Friday, March 16, 2012

550 Calories & Under at Applebee's

As research for the book I am writing, I tried the Garlic Sirloin off the 550 Calorie & Under Menu at Applebee's last night for dinner.  I must say it was delicious.  However, one of my clients had warned me that he didn't really buy that those entrees are actually under 550 calories.  Now I can see why.  The caramelized onions underneath the steak were really greasy, delicious, but greasy.  I would also say that 7 oz. of steak is a hefty portion for someone on a diet regimen.  Applebee's claims in their nutrition facts that their 7 oz. House Sirloin is 250 calories.  However, I looked up  7 oz. of lean broiled sirloin on, and it showed that size portion would be 373 calories. Not cool.

I have a more positive take on the sides.  As you can see from my pic, the portions of the potatoes and the portabella mushroom with creamed spinach are small.  Kudos to Applebee's on that.  I'm persuaded to believe the sides were actually low-calorie.  The potatoes tasted more like butter than herbs, but at least there wasn't a large portion.  They tasted like they had been boiled, and they were not greasy with oil.

With my client's opinion in the back of my mind I saved roughly half the steak and onions.  After looking up the facts today I am glad that I did that.  You can see some of the remaining grease on the plate.

I would also like to point out that Applebee's does post the following disclaimer on their website:

"Variations in ingredients and preparation, as well as substitutions, will increase or decrease PointsPlus™ values and any stated nutritional values, such as calories."

Taking the nutrition facts posted on the Applebee's website with a grain of salt, here are the calories on their 550 calorie and under entrees:

Great Tasting & UNDER 550 Calories™ - includes sides
Asiago Peppercorn Steak 380
Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp 500
Grilled Dijon Chicken & Portobellos 470
Roasted Garlic Sirloin 450
Sizzling Asian Shrimp & Broccoli 470
Sizzling Chili Lime Chicken 470

Applebee's also has a Weight Watchers PointsPlus™ menu which features low-calorie entrees as well.  Personally I think they should just combine the two menus and tell us both the calories and the points.  The menu at the Applebee's I went to listed 550 calorie entrees and Weight Watcher's entrees on two totally separate pages.  It probably has something to do with their agreement with Weight Watchers.  It would be nice if both menus were on one page.  Anyway, here are the calories and points on those entrees:

WEIGHT WATCHERS® includes sides

Weight Watchers® Cabernet Mushroom Sirloin 460, 12 pts.
Weight Watchers® Creamy Parmesan Chicken 470, 12 pts.
Weight Watchers® Grilled Jalapeno-Lime Shrimp 300, 8 pts.

To sum up I would definitely order the Garlic Sirloin again.  It was delicious, and I appreciate that Applebee's is trying to offer some healthier options.  The next time I will probably skip the onions altogether.  They seemed to be the source of the grease.  Now if you will excuse me, there is a leftover steak with my name on it.  Lunch?  Yes, please!


P.S.  Happy St. Patrick's Day tomorrow! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Freschetta, I want Pizza By the Slice Back!

In a previous post I said how awesome the Freschetta Pizza By the Slice was, and now they have discontinued it.  Go figure!  I sent in an inquiry to the company when I noticed it was removed from their website.  I am pleasantly surprised that someone actually did get back to me with the scoop.  For your entertainment here is the inquiry that I sent:

"What happened to the info about By the Slice on the website? Please don't tell me you have discontinued it!!! I loved the chicken, spinach, and mushroom slice. I loved that it was calorie controlled and portion controlled. I blogged about it on If it didn't sell, then please think about promoting the calorie content to make it work. I would much rather eat a big flavorful slice than try to cut myself off after one serving of a large pizza. I would also rather have a slice of your pizza than a bland lean version that leaves me feeling deprived. Sara"

I realize the fact that I bothered to write to Freschetta about their product is an indicator that I either have way too much time on my hands or that their pizza was heavenly compared to the bland low-calorie pizzas I have been eating.  I am guessing it's both.

Michelle from Freschetta was kind enough to respond back to me and inform me that my comments would be passed onto the Marketing Team.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will come out with a new line of single portion pizzas that tout the calorie content.  It seems like a no-brainer.  However, in the meantime I am not going to hold my breath. 
The best way to have a delicious, easy low-calorie pizza is to make it yourself.  There are several different ways to go about this.  For the crust I would suggest using a 100-calorie English Muffin, Pita Bread, Flat-Out Flat Bread, or a single serving frozen crust.  I like to get Cascone's pizza sauce, but if you don't have it in your city you can use Pizza Quick or Contadina pizza sauce.  It keeps for quite awhile in the fridge.   

For the toppings I like to scour the salad bar at the grocery store for fresh toppings like spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, onions, grilled chicken, artichokes, and olives.  I like to top my pizza with Hormel Turkey Pepperoni or Original Pepperoni.  Hormel Original Pepperoni is 10 calories per slice.  To eliminate some of the grease I lay the pepperoni between two paper towels on a plate and nuke it in the microwave for a 15 to 20 seconds.  Dab the grease out of the paper towels.  Limit the pepperoni to 4 -5 slices (about 50 calories).  As far as cheese I would suggest limiting yourself to 1/4 cup of 2% Mozzarella or 5-Cheese Italian Blend.  It is very important to measure the cheese, because it is too easy to go overboard. 

Depending on your time-frame/resources you can either microwave the pizza or bake it until the cheese is melted.  I recommend baking your pizza.  It always creates a crispier crust.  The oven temperature depends on the type of crust you use, but a safe bet is 350 degrees.  Keep an eye on it, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese melts.  If you want the cheese to turn a golden brown, then broil it on high for 1 minute at the very end.  Just don't walk away from the oven.  Even a matter of seconds under the broil can make a difference between golden brown and burnt.

If making your own pizza is just too much work, then the low-calorie versions from the grocer's freezer will have to suffice.  That's what I had to do today.  I was in a time crunch after writing my blog so I nuked a California Pizza Kitchen Small Margherita Pizza, 430 calories.

If you have a favorite frozen pizza or flat bread that's around 400 calories or less, then please post it to the comments.  A client told me the Archer Farms (at Target) flat bread pizzas are quite good and low-calorie friendly.  It's on my list of things to try next.

On a side note Freschetta has come out with new packaging that is more environmentally friendly, and I do applaud that.  I don't know when it will hit stores.  When it does I will check the calories.

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On-site Personal Training & Nutrition Coaching in the Kansas City metropolitan area. I offer personal training at your home or work site. I also offer personalized online nutrition plans and corporate wellness programs. Contact me at with any questions.