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When Dining Out, Here Are Your Healthiest Options

The Gold’s Gym Golden Plate Awards have found the healthiest items at our favorite "fast food" joints.

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Chipotle burrito bowl, In-N-Out double double or BBQ chopped salad? Who hasn’t made a pit stop at a favorite fast-food joint when in a rush?

We’re all guilty of dining out. In fact, a recent study from the National Restaurant Association shows that the average adult purchases and consumes a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times per week. The staggering number is the reason why Gold’s Gym and celebrity chef Robert Irvine partnered together to sort through hundreds of favorite fast-food meals and develop a list of healthy options for consumers. Meet: the Golden Plate Awards.

The Golden Plate Awards recognizes ten of the healthiest food choices—including appetizers, entrees and to-go options—at some of the nation’s most popular restaurant and café chains to help consumers make informed decisions about “eating clean.” Spoiler alert: the double double didn’t make the list—sigh.

“When I’m judging for the Gold’s Gym Golden Plate Awards, I really try to look at the overall nutritional value and density of each dish. For example, some dishes are low in calorie, but lack important components like fiber and protein,” says Irvine. “Or some are high in protein and fiber, but also in things like sodium, carbohydrates, sugar or saturated fats. Then of course, there’s also the taste and satisfaction of the dish. Half the challenge is creating something that is satisfying and appetizing enough to motivate people to order it over less-nutritional options.”

The final selections that combined strong nutritional value with good taste within portion were selected as the top winners.

With hundreds of nominations to determine which meals made the healthy cut—and which got chopped—Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute Expert and Chef Irvine picked the following:

  • Applebee’s – Sizzling Asian Shrimp and Broccoli
  • Boston Market – Skinless Chicken with Steamed Vegetables
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill – Steak Salad or Chicken Salad
  • Corner Bakery Café –1/2 BBLT and Mixed Green Salad Combo
  • Denny’s – Fit Slam
  • P.F. Chang’s – Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps
  • Panera – Half-Sierra Turkey Sandwich on Focaccia Bread with a Bowl of Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
  • Ruby Tuesday – Spaghetti Squash Marinara
  • Starbucks – Chicken and Hummus Bistro Box
  • Zoës Kitchen – Protein Power Plate

“Consumers are more empowered than ever before to make smart decisions about their dietary choices, thanks to technology and the ability to access nutritional information about virtually every quick service or fast casual establishment from their computer, tablet or smart phone,” expresses Irvine. “We are much more informed as a society than in years past, and that knowledge has forced the fast food industry to establish options that they can comfortably promote to the world with full disclosure of the value each item provides.”

Read more about making healthier choices when dining out:
How To Make Healthy Fast Food Swaps
Surprising Fast Food Pitfalls