-calorie options at Applebee's.