- The Cheesecake Factory is known for its huge portions and rich dessert.
- But you can also order healthy items there.
- We asked nutritionists and dietitians what they order to find some of the healthiest options.
- Foods from the Skinnylicious menu made the cut, as did cheesecake.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
While The Cheesecake Factory is obviously famous for its cheesecakes, with more than 30 options, including surprising flavours, seasonal selections, and limited-edition offerings, fans also love the chain’s massive menu.
Still, with large portions and the allure of a slice of cheesecake at the end, many people wonder if there are lighter, less filling options to enjoy without feeling stuffed and uncomfortable the next day.
INSIDER spoke with 10 dietitians and nutritionists and they told us what they order when dining at the California-based chain, and their answers ranged from tacos to a veggie burger and beyond.
One registered dietitian prefers lower sodium options from the SkinnyLicious menu.
The chain offers a full range of lighter fare called the SkinnyLicious menu, and many of the experts we spoke to recommend ordering from it if you’re conscious of different dietary guidelines without sacrificing on taste or portion size.
Rebecca Stib, registered dietitian and founder of dietitian thyme, begins her meal with a “small salad rich in veggies,” telling INSIDER, “My favourite is the Greek salad, but I also enjoy the little house salad on the small plates menu.”
She added, “For the main meal, I’ll order anything off the SkinnyLicious menu only because it’s a lot lower in sodium (salt).
Another dietitian and certified diabetes educator enjoyed the white chicken chilli.
North Carolina-based registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Julie Cunningham, MPH, RD, LDN, CDE said she was recently at a conference out of town and ended up at The Cheesecake Factory with friends after not having been for several years.
She opted for the white chicken chilli, one of the lower-calorie options on the main menu, and took a slice of the fresh strawberry cheesecake back to her hotel, but said that she was too full to eat it.
Opt for the chicken lettuce wrap tacos as loved by one dietitian and assistant professor of nutritional services.
“I love the chicken lettuce wrap tacos at The Cheesecake Factory,” said Allison Childress, Ph.D., RDN, CSSD, LD, a registered and licensed dietitian and assistant professor of nutritional services at Texas Tech University.
“You can choose an Asian or Mexican version and they are accompanied by several delicious sauces. I like this particular dish because it is low calorie, fresh, and uses whole food ingredients. Plus at less than 500 calories I can enjoy a shared slice of cheesecake for dessert.”
One registered dietitian nutritionist praises the chain’s salads, which are far from skimpy.
Ordering a salad at The Cheesecake Factory doesn’t mean you’re getting a bowl of lettuce and meager toppings, said Megan Denos, RDN, a clinical dietitian.
“If you’re trying to choose a healthy option at the Cheesecake Factory, the SkinnyLicious Menu is full of fabulous choices,” she told us. “My personal go-to is the SkinnyLicious Factory Chopped Salad. Not only is it delicious, but they give you a nice, large portion, and with the protein-packed chicken, fibre-rich veggies, and healthy fats from avocados, you definitely won’t leave feeling hungry. When I order this, I’m always satisfied and I don’t feel like I ordered from the ‘diet’ menu.”
This nutrition specialist also loves one of the menu’s signature salads.
“I would order the Wellness salad first,” said Dr. Jason Piken, a New York-based chiropractor, certified nutrition specialist and health coach. “It has everything you need for a healthy meal. Dark leafy greens for detox support, healthy fats found in avocados, almonds and sunflower seeds, onions for the immune system, and some fruit to make it taste great.”He added, “If I was really hungry, I could add in the Jamaican Black Pepper Shrimp for some extra protein. I would think about leaving out the white rice though.”
There’s another vote for the SkinnyLicious soft tacos, subbing the side of rice for veggies.
“I would choose the SkinnyLicious soft tacos,” says Stacey Bala, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and certified health coach and owner of Oak City Nutrition, LLC.
She said, “I love tacos. And with vegetables on the side instead of rice, it’s an excellent source of fibre with over 10g for the whole plate! Not only is this dish filling but it’s adequately portioned too.”
