There is something remarkably consistent about steakhouse chains. You can wander into almost any one and count on a few things: you will be able to order your choice of favorite steak, hearty sides you know and love, and will likely leave full.
What is perhaps most incredible is that even though these steakhouse staples are more or less cliché at this point, there is not one meat-and-potatoes joint that has cornered the market. Instead, it is a rather dynamic shared space, with national steakhouse chains ranging from inaccessibly expensive to affordable. There are the Smith&Wollenskys of the world, and there are the Outbacks.
The good news, for steakhouses of all price ranges? In this post-pandemic world, Americans are flocking to them. Most brands have seen an uptick in business in the last year. But before you go joining the masses, we've rounded up some health tips from dietitian Sydney Greene, MS, RD, who offered us guidance on what to order—and what to pass on.
Texas Roadhouse's Country Fried Sirloin
Per serving: 1,100 calories, 71 g fat (21 g saturated fat), 195 mg cholesterol, 2,040 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 50 g protein
You'll find the Country Fried Sirloin in the Country Dinners section of Texas Roadhouse's menu, and it is definitely the full shebang. The restaurant describes it as "Hand-battered, fresh-cut sirloin served crispy and golden, topped with cream gravy." Greene describes it as being very high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium. This is, of course, a result of the battered and fried red meat—and not to mention the gravy!
"Whether you have cardiovascular disease or are otherwise healthy, it would be wise to avoid this dish," she says. "A better option is the grilled salmon with two veggie sides."
Outback Steakhouse's 12oz. Sirloin and 1/2 Rack of Ribs
Per serving: 1,350 calories, 74 g fat (29 g saturated fat), 450 mg cholesterol, 2,100 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (1 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 140 g protein
Talk about portion control—this steakhouse specialty clocks in at more than half of the recommended average calorie amount you should consume in a day. According to Greene, the calories aren't the only cause for concern here. Red meat is known to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and then when you factor in the ribs, which are high in sodium, you're pretty much maxing out on every front.
Instead of opting for this bad boy, Greene recommends going for either the Grilled Salmon or Shrimp on the Barbie.
Longhorn Steakhouse's Maverick Ribeye Sandwich
Per serving: 1,050 calories, 62 g fat (25 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 200 mg cholesterol, 1,440 mg sodium, 60 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 63 g protein
We know that red meat can be problematic for a diet, and we know that too much bread and too many french fries don't exactly scream health either. This Maverick Ribeye combines all three.
"The sandwich alone is over 1,000 calories," Green says, "and these calories are not high quality. The dense energy in this meal comes from the ribeye cut which naturally contains more fat. In addition, the Swiss cheese, white bread, and burger sauce are sure to cause some gastrointestinal distress."
Instead, our expert recommends the Grilled Chicken and Strawberry Salad next time you're at Longhorn.
Ruth's Chris' T Bone Steak
Per serving: 1,220 calories, 91 g fat (40 g saturated fat, 4.5 g trans fat), 310 mg cholesterol, 1,390 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 99 g protein
"No one needs a 24-ounce steak for dinner," says Greene. She continues to explain that this dish contains roughly 168 grams of protein, which is way more than most healthy adults need in a day. Consuming so much protein in one meal can be hard on your kidneys, Greene explains. Plus, this steak also has a high amount of saturated fat, given that it is such a large portion of red meat.
"The better option for red meat lovers," Green says, "is the Petite Filet."
Logan's Roadhouse Full Stack of Babyback Ribs
Per serving: 920 calories, 52 g fat (18 g saturated fat), 185 mg cholesterol, 3,520 mg sodium, 59 g carbs (1 g fiber, 51 g sugar), 51 g protein
We love eating ribs as much as the next person—the entire process is fun—but that does not mean it is in any way healthy. As Greene points out, 1,800 calories is the amount that some adults are recommended to consume in an entire day.
She adds that rib sauce is usually high in sugar and sodium, and suggests opting for the 6-ounce Top Sirloin with two veggie sides instead.
Texas Roadhouse Cactus Blossom
Per serving: 1,200 calories, 135 g fat (26 g saturated fat), 185 mg cholesterol, 5,000 mg sodium, 236 g carbs (19 g fiber, 36 g sugar), 25 g protein
Texas Roadhouse's Cactus Blosson, which is the chain's answer to Outback's famous Bloomin Onion has 2,250 calories, 630 more than the appetizer from Outback. To be clear, neither of these appetizers is worth the calories or the fat. Even if you order the healthiest thing on the menu, you're sabotaging your diet with this unhealthy dish.
A previous version of this article was published in May 2022. It has been updated with new information.