What to Eat at Applebee's: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

Applebees nutrition facts

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In 1980, the first Applebee’s opened in Georgia. Today, with 2,000 locations around the globe, the casual dining restaurant is among the most popular chains in the United States.

Applebee’s slogan—”Eatin’ good in the neighborhood,”—gives you a sense of what to expect from the menu. The chain offers an enormous menu: you’ll find pages and pages of various meals, from appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, to traditional American fare like burgers and fries, hearty entrees like pork chops and seafood, and decadent desserts. With the chain’s goal of being a neighborhood bar and grill, you’ll also find a wide range of alcoholic beverages.

Paying attention to portion size is one of the most frequent challenges when dining out, and Applebee’s is no exception. If you’re counting calories, keep in mind that go-to favorites like soups or salads aren’t necessarily the healthiest choices at Applebee’s—in part due to large portion sizes and high-calorie extras.

While combo meals at Applebee’s might be good for your wallet, it’s more difficult to determine an individual serving size when you have such a large plate of food in front of you. It’s best to order smaller portions for yourself. You can also get a larger meal to share or pack up half to take home.

It can be helpful to review the menu online before you go, giving you the opportunity to estimate calories and nutrition facts in advance. Having this information before you sit down and order your meal can help you plan choices that are in line with your dietary needs and goals.

You might also want to check out the nutrition and food options of the Cheesecake Factory or Red Robin.

What Experts Say

“Applebee’s offers some vegetarian options and a guide to allergens in each dish, but cannot guarantee dishes are allergen-free. While it offers vegetable sides and salads, many of the menu options are lower in fiber and higher in sodium. If eating here regularly, eating veggies and fiber-rich foods in your other meals while opting for lower sodium options can help maintain overall balance.”

—Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

Navigating the Menu

Most Nutritious Options

  • Chicken Wonton Tacos

  • Kid’s Cheeseburger

  • Grilled Chicken Breast

  • Cedar Maple Mustard Salmon

  • 6-oz Sirloin Steak

  • Four-Cheese Bacon Mac & Cheese

  • Grilled Chicken Bacon Wrap

  • Kid’s Chicken Taco

  • Mixed Greens Salad

  • Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • Steamed Broccoli

  • Kid’s Strawberry Sundae

  • Water

Least Nutritious Options

  • Classic Combo

  • Quesadilla Burger

  • Chicken Tender Platter

  • Fish & Chips

  • Loaded Sirloin Steak Fajitas 

  • Creamy Penne Pasta with Prime Rib

  • Chicken Fajita Rollup 

  • BBQ Brisket Tacos

  • Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad

  • Loaded Potato Soup

  • French Fries

  • Blue Ribbon Brownie

  • Strawberry Frozen Lemonade

Appetizers

It’s best to focus on the main part of your meal rather than filling up on appetizers, especially when they’re served in large portions that make it difficult to stick to a single serving. Popular Applebee’s starters like Neighborhood Nachos, soft pretzel dippers, and mozzarella sticks are higher in calories than some meals on the menu. They’re also high in fat and sodium.

Most Nutritious Option

560 calories, 27g fat, 5g saturated fat, 1490 mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 16g sugar, and 35g protein

Least Nutritious Option

2260 calories, 129g fat, 40g saturated fat, 2g trans fat, 6390 mg sodium, 189g carbohydrate, 17g sugar, and 88g protein

One of the most popular starters at Applebee’s is warm Spinach & Artichoke Dip served with crispy tortilla chips. With healthy ingredients like spinach and artichokes, at first glance, it might seem like a nutritious choice—but with 940 calories and 57 grams of fat, the appetizer has more calories than some entrees. It also contains more than the recommended daily sodium intake—2620 milligrams.

You can make a healthier appetizer by starting with a side of Fire-Grilled Veggies for 150 calories. If your meal comes with a salad, ask to have it served before your meal instead of with it. If you add dressing, look for a low-fat choice and skip any starchy extras like croutons or breadsticks.

To satisfy a craving for crispy fries, crunchy chips, and creaming dip for less fat and calories, munch on a side of celery and ranch from the kid’s menu while you wait for the rest of your meal to arrive.

Burgers

Applebee’s offers a few options for a traditional burger-and-fries meal, though none of them are low in calories or fat. Extra calories from the sauce and add-ons like bacon, fried eggs, crispy onions, and cheese (plus a side of fries) turn basic hamburgers into high-calorie, sodium-packed meals. At most restaurants, you can usually find smaller, simpler, burger options on the Kid’s Menu. At Applebee’s, you can even ask for some lower-calorie substitutions to make a healthier burger.

