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It has been over 10 years since our review of Red Lobster. Today we were going to look at their menu critically to find your healthiest choices at Red Lobster, but spoiler alert! - I can't recommend you eat there at all. Why? They don't have any nutrition information other than calories on their website.
They do, however, pat themselves on the back about their traceable, sustainable, and responsible seafood. There are pages and pages of content on their beliefs, commitments, and sourcing. The thing is, they can be as nice to the planet and our seafood supply as you would like such a company to be, but I would also expect them to be actually responsible and not ruin the product they claim to respect with gratuitous amounts of fat and salt.
Legally, chain restaurants with more than 20 locations are required only to provide the number of calories in their foods on their menus, along with the following statement:
"A 2,000 calorie-per-day diet is used for general nutritional advice, but calorie needs vary."
There is, however, no nutrition information available on their website other than calories, and availability varies by location (they do add "Nutritional content includes fixed sides, condiments and dipping sauces but not side choices, which are listed separately."). So for today's review I turned to a third party for our information - with the caveat that our choices may not be available at the Red Lobster nearest you.
Probably one of the most reliable third-party nutrition information sources is Nutritionix. When starting to evaluate menu items at chain restaurants, it is best to begin with the sodium content, and as with most chain restaurants, the amount of sodium is an outrageous problem.
The majority of the menu items at Red Lobster contain over 1,000 milligrams of sodium, but the problem is even more outrageous than that: 18 items have over 2,500 milligrams, 10 items have over 3,000 milligrams, 5 have more than 4 grams of sodium and two have over 5,000 milligrams of sodium. Five grams - that's over 2 teaspoons of salt! That's simply crazy. Would you eat a dinner with more than 2 teaspoons of salt in it?
So it is easy to beat up on them, but is there anything you can eat?
Here are two: the Live Maine Lobster (steamed, with 440 calories and 290 mg sodium) or the Wild Caught Whitefish (broiled, with 210 calories and 250 mg sodium).
That's it. There really isn't much more based on the sodium content.
If you do get caught in a Red Lobster, order the whitefish and choose two out of these three sides to go with it: the Baked Potato (210 calories, 20 mg sodium), the Coleslaw (150 calories, 190 mg sodium) or the Seasoned Fresh Broccoli (40 calories, 270 mg sodium).
In short, just don't go to Red Lobster. It makes no sense that anyone would go to this much effort to be responsible for the welfare of the fish and the fish supply, but not the welfare of their customers.
The following written nutrition information is required to be available to consumers upon their request: total calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein. The statement regarding the availability of the additional written nutrition information must be posted prominently and in a clear and conspicuous manner.
We have reached out to Red Lobster for this information and will update when we have it.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Review posted: July 6, 2020