This week, Applebee’s launched three new Weight Watchers™ endorsed menu items, and I, along with a handful of other bloggers, had a chance to see how those entrees made it to the menu at Applebee’s Headquarters in Kansas City. What we learned was surprising, at least to me: for example, it takes about a year and a half for a product to make it from an idea on paper to the menu. A year and a half! On top of that, maybe 1% of the ideas the chefs start with make it to the menu.
We also got to chat with the chefs, nutritionists and dietitians who created these new items about how to eat better when dining out, as well as ways to cook delicious meals at home without sacrificing taste for nutrition. A few of my favorite take-aways:
- Use descriptions to your advantage. If it’s golden and crispy, it’s probably fried and best to be avoided.
- Salads aren’t always the healthiest choice. Many places douse their salads in sugary, high fat salad dressings that can alter caloric content significantly. Asking for salad dressing on the side instead is a great alternative.
- If you know the portions are going to be huge, either share your dish or ask for the to-go box with your meal and set half of it aside as soon as it gets to the table.
- Request that veggies, buns, or other side dishes be prepared sans butter. This is a really easy way to cut out about 100 calories.
- Keep making requests, and don’t be afraid to be picky! While I can’t speak for other restaurants, I know that Applebee’s tracks menu item modifications and considers them when they refresh their menus.
We learned that the chefs place a high priority on great ingredients, so the U550 menu incorporates lots of real, fresh ingredients like seasonal veggies, and unmodified foods. That means the cheese tastes like cheese because.. well, because it’s cheese instead of reduced-fat or lower calorie cheese. Each dish has a positive focus, which means that they’re putting in more of the “good stuff” like lean proteins and fresh vegetables, without the negatives like empty calories and unnecessary fats. This means that each dish has a lot of texture and more importantly, a lot of great flavor.
Another added bonus, especially for parents, is that Applebee’s has partnered with Kids Live Well to create better menu items for the little ones. Hurray!
But after a whole day of talking about food, we were all excited to finally try the much anticipated new Under 550 Calorie dishes (as well as the four that are already on the menu). We even got to take a tour of the test kitchen and watch the chefs prepare and plate our dishes! That said, the new Weight Watchers™ endorsed entrees are:
Grilled Jalapeno-Lime Shrimp, 8 PointsPlus value per serving
Grilled chipotle-lime shrimp and black bean corn salsa tossed with lime juice and chopped cilantro, served on a mix of zucchini, marinated tomatoes, onions, and red peppers with steamed white rice.
The fresh squeeze of lime juice adds so much dimension to this already flavor-rich entree, and while it packs a little heat, the jalapeno adds a lot to the flavor as well.
Creamy Parmesan Chicken, 12 PointsPlus value per serving
A juicy grilled chicken breast with a creamy au gratin Parmesan sauce, served with steamed spinach and mushroom rice pilaf.
As indulgent as it tastes, it’s hard to believe this dish is less than 550 calories.
Cabernet Mushroom Sirloin, 12 PointsPlus value per serving
A 7-ounce grilled House Sirloin with sautéed Portobello mushrooms and onions in a Napa Valley Cabernet sauce, served with steamed potatoes and garlic broccoli. This steak is a melt-in-your-mouth wonder, and while I’m not a big fan of potatoes, I could not get enough of these tasty little papas.
Now I must give a side note on the pictures: there is always a chef on hand when food is involved, so the pictures of dishes on the menu and in commercials are prepared with the same recipe that a guest will enjoy in-store. I even did a little side-by-side of the Sizzling Chili Lime Chicken for comparison:
And because your mouth is probably watering by now, Applebee’s is offering a giveaway so you can try the new Under 550 Calorie items yourself!
- Digital Applebee’s Gift Cards worth $25 each (5 winners)
To Enter (Leave one comment for EACH entry):
1. Tweet this message (1 entry per tweet, 30 tweets max.)
Try new Weight Watchers endorsed entrees at @Applebees. Giveaway for gift cards compliments of @Bookieboo, http://bit.ly/yHMiVs #mamavation
2. Share on Facebook (1 entry)
3. Go to Applebees.com and tell us which new entree you’re most excited to try. (1 entry)
4. Join Bookieboo.com (5 entries, new members only)
Winners will be selected by Random.org on March 21st and contacted via twitter. Please leave your twitter name in order for me to get in contact with you. If you do NOT leave your twitter name and you are selected, I will need to select another. Good luck!
Disclosure: My name is Resa Michelle. I’m a member of the Mamavation community. Applebee’s sponsored my trip to Applebee’s Headquarters in full, but they are not paying me to talk about how awesome my trip was or how delicious the food is. All opinions are completely my own. Mamavation is NOT being paid to create this post or giveaway.