One dietitian with a sweet tooth would skip the appetizers in favour of a slice of cheesecake.
Even the most health-conscious can hardly deny the allure of those fabulous cheesecake offerings. New York-based dietitian Shana Spence, MS, RDN, CDN, told us, “I always try to share dishes whenever possible because the portions are so huge. I personally have a sweet tooth so I would forgo the appetizer and have dessert instead. I always say choose between the appetizer or the dessert.”She added, “I would order the grilled turkey burger without any mayo or sauces. Always ask for those on the side so you can put those on yourself. I love a good burger and I usually try to opt for turkey because the meat is leaner. Also, I love mushrooms which it comes with as well as grilled onions, lettuce, and tomato. It also comes on a whole wheat bun which is great for added fibre. And because it’s most likely a treat I would go with the fries.””As for dessert, no matter what you order, share always! Because it’s The Cheesecake Factory, I would get a slice of cheesecake,” she said, adding, that “there are definitely lighter items on the menu … such as the bowl of fresh strawberries with whipped cream. But I really don’t see any reason to not indulge once in a while. It’s a treat, not deprivation.”
Another registered dietitian has varied options for those looking for something a bit lighter.
“Whenever I eat out, I know that most entrees are going to be high in saturated fat, sodium, or sugar,” said Ysabel Montemayor, the lead registered dietitian at the meal delivery service Fresh n’ Lean. She added, “I think it is ok to enjoy those meals every now and then and that they can be part of a balanced diet.”
She offered up several delicious and nutritious menu items for diners to choose from. She likes the almond-crusted salmon salad, telling us that “although this meal’s sodium and sugar is a bit high, it is packed with a variety of nutritious, fibre-rich ingredients.”
Montemayor also loves the SkinnyLicious grilled salmon, telling INSIDER that “if you’re looking for a simple and basic meal, this one is a good option. It provides a serving of grilled salmon and assorted veggies, which will provide a good amount of protein, healthy fats, and carbs, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals.”
Another fan favourite, the Tuscan chicken “provides a generous amount of protein from the chicken, without being high in saturated fat,” said Montemayor. “The vegetables and farro also add a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. This meal would be a good option for those who need to control their blood sugar because it is low in sugar and overall carbohydrates.”
Her personal favourite, though, is the grilled fish tacos. “I personally am a fan of fish tacos in general, and this entree comes with a variety of delicious toppings and sides such as avocados, rice, and beans. Although it is a bit high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar, I know that this dish is something I will really enjoy. Plus, it is still packed with healthy fats, fibre, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.”
One dietitian, who cites The Cheesecake Factory as one of her favourite restaurants, has two favourites depending on her appetite.
Chesney Blue, MPH, RDN in private practice and community nutrition, told INSIDER that the chain has been one of her favourite places to enjoy a meal since her college years, telling us, “My go-to meal when meeting up with colleagues or my besties is their grilled steak medallions dish that has asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, and tomatoes. It is very filling with the right amount of protein from the steak and loaded with nutrients such as fibre, vitamin C, potassium and folate (asparagus).”
She added, “If I want to indulge I order off of the regular menu and get the Jamaican Black Pepper Chicken and Shrimp dish and only eat half and take the other half home for lunch the next day. You can sub out the white rice with brown rice for more fibre and it’s filled with nutrients from the black beans and pineapples served with it.”
A vegetarian registered dietitian nutritionist praises the chain’s SkinnyLicious veggie burger.
“I would order the Skinnylicious veggie burger,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Katie Chapman. “I would also substitute lettuce for the bun and guacamole for the mayo. As a vegetarian, I tend to have less choices when eating out and may end up with something that doesn’t fill in all my nutrition needs. This provides a wonderful balance of nutrients – with some protein of the black beans, extra punch of vegetables with the lettuce ‘bun,’ carbohydrates of rice and farro and a healthy fat – guacamole.”
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