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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews: Eating Healthy at Chain Restaurants

Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday Logo

A few years ago Ruby Tuesday tried some healthy items on their menu. This was in response to surveys they had commissioned that concluded their customers wanted healthier options. The results were pretty dismal. When presented with the healthier option on the menu, people simply didn’t order the dishes.

There’s no doubt that when presented with eating healthier food, perception is everything. I’ve reported on a lot of studies (including some very elegant ones from researchers such as Brian Wansink and Barbara Rolls) that show how our perceptions of particular foods can have an effect on what we choose to eat.

Now, I would argue that restaurants should simply make their recipes better for you and just not say anything. I believe that people would actually like their food better. In an effort to expand our offerings of reviews here at Dr. Gourmet, we recently had a tasting session at Ruby Tuesday and the following are what we think are your best tasting, healthiest choices to make on the next trip you take to Ruby Tuesday. Read them all: The best is the last menu option.

Meal Option # 1

1/2 serving Fresh Avocado Quesadilla with a salad bar. If you are with someone, they can eat the other half of the quesadilla or you can take the second half home for dinner the next night. This was pretty good but a bit bland. The salsa was almost as bland as the quesadilla - more like chunky ketchup with some hot sauce in it - but overall not a bad meal at 340 calories for the half serving.

Salad Dressing Options

Olive oil and vinegar. The olive oil was pretty good -- better than I would have expected for a chain. A fresh and fruity flavor this would be my first choice.

The Balsamic Vinaigrette was the second best of the choices and only 35 calories per serving. A fairly bright dressing but a little bit oversweet for a vinaigrette.

Light Ranch at 55 calories for a couple of tablespoons was not bad. A bit sweet but fairly good texture.

I didn’t get to try the Fresh Avocado Ranch because it wasn’t available, but it’s only 59 calories per serving. Keep in mind that one of their scoops is a serving.

Dead last was the Italian. Awful. Don’t use it on your salad. Far to sweet with a soapy aftertaste.

Menu Option #2

The White Bean Chicken Chili was a pretty good bowl of chili - and it’s only 223 calories. A lot of flavor, filling and a ton of white beans. Combine this with a salad bar (watch those dressings) and you’re good to go.

Menu Option #3

The Asian Dumplings on the Appetizer menu are an OK choice. A half serving is only 220 calories and would work well with a salad bar. This dish reinforces the restaurant rule that you should request all sauces on the side. There was just way too much. The peanut sauce is OK, and while 2 tablespoons is 66 calories, you just don’t need much since it’s so flavorful.

Menu Option #4

The Asian Glazed Salmon is pretty good, but mine came saturated in the glaze. Order the sauce on the side and you would have a pretty good piece of fish. It’s served with brown rice. Wow! Brown rice! We have come a long way. The problem is that there’s cheddar cheese on top of the rice that is completely unnecessary. Have them hold this and with the broccoli the whole meal won’t be too bad at around 550 calories.

Menu Option #5

The Petite Sirloin is your best choice. Yep. The seven ounce filet comes in at only 206 calories. It was lean and tasty and cooked pretty well. Thank goodness the sauce came on the side because it is just plain terrible. This is served with steamed broccoli. Have the baked potato and use some sour cream only and you're good to go. Even better, instead of that baked potato, ask for the brown rice pilaf without the cheese!

Note that there are NO chicken dishes on this list. This is a perfect example of where the chicken is just too over done with sauces and extras in the recipe-- not to mention that they serve 10 ounce chicken breasts! That’s two and a half servings. A half serving of the Chicken Fresco might be an OK choice if you don’t like the other meal options.

The entrees come with brown toast that tastes OK, but there’s already a starch on the plate. It would be a fine alternative if you don’t like rice or potatoes.

Review posted: January, 2008