Applebee's Covertly Provides Low-Carb Choice
Have you tried the new "Crispy Brick Chicken" meal from Applebee's yet?
In Episode 3 of my "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show" podcast last week, I highlighted this survey that concluded restaurants do not need to ignore the low-carb consumer because they are a growing group of customers who are beginning to frequent those restaurants who actively cater to their dietary needs when dining out. And it's true, too! Some former favorites have been crossed off our list of restaurants we frequent because they refuse to provide flexibility with their menu to make it low-carb.
Unfortunately, not every popular restaurant chain has gotten the message that low-carb living is alive and well despite the claims it no longer exists. You will recall Ruby Tuesday removed their low-carb menu before the summer not long after scrubbing their phenomenal low-carb cheesecake from their menu at the beginning of the year. It's too bad for companies like Ruby Tuesday who once led by example about how to meet the needs of the growing low-carb market. But not anymore and so low-carbers have stopped going there. That's too bad!
Applebee's banking on the star power of Chef Tyler Florence
However, I was encouraged recently when I saw a television commercial for Applebee's touting their new "Huge Flavor" menu featuring celebrity Chef Tyler Florence from The Food Network who is helping the popular mid-scale restaurant chain spruce up their menu a bit with some exciting new meals.
There was one featured item from Chef Florence's new menu in the TV ad that REALLY caught my attention--it was a plateful of chicken grilled up under open flames with a side of some leafy greens. My immediate thought was "Hey, that looks pretty low-carb!" It's important to note that there was no mention of "low-carb" in describing this meal or any of the new menu items during the commercial. Hmmmm.
Because my wife Christine absolutely adores Applebee's and Saturday was her birthday, I decided to surprise her by going there to celebrate. Not surprisingly, I just had to order the meal from the television commercial which I found out was called the "Crispy Brick Chicken." It looked so good on the television commercial and also in the picture on the menu. Would it live up to my lofty expectations?
Here's how Chef Florence describes this meal on the menu:
"I split a tender petite chicken and press it flat directly against a red-hot grill. The light marinade of rosemary, lemon and olive oil gets seared directly into the skin-it's so crisp it crackles with flavor! I complement this dish with a fresh salad tossed with grated hard boiled eggs, caramelized onions, shaved Parmesan cheese and my own warm bacon dressing."
Did you see all of those ingredients? Except for the "caramelized onions," EVERYTHING in it is VERY low-carb. As in, there's almost NO carbs in it at all! WOWsers! Could it be we have a covert attempt by Applebee's to add a low-carb menu choice without explicitly labeling it as such? It certainly seems that way!
Interestingly, this meal was originally supposed to come with spinach leaves and not just salad greens. I saw a sign at the front of the restaurant when you walk in the door that explains Applebee's no longer serves spinach on their menu because of the FDA's warning about E. coli in September. I have been concerned about the long-term fallout of that incident and it seems my worries about it are coming true despite the fact that spinach is back on supermarket shelves again. In fact, I just bought my first two bags of it again in about two months this weekend.
Nevertheless, even without the spinach leaves this meal was delicious! I dug right into the chicken itself which was juicy and moist beneath the slightly hardened chicken skin that had flavors grilled right into it. Mmmm, I was in low-carb heaven eating this! Then I tried the salad and immediately noticed it was VERY sweet. It was obvious the "caramelized onions" were cooked in sugar water. That's okay because it probably didn't have more than 5-6g sugar in it overall. But I thought I'd warn those of you who are watching your sugar intake like a hawk.
If you are diabetic or in the early stages of livin' la vida low-carb, then simply ask for these caramelized onions to be placed on the side or left off the salad completely. They are good, but you really don't need them to enjoy amazing low-carb meal. With the onions, I'd say this meal is about 8g carbs. Without them, maybe as low as 2g carbs. EXCELLENT!
My wife made an interesting observation about the meals we were served--they included NO bread! Most restaurants nowadays offer dinner bread, dinner rolls, or breadsticks. But not Applebee's. Neither one of the meals we were served came with ANY kind of bread. Is the message finally getting through that traditional bread made from white flour is not good for you? This was just another positive move in the right direction regarding our decision to go to Applebee's.
Yet, in my research for this post today, I went to the official Applebee's web site to find the nutritional information about this "Crispy Brick Chicken" meal to give you accurate numbers about the carbs especially. Unfortunately, Applebee's must be one of the few restaurant chains that DO NOT provide this to their customers. I was quite surprised that they didn't considering the move by many restaurants to make this readily available.
