Menu Review is where I translate the complex organic chemistry, nutritional biochemistry, and medical nutrition therapy knowledge into a practical "what to do when you end up out to dinner" guide. Let me be clear, these are not perfect meal choices for all people, and this is not medical advice. This is a guide to help you not feel lost, overwhelmed and defeated next time you step foot in a restaurant. Eating out does not have to be unhealthy, even at a place known for their decadent desserts!
I cannot think of a better place to being this journey than at the Cheesecake Factory.
You walk in through the giant doors and your gaze is immediately directed upward to the marble and gold decor making you feel as though you are entering a palace. And it is a palace of sorts, a cheesecake palace. Then, you smell that delightful, rich cheesecake that appears even more beautiful than it smells. It seems there is always a wait at the Cheesecake Factory, and it is well worth the wait. It also gives you a chance to begin to browse the extensive 17 page menu with over 200 menu items. This menu, although fantastic, feels overwhelming no matter how long you have to wait.
The food here is rich and delicious. The appetizers alone range from 260-3220 calories each. Where to even begin? How about the convenient Skinnylicious® menu? In 2011, the Cheesecake Factory developed a SkinnyLicious® menu which includes drinks under 150 calories, appetizers, small plates, and flat breads under 490 calories, and entrees and salads under 590 calories. Take note, this does not mean that ordering a drink, appetizer AND a salad off the SkinnyLicious® menu will help you be skinny! Those could add up to more than your total daily caloric needs. Choose wisely. Let the restrictions be a guide. For those of you who do not want to stop half way through the plate or have a strong dislike for left overs, choosing ONE SkinnyLicious® item from this menu may be your best bet.
If you are eying something not on this menu, you can safely assume you should save half of that for another day. Even what some may think to be healthier options are loaded full of calories: the regular Caesar salad with chicken has over 1500 calories, and the herb crusted salmon has 980 calories. Plus, an added benefit if you decide to save half for another meal is that you get to experience the goodness twice!
I recommend skipping the drinks, bread, and appetizers altogether. Order water or tea, soak in the ambiance , and enjoy your company. You just saved yourself 600 calories, and I promise, you will not feel like you missed out on anything.
SkinnyLicious® Fresh Vegetable Salad (very filling, loaded with fiber and nutrients)
Fresh Grilled Salmon (swap the mashed potatoes for a green vegetable side to add nutrients and decrease the calories and fat)
Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos
Everyone loves the dessert at the Cheesecake Factory and for good reason. You are really missing out on the sweetness of life if you abstain. No dessert choice at this restaurant is waist friendly, but do not let that scare you. The calorie amounts in the cheesecakes range from the Low Carb Original Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberries sweetened with Splenda (600 cal) to the White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheeesecake (1220 cal). Moral of the story, do not eat an entire piece of cheesecake! Pick the one that sounds the best to you. Then abide by the “3 bite rule.” The majority of enjoyment from food is experienced in the first 3 bites. So please, slow down and enjoy every last one of them. Then stop. Pass the plate along and share the goodness.
This restaurant is fantastic because it allows you an intimate social experience in an elegant setting combined with delicious food. When was your last visit to the Cheesecake Factory? What do you remember about the meal? The next time you find yourself opening the giant doors to this restaurant, remember you can enjoy your meal and leave feeling good. You will feel as though you dined in a palace, a cheesecake palace!
I hope when dining out at the Cheesecake Factory, you feel confident in your meal choices and that you can fully enjoy every bite. Bon appetit.
Nutrition from the dietitian
Blog of Abrea Nutrition.