With 200+ menu options,Â brimming plates of pasta, and gargantuan slices of cake, the Cheesecake Factory is all about expansive hospitality.
Alas, their more-is-more philosophy extends to the nutrition profileÂ of many of the dishes. With a 2,780-calorie bruleed French toast dish, 2,410-calorie Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic, and a 1,500-calorie slice of Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake, the chain nabbed three out of nine spotsÂ on the annual Xtreme Eating Awards, a list of the unhealthiest dishes in America compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A dubious distinction, indeed.
However, even in the interest of a balanced diet, there's no need to swear off the Cheesecake Factory. With these 5 nutritionist-recommended choices, you might even have room for dessert.
If you'd like a classic salad
"I love the SkinnyLicious arugula salad or the beet and goat cheese cheese salad. Also, never be afraid to customize by asking for less cheese or dressing on the side."
If you want a juicy burger
"I usually snag a turkey burger from the SkinnyLicious menu, but I ditchÂ the bun and have it on top of greens instead."
If you're craving something Southwestern
"At Cheesecake Factory, I order a modified dish: I ask for the Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad, but IÂ skip theÂ crispy tortilla, chicken, sour cream, avocado cream and dressing. Instead, I add extra black beansÂ and a dollop ofÂ guacamoleâalong with the salsa, itÂ serves as dressing."
âCynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Healthâs contributing nutrition editor
If you like to customize
"Definitely try to stick with the appetizers or small plates sections, as entrees here tend to be very large (or take half home for the next day). At lunch, though, I particularly like to create an omelet with mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and avocado. Yum!"
If you like having options
"I don't have a specific selection, but in general, opt for aÂ veggie-rich choice â several salads on the SkinnyLicious menu work â but ask for the dressing on the side so you are in control of the calories."