Healthy Menu Item Choices From Cracker Barrel

stack of pancakes with syrup
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Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is a favorite stop for many hearty eaters who are traveling the country on a road trip and need a comforting meal. But can you find a diet-friendly meal at this traditional restaurant? And what should you order if you want to maintain your healthy eating plan? The menu can be challenging to navigate if you're trying to slim down, but there are a few menu items that are likely to be more healthy at Cracker Barrel.

Analyzing the Calories and Nutrition of the Cracker Barrel Menu

The first thing you'll notice when you check out the Cracker Barrel menu is the number of traditional-style foods that are offered. While this is great if you love comfort food, it's not great for your waistline. Portion sizes are also larger at this dining spot, making it a good choice for your wallet, but a tough choice for your belly.

Breakfast is served all day at Cracker Barrel and many of the traditional breakfast foods are served as combinations. So you can get pancakes with scrambled eggs or fried eggs with hash browns, sausage and bacon. Unfortunately, combining items often leads to overeating. So splitting a meal or taking half home for later is a smart choice.

The Most Popular Cracker Barrel Food Item

Visitors to Cracker Barrel usually go for the homestyle dishes. One popular traditional favorite is Chicken and Dumplings. While Cracker Barrel does not provide specific nutritional data for any of their restaurant food online or to the media, a typical serving of this meal provides around 400 calories or more.

Healthiest Options on the Cracker Barrel Menu

Cracker Barrel provides generalized recommendations regarding good menu choices on the company's website. The company directs you to listings for certain designated menu choices. "If you’re looking for lighter fare but hate to sacrifice flavor, we’d like to introduce you to our Wholesome Fixin’s," they write. "They’re the same homestyle meals you know us for but lower in calories." However, without specific calorie data, it's impossible to know if these items are in fact, diet-friendly for folks who are trying to slim down.

So, what is on the Wholesome Fixin's menu? If you're dining at Cracker Barrel for breakfast, you'll find 

  • The Good Morning Breakfast with two scrambled Egg Beaters, turkey bacon or turkey sausage, savory cheese grits, fruit and sliced tomatoes. (calorie estimate: 360 calories)
  • A Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Parfait with low-fat vanilla yogurt topped with fruit, honey oat granola, almonds and dried fruit and served with Egg Beaters and turkey bacon or turkey sausage. (calorie estimate 350 calories)
  • Apple N' Cinnamon Oatmeal blended with dried cranberries, apples, raisins, cinnamon and vanilla. The steel-cut oats are served with reduced fat milk. (calorie estimate 300 calories)

For lunch, you'll find a Wholesome Fixin's menu that includes:

  • Grilled Chicken n' Fresh Vegetable Salad that comes with two deviled eggs and dressing
  • Buttermilk Oven Fried Chicken Breast (330 calories) plus a choice of two sides. You can choose either a small salad or serving of steamed broccoli to keep calories low
  • An eight-ounce Pepper-Grilled Sirloin served with steamed broccoli or mixed vegetables along with a side dish like brown rice pilaf (calorie estimate 500-600 calories)
  • Two Southern Trout filets topped with corn relish and served with steamed broccoli or mixed vegetables and one side dish like carrots or green beans. (calorie estimate 400-600 calories)

To keep calorie counts lower, the company suggests that you use Tasty Alternatives for no extra charge. For example, you can substitute:

  • Egg Beaters for two eggs to cut 80 calories
  • Two slices of multigrain toast instead of biscuits to save 100 calories.
  • Turkey bacon for traditional bacon to cut 100 calories

The company also offers sugar-free syrup and preserves and a no-sugar-added Apple Pie. 

Unhealthiest Options on the Cracker Barrel Menu

The amount of fat and calories in any dish will depend entirely on the serving size and preparation menu. Meals like the Meatloaf Dinner which is served with two side dishes can be higher in calories if the ground beef used is high in saturated fat.

The Country Fried Steak and the Chicken Fried Chicken are both battered and fried. Typically these are served topped with a creamy gravy. These entrées are likely to provide more fat and calories than you need. As a general estimate, most country fried steak dinners provide 900 calories or more.

And of course, desserts at Cracker Barrel are going to be high in sugar, high in fat and high in calories. A single scoop of ice cream might be your best bet. Options like the Frozen Mug Sundae with Roasted Almonds or the Baked Apple Dumplin' (topped with pecan streusel and ice cream) are high-calorie foods.

Nutrition Facts for Cracker Barrel Grocery Items

In addition to the Cracker Barrel restaurant, there are also Cracker Barrel grocery items at many markets throughout the country. Their sliced deli meats and dry goods are popular.

How does the nutrition for these items stack up?

  • The Buttermilk Pancake and Baking Mix provides calories and nutrition similar to other comparable baking mixes. A single serving (1/3 cup of mix) provides 170 calories, 6 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbohydrate, and 2 grams of protein.
  • If you decide to prepare your pancakes with bacon, a single slice of fried Center Cut Cracker Barrel Bacon provides 90 calories, 9 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of protein.
  • For lunch, you might enjoy a two-ounce serving of Black Forest Ham for 60 calories or a two-ounce serving of Honey Roasted Turkey Deli Meat for 70 calories. If you make your sandwich with low-calorie toppings and bread, you can enjoy a lower calorie lunch.
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