Most Nutritious Option

610 calories, 37g fat, 13g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 1120 mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate, 7g sugar, and 28g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1280 calories, 91g fat, 37g saturated fat, 2.5g trans fat, 2890 mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate, 8g sugar, and 69g protein

Applebee’s offers the option of swapping another type of patty for beef in any hamburger on its menu. While the usual beef patty has around 400 calories, the turkey patty has 300 calories, 27 grams of fat, and 24 grams of protein.

Going meatless saves over 200 calories: the black bean burger has just 190 calories, 7 grams of fat, but still offers 17 grams of protein.

Some locations also offer a vegetarian patty for 170 calories. While it’s the lowest-calorie and lowest-fat option for burger building, it won’t add much protein to your meal—just 7 grams.

Whichever burger you choose, the easiest way to make it lower in fat and reduce its sodium content is to forgo extras like sauces, bacon, and cheese. Skipping the bacon will save you 100 calories alone. If you also get your burger without cheese, you can save another 150 or so calories and 12 or more grams of fat.

Chicken

You’ll find a range of options for chicken at Applebee’s, both of the fried and grilled varieties, including crispy tenders, stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, and pasta entrees. The most nutritious choices are those with grilled, rather than battered-and-fried, chicken.

Most Nutritious Option

190 calories, 3.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 980 mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 39g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1450 calories, 80g fat, 14g saturated fat, 3270 mg sodium, 132g carbohydrate, 23g sugar, and 50g protein

You can make a healthier chicken sandwich by ordering the Bacon Cheddar Grilled Chicken Sandwich without bacon and cheese. With the tangy BBQ ranch dressing, you’ll still get bold flavor without as much fat.

If you’re hankering for crispy chicken tenders, look to the Kid’s Menu for a smaller snack-size portion. While the regular menu Chicken Tender Plate has 920 calories and 63 grams of fat, the Kid’s Menu Chicken Tenders has just 300 calories and 16 grams of fat. You’ll have your choice of dipping sauce on the side, but keep in mind that these add 100-200 calories to your meal and can be high in sodium.

If you’re choosing from lunch combo options, know that the Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders are one of the highest-calorie chicken dishes on the menu. They’ll add 960 calories and 36 grams of fat to your meal.


Boneless wings
or Bone-in Wings are another popular order at Applebee’s. Chicken wings aren’t necessarily high in calories if eaten plain, but when fried and served with buffalo sauce and ranch dressing, they become a high-fat, high-calorie dish.

Seafood

The seafood options at Applebee’s can vary by region, but you’ll usually find a few staples like salmon and shrimp. As with chicken dishes, avoid fried seafood and stick to grilled options. While these dishes may come with a side of fries, swap in a side of veggies instead to add fiber and save calories, fat, and sodium.

Most Nutritious Option

370 calories, 12g fat, 2g saturated fat, 1530 mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 19g sugar, and 38g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1560 calories, 113g fat, 19g saturated fat, 2850 mg sodium, 89g carbohydrate, 13g sugar, and 46g protein

Grilled salmon pairs well with vegetables, and since it’s a lower-fat option, you have a little room to get creative when ordering a side. Try adding cole slaw or garlicky green beans (both for under 200 calories) instead of fries.

Steamed or grilled veggies are another low-fat and low-calorie option for sides—you can even get broccoli crowns from the kid’s menu for just 30 calories. 

If you’re looking for a healthier shrimp dish, order a Grilled Shrimp Skewer instead of fried shrimp—you’ll save 400 calories and 25 grams of fat. If you have your heart (and stomach) set on fried shrimp, look to the kid’s menu for a 170-calorie portion rather than the Double Crunch Shrimp meal (which has over 1,000 calories).

Steak, Ribs, & Fajitas

A rack of baby back ribs is a popular choice at Applebee’s. You can order a half or full rack as an entree. Sirloin steak can be ordered as a meal, a topping for your salad, or in a fajita.

Most Nutritious Option

200 calories, 7g fat, 3g saturated fat, 970 mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 33g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1660 calories, 89g fat, 35g saturated fat, 2g trans fat, 5160 mg sodium, 137g carbohydrate, 18g sugar, and 81g protein

While a half-rack of ribs may not be a high-calorie meal if they’re plain, smothered in salty sauces and glaze and paired with starchy sides, Applebee’s baby back ribs aren’t among the more nutritious options. 

The glazes or sauce used for ribs add calories, sodium, and can often be a source of hidden sugar. For example, Applebee’s Honey BBQ Sauce has 220 calories and 42 grams of sugar per serving.

