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You're not the only one who loves The Cheesecake Factory. Not even the Kardashians or Drake can resist the warm brown bread, creative menu, and decadent desserts.
However, you know by now that your night out at the Factory might not be the friendliest to your healthy eating goals. But it doesn't have to sabotage your plans.
Before you head out the door, check out the menu online. "It's so easy to get lost in this menu, especially if you're really hungry when you're reading it," says Anne Danahy, R.D.N. And while The Cheesecake Factory doesn't list nutritional information online, Danahy suggests searching sites like MyFitnessPal for a rough guesstimate of calories so you can make an informed choice.
Another way to sidestep a diet disaster? Stick to the SkinnyLicious and "Super" Food sections, which tend to be heavy on vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. And pay attention to how the dishes are described, says Alanna Cabrero, R.D. "Pros include roasted, steamed, fresh, and sautéed. Cons include candied, crispy, melted, and fried," she says.
Since portions tend to be more on the generous side, don't be afraid to share or to pack up your leftovers. "Focus on your hunger and fullness level during your meal, and pause occasionally to notice how you're feeling while you are eating," says Meme Inge, R.D.N.
We had four nutritionists scour the more than 250 choices on the menu and pick their top dinner options. Here are six dishes that will ensure you're not too stuffed to enjoy your cheesecake of choice at the end of the night:
1/6 Photograph courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
R.D.s loved the Almond-Crusted Salmon Salad. "This is a great choice because it's a balanced meal," says Emily Holdorf, R.D.N. It's also packed with nutrient-dense vegetables. "Kale and Brussels sprouts are especially great veggie choices because they're full of antioxidants and they're powerful cancer fighters," says Danahy.
Related: The 8 Best Things to Buy at Trader Joe's, According to Nutritionists
2/6 Photograph courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
While salads may seem like a healthy choice, they can be calorie bombs in disguise, thanks to the toppings and dressings. "Look for salads with a dark, leafy green base and lean protein, veggies, and toppings like fruit or whole grains like quinoa or brown rice," says Holdorf.
One stellar option? The Vegan Cobb Salad. Danahy says that the combination of flavors, colors, and textures will give your taste buds a surprise in every bite, not to mention a clear sign that you're getting a good dose of antioxidants. And remember: You can always ask for the dressing on the side to control how much you put on your greens. (Hit the reset button—and burn fat like crazy with The Body Clock Diet!)
3/6 Photograph courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
"You don't have to order salad to get a 'healthy' meal. Look for a dish heavy on the veggies," like the Tuscan Chicken, says Inge. The combo of lean protein and nourishing vegetables will keep you satisfied and full, she says. Plus, farro is a delicious ancient grain packed with fiber and nutrients, says Holdorf.
Related: 8 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Bread
4/6 Photograph courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
If you're looking for another salad option, try this satisfying choice—the seared tuna tataki salad. Tuna is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, "which are great for your skin, hair and nails as well as for fighting inflammation in your body," says Inge.
For more healthy dinner options, try these seven fun ways to make zoodles:
5/6 Photograph courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
"Simpler ingredients makes it easier to decipher what you are actually getting," says Cabrero. And nothing could be simpler than this entree from the SkinnyLicious® menu—grilled salmon and assorted fresh vegetables.
Related: The 7 Best Items to Purchase at Costco, According to Nutritionists
6/6 Photograph courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
Don't worry red meat lovers. We haven't forgotten about you. The Grilled Steak Medallions is a smart choice, according to Holdorf. It looks indulgent but thanks to the smaller portion sizes and sides of asparagus, mushrooms, & tomatoes, it won't leave you feeling overstuffed.