Celebrity Chef Helps Find 10 of the Healthiest Restaurant Meals in the Country — and They Taste Good

Those watching what they eat might find they have a harder time sticking to a healthy diet when out at a restaurant. But celebrity Chef Robert Irvine and a nationwide gym teamed up to identify choices that won’t break your belt buckle while still pleasing your palate.

Gold’s Gym received hundreds of nominations from its members and other consumers, then sent out its nutrition experts and Irvine to test out some of the best options.

“At the end of day, as long healthy options out there, there’s no excuse for people,” Irvine, who hosts shows on the Food Network like “Restaurant Impossible,” told TheBlaze in a phone interview Wednesday.

Here are the Golden Plate Award winners:

  • Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar – Grilled Citrus Lime Sirloin (660 calories)
  • BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse – Asian Chopped Salad (520 calories)
  • California Pizza Kitchen – Quinoa and Arugula Salad (590 calories)
  • Chili’s Grill and Bar – Margarita Grilled Chicken (400 calories)
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill – Chicken Burrito Bowl with Brown Rice, Black Beans, Mild Salsa and Guacamole (720 calories)
  • Corner Bakery Café – Harvest Salad with Chicken (460 calories)
  • LongHorn Steakhouse – LongHorn Salmon (290 calories)
  • Olive Garden  – Baked Tilapia with Shrimp (360 calories)
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews – Grilled Turkey Burger Lettuce Wrap (665 calories)
  • Zoës Kitchen – Salmon Kabobs (630 calories)
Chef Robert Irvine partnered with Gold's Gym to identify the healthiest choices that also taste good at popular chain restaurants. (Bill McCay/Getty Images)
Chef Robert Irvine partnered with Gold’s Gym to identify the healthiest choices that also taste good at popular chain restaurants. (Bill McCay/Getty Images)

Of these Irvine said he tried Red Robin’s turkey burger, California Kitchen’s salad and Olive Garden’s baked tilapia.

Even when healthier options are presented on menus — something the 49-year-old chef said he thinks customers are now demanding more than ever — it can be hard to pass up some choices in favor of greasier options, thinking it might taste better. Irvine disagreed.

“At the end of the day it’s about education. Here’s an alternative, a turkey burger, that actually tastes good, if not better,” Irvine, who started off as a cook at 15 years old, said. 

He’s not saying people entirely should give up things they enjoy but consider making healthier substitutes, like choosing grilled onions instead of fried or a whole wheat bun instead of a buttered brioche. Within the last few years, Irvine said he’s seen a swing toward the use of more juices, vinegars and homemade spice rubs and sauces, instead of premade versions that could include more sugar, as well.

“It’s a lifelong passion for me to educate people not only how to cook and what to eat, but also that there are places where you can get healthy restaurant meals,” Irvine said.

As for the obesity epidemic, Irvine said he’s made it his mission to get kids into the kitchen to understand more about food and coupling that with the importance of exercise. Even Irvine, who travels hundreds of days out of the year for his shows, said he makes it a point to exercise in his hotel room every day.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Irvine said, “start a whole movement .”

“We know how difficult it can be to eat ‘clean’ when dining out and wanted to provide our members the tools to make smart choices without having to overthink it. The Golden Plate Awards does just that,” Dave Reiseman, vice president of communications for Gold’s Gym, said in a statement. “Having worked with Chef Robert Irvine before, we knew he’d be the perfect partner for this initiative. After all, there is no one that fuses fitness and healthy, delicious cooking better than Chef Irvine.”

The Golden Plate Awards come about a month after a separate organization identified some of the unhealthiest meals in America were identified.