Similarly, a 6-ounce portion of sirloin can be a good source of protein, but the sides you choose can make the overall meal a less healthy option.

Pasta

With creamy sauces and large portions, you won’t find a pasta dish for under 1,000 calories on the regular menu at Applebee’s. Dishes like Stuffed Rigatoni, Chicken or Shrimp Alfredo, Classic Chicken Parmesan, and Mac & Cheese with Chicken, are served with a breadstick, adding 25 grams of carbs to already high-carb meals.

Most Nutritious Option

480 calories, 28g fat, 14g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 1180 mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 23g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1590 calories, 116g fat, 59g saturated fat, 3g trans fat, 3410 mg sodium, 82g carbohydrate, 14g sugar, and 57g protein

You’ll have to look to the Kid’s Menu to find any pasta dishes under 1,000 calories—though the choices aren’t necessarily more nutritious. The menu’s 300-calorie serving of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese may be lower in calories compared to other pasta dishes, but it’s still a high-carb option. Without adding much nutrition, it’s also not one that’s likely to satisfy your hunger.

Similarly, even though the Kid’s Menu Grilled Chicken Alfredo is a smaller portion of pasta, with 720 calories it’s one of the higher-calorie options.

The breadsticks that accompany pasta dishes pack extra carbs and sodium into your meal. Avoid the Breadsticks with Alfredo Sauce: with 1580 calories, 95 grams of fat, 2860 milligrams sodium, and 137 grams of carbs, it’s higher in calories than some of the pasta dishes.

Sandwiches & Wraps

Applebee’s sandwich options are limited, though it is possible to make existing menu items a little healthier by skipping certain ingredients and sides.

Most Nutritious Option

Grilled Chicken Bacon Wrap (Lunch Combo)

620 calories, 21g fat, 8g saturated fat, 2260 mg sodium, 72g carbohydrate, 21g sugar, and 37g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1060 calories, 65g fat, 27g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 3440 mg sodium, 63g carbohydrate, 8g sugar, and 58g protein

You can reduce the calories, fat, and sodium of Applebee’s fajitas by ordering them without queso (known as “unsmothered” rather than “loaded). For example, the Loaded Steak Fajitas have 1660 calories, 89 grams of fat, and 5160 milligrams of sodium. Ordering them without queso saves 140 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 570 milligrams of sodium.

Even the highest-calorie sandwich on the menu, the Clubhouse Grille, can be reduced if you skip extra meat and other additions. Ordering the sandwich without ham, bacon, BBQ sauce, and mayo saves 430 calories. You’ll still have the turkey to give the sandwich some protein and if you want a little more flavor, try adding grilled onions for 45 calories.

While potato bread still contains carbs, it’s generally not as high-calorie as the brioche rolls used for other sandwiches on the menu. Depending on availability at your local Applebee’s, you may be able to turn your sandwich into a wrap.

Most sandwiches can also be ordered as part of a lunch combo, such as with a soup or salad. The Signature Combo version of the Clubhouse Grille has just 520 calories. While this can be a healthier option in terms of portion size, remember that the overall nutrition of your meal will depend on what you choose to go with it. A small cup of soup can be added for under 200 calories, while several of Applebee’s salads easily add 500 calories or more to a meal. 

Quesadillas & Tacos

Most of the Tex-Mex-style fare at Applebee’s is found on the appetizer menu, though you’ll also find them in select entrees. In fact, the smaller portions found on the kid’s menu are closer to a single serving, so be sure to look there if you’re not ordering a dish to share.

Most Nutritious Option

230 calories, 8g fat, 3g saturated fat, 580 mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, and 20g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1160 calories, 66g fat, 19g saturated fat, 1.5g trans fat, 2900 mg sodium, 104g carbohydrate, 30g sugar, and 37g protein

The Kid’s Chicken Quesadilla offers 25 grams of quick on-the-go protein for 370 calories and 18 grams of fat. A Chicken Quesadilla from the appetizer menu has 960 calories and close to 70 grams of fat.

If you’re ordering chips and dip for the table, the lowest calorie option is tortilla chips with salsa with 620 calories and 27 grams of fat per order. Orders of chips with Queso are around 1,000 calories and have over 50 grams of fat.

For diners on reduced-sodium diets, know that any order of chips is a salty choice. In fact, some chips and dip appetizers at Applebee’s account for well over an entire day’s worth of your daily recommended sodium intake.

Salads

At first glance, many of Applebee’s salads appear to be among the least healthy meals. Keep in mind that the nutrition information displayed includes salad dressing. While many of the salads are made with fried food, cheese, and other high-fat extras, you can use the menu options to create a healthier version.

Most Nutritious Option

Mixed Greens Side Salad (no dressing)

70 calories, 2g fat, 105 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, and 2g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1410 calories, 97g fat, 15g saturated fat, 1500 mg sodium, 104g carbohydrate, 39g sugar, and 37g protein

Most of Applebee’s regular menu salads are large enough to easily make more than one meal. If you’re content to pack up half to enjoy later, ordering a full-size salad is one option. You can also use the options you have to create a smaller serving of salad.

One of the simplest ways to make a healthier salad is to use a side salad as your base. You can usually save 100-200 calories by skipping salad dressing or go with Applebee’s Fat-Free Italian Dressing, which only adds 20 calories. Look to the sides menu for protein: the Grilled Shrimp Skewer adds 10 grams of protein for around 120 calories and 9 grams of fat. 

Soup

At Applebee’s, soups are typically part of a lunch combo meal. Availability of certain types of soup can vary depending on where you live, but most locations offer traditional favorites like Broccoli Cheese, French Onion, and Tomato Basil.

Most Nutritious Option

160 calories, 8g fat, 2g saturated fat, 830 mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, and 7g protein

Least Nutritious Option

410 calories, 35g fat, 22g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat, 860 mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 10g protein

Milk-based soups like clam chowder or Applebee’s take on baked potato soup are higher in calories and fat than other options, though they can be lower in sodium. Whichever soup you choose, avoid adding unnecessary calories and carbs by passing on crackers or a side of bread.

Sides

Applebee’s offers traditional sides like french fries and onion rings, but you’ll also find a few nutritious options you can use to create a healthier meal, like grilled or steamed veggies.

Most Nutritious Option

100 calories, 8g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 210 mg sodium, 6g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, and 3g protein

Least Nutritious Option

680 calories, 32g fat, 6g saturated fat, 1520 mg sodium, 91g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, and 8g protein

If you’re looking for a lower-calorie potato choice, a side of Crispy Red Potatoes has just 200 calories. Garlic Mashed Potatoes are also lower in calories than fries but the creamy butter makes it higher in fat than the red potatoes.

Without sour cream, butter, and cheese, a plain baked potato at Applebee’s has 460 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 41 grams of carbs. Try topping it with some broccoli or grilled chicken.

Desserts

Compared to the variety of Applebee’s expansive menu, the dessert offerings are quite similar. As you might expect, they’re all high in calories, fat, and sugar. Most are drenched in chocolate or caramel, topped with whipped cream, or served with a scoop of ice cream.

Most Nutritious Option

310 calories, 13g fat, 8g saturated fat, 65 mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 38g sugar, and 3g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1400 calories, 61g fat, 35g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat, 530 mg sodium, 196g carbohydrate, 131g sugar, and 20g protein

The Hot Fudge Sundae Shooter is the lowest calorie option on the regular dessert menu. For 350 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 32 grams of sugar, the mini dessert is served in a shot glass with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with warm fudgy chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry.

Without any decadent chocolate and fruit in the name, the Southern Apple Fritter might sound like a healthier option. In fact, with 1260 calories, it’s one of the highest-calorie desserts on the menu. It also has 69 grams of fat, 150 grams of carbs, and 89 grams of sugar.

Applebee’s also offers a selection of milkshakes, but the most popular options (such as Oreo and chocolate) around 800 calories. The lowest-calorie choice of the 16-ounce shake is plain vanilla for 660 calories, 34 grams of fat, and 55 grams of sugar. While it won’t save a lot of calories, a vanilla kid-size shake is 500 calories with 27 grams of fat and 42 grams of sugar.

At some Applebee’s locations, you may find another option on the Applebee’s kid’s menu: a side of sliced strawberries and vanilla yogurt. For just 100 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 16 grams of sugar, you can have a low-cal, low-fat, slightly-sweet treat to finish off your meal.

Beverages

Water is always the healthiest drink to accompany your meal, but depending on your nutrition goals and taste preferences, you’ll have some other no or low-calorie beverage options such as sparkling water, black coffee, diet soda, and unsweetened iced tea at Applebee’s.

Most Nutritious Option

0 calories, 0g fat, 0 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 0g protein

Least Nutritious Option

340 calories, 0g fat, 10 mg sodium, 84g carbohydrate, 70g sugar, and 1g protein

Iced tea, diet soda, and light lemonade may not add calories or fat to your meal, but they may be made with sugar substitutes or preservatives like aspartame, which some diners prefer to avoid.

Applebee’s own line of drinks, including Lemonade and Iced Tea Quenchers, have upwards of 200 calories and a lot of sugar. You’ll also want to avoid the chain’s Frozen Lemonade: with around 300 calories, it’s more of a dessert than a drink.

If you want a fountain drink, an easy way to reduce the calories of your choice is to get a kid-size drink rather than the standard size. The typical 20-ounce serving of Sprite has 100 calories, but a kid’s serving only has 60 calories.

Diet-Specific Options

If you follow a special diet, you may find going out to eat challenging and have become used to having limited choices at most restaurants. One positive aspect of Applebee’s large menu is that it can accommodate a wide variety of tastes and dietary needs.

As you review the menu, ask your server for nutrition information or a list of ingredients if you don’t find the information you need. PDFs with this information are also available on Applebee’s website. If a particular meal isn’t suitable for your diet, ask if it’s possible to make modifications or swaps.

Gluten-free

Applebee’s doesn’t offer specific gluten-free options, but there are items on the menu that don’t contain gluten or wheat.

However, the chain points out that because all the meals are prepared in a shared kitchen space, it can’t guarantee a meal hasn’t come into contact with gluten or wheat-containing ingredients during the storage, prep, or cooking process.

If you need to avoid gluten or have Celiac disease, it’s always best to exercise caution when dining out.

Items at Applebee’s that may be suitable for a gluten-free diet include:

  • Fries
  • Baked Potato
  • Chips & Salsa
  • 6-oz Sirloin Steak (no sides)
  • Grilled Chicken Breast (no sides)

Low-carb

  • 6-oz Sirloin Steak
  • Turkey Burger Patty
  • Grilled Chicken Breast
  • Grilled Shrimp Skewer
  • Caesar or House Salad

Diabetes-Friendly

  • Grilled Shrimp
  • New England Clam Chowder
  • Mixed Green Salad (no dressing)
  • Half-Rack Baby Back Ribs (no sauce)
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (lunch combo)

Low-fat

  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Riblets with Texas Style BBQ Sauce
  • Boneless Wings with Honey BBQ Sauce
  • Cedar Salmon with Maple Mustard Glaze (no side)
  • Mixed Green Salad with Fat-Free Italian Dressing (on the side)

Low-sodium

  • Classic Burger
  • Baked Haddock (no side)
  • Hot Fudge Sundae Shooter
  • Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad
  • Half-Rack of Ribs with Texas-Style BBQ Sauce (no side)

Vegetarian & Vegan

Although you won’t find designated vegan options at Applebee’s, you can use items from across the menu to create a vegan diet-friendly meal. Just know that since Applebee’s uses meat and animal products in its kitchen, certain options may not work for you, depending on the type of diet you follow.

Menu items at Applebee’s that may be suitable for a vegan diet include:

  • Chips & Salsa
  • Baked Potato (no butter)
  • Steamed vegetables (no butter)
  • House Salad (no cheese) with dairy-free dressing (Honey French, Fat-Free Italian)

In addition to the vegan-friendly items, vegetarians may also enjoy the following menu items at Applebee’s:

  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Southwestern or Oriental Salad (without chicken, steak, or shrimp)
  • Black Bean Burger Patty or Vegetarian Burger Patty (where available)
  • Kid’s/Side Mac & Cheese or Classic Broccoli Alfredo (without chicken)
  • All dessert options, including the Triple Chocolate Meltdown and Butter Pecan Blondie

While french fries can occasionally be vegan and vegetarian fast food options, all fried items at Applebee’s are prepared using the same fryer, meaning they may not be acceptable for some plant-based diets.

Food Allergies and Safety

Applebee’s provides a downloadable PDF chart with information about common food allergens present on its menu. However, if you have a food allergy, you should be aware that Applebee’s can’t guarantee a particular item on its menu is completely free from allergens as cross-contamination is possible.

Common food allergens Applebee’s notes the presence of on its menu includes:

While the chart indicates the presence of these allergens, Applebee’s website also states: “Due to the complexity of our ingredients, other allergenic foods may be present in a menu item, but not declared,” on the chart or the menu.

If you have a food allergy, exercise caution when you’re going out to eat and always let your server know which ingredients you need to avoid when placing your order.

A Word From Verywell

Applebee’s large menu is varied enough that most diners will likely be able to order a meal that works for their specific dietary needs, tastes, and overall health goals. You can create a healthier meal from the menu options by ordering smaller portions, skipping extras, asking for low-carb swaps, and choosing sides that are lower in calories and fat. If you follow a special diet, you may not find specific meals on Applebee’s menu to suit your needs, but you can create a satisfying, tasty, meal with the options you have.

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