Here was their official response about providing nutritional info:
"We provide nutritional information on all of our Weight Watchers® items, including fat, fiber and calorie counts and Weight Watchers Points® values. We do not provide nutritional information on other Applebee's® items - with approximately 1,900 locations in the U.S. alone there are many different vendors, which makes it extremely difficult to obtain nutritional information for our items."
If you ask me, that's a total copout on being a responsible company. How can you blame multiple vendors for NOT providing nutritional information about your menu items, hmmm? Every single restaurant in America gets their food from more than one vendor, so what makes Applebee's any different? If you ask me, it's just laziness from their corporate marketing team. If they cared enough to provide this valuable information to their customers, then they would. So how about it Applebee's? Stop making excuses and start providing your customers with the information they need to live a healthy lifestyle.
Ah, yes, let's not forget about the Weight Watchers menu either. You definitely couldn't miss that at Applebee's! They had ten menu items in a section all to their own for all those people counting their "points" as they stuff their faces with low-fat, low-calorie, high-carb meals that rather conspicuously provided ZERO information about their carbohydrate content. Gee, I wonder why. That's because THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW!
In fact, when we were finished with our meal, the waitress asked if we had saved room for dessert. Although I already knew the answer to this question, I asked her if they had a sugar-free or low-carb dessert offering. She immediately chimed in with, "Well, we do have our Weight Watchers dessert!" Of course, she was referring to their "Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake" dessert approved by Weight Watchers for their dieters to eat when dining at Applebee's.
This dessert only has 4 points, but is extremely high in sugar
I respectfully replied, "I don't think that dessert is sugar-free, but thank you for offering." At closer examination of this "diet" dessert on the menu, I noticed it had 230 calories, only 3g fat, and 3g fiber. Okay, that's all well and good, but what about the carbs? Where was this information located? It was conveniently missing and for good reason.
Look at the description of this supposedly "healthy" dessert:
"This chocolate tour de scrumptious is covered in a light cream cheese glaze, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with raspberry sauce."
A white flour-based chocolate cake sweetened with sugar, no doubt, with higher carb LIGHT cream cheese also sweetened with MORE sugar, then topped with ANOTHER layer of powdered sugar, and finally finished with a sugar-based raspberry sauce. Yikeseroo! I don't know how many carbs this Weight Watchers dessert had, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was close to 50g! UGH!
Why would ANYONE trying to lose weight on WHATEVER diet program put a dessert like this in their mouth?! Oh, that's right, sugar is FAT-FREE, so it's given a pass to be placed in foods that purport to be healthy. If sugar had fat in it, though, LOOK OUT! It would be treated like the plague and universally condemned. It should be anyway, but sadly the low-fatties like to have their sugar and eat it too!
Although the dessert menu was lacking for people on the low-carb lifestyle, I was highly encouraged by the addition of the "Crispy Brick Chicken" meal to the menu at Applebee's. It's an option for low-carbers that I feel very good about recommending to you if your family wants to go out to eat there. It just goes to show you that something doesn't have to be labeled "low-carb" for it to actually be low-carb. Become your own nutritional investigator and learn to recognize a low-carb friendly menu item when you see it.
Be sure to thank Applebee's for including this new "Crispy Brick Chicken" meal on their menu and encourage them to offer more menu items that are low in carbohydrates, including a sugar-free/low-carb dessert offering, as well as the complete nutritional information about their meals by clicking here. Make your voice heard because they might just listen if enough of us contact them.
11-14-06 UPDATE: After expressing my concerns directly in an e-mail to Applebee's the other day, they were nice enough to respond to me about the carb count in their new menu item as well as other options for low-carbers:
Thank you for taking the time to write to us about low carb menu selections. We currently have nutrition information only on our Weight Watchers items which is based on calories, fat and fiber.
Although we're not able to provide complete nutritional information on every product due to variations in menus, producers and suppliers, we try our best to give our valued guests like you plenty of options when dining with us.
Each of our Applebee's servers has a "Dietary Alternative" card which lists several options for guests looking for carb-conscious menu items. These options include the Applebee's House Sirloin, Fajitas con Sizzle, Grilled Italian
Chicken Caesar Salad, Bacon Cheeseburger and our famous Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
We hope this information helps you make an informed decision the next time you visit us at your neighborhood Applebee's restaurant. I will also share your feedback with our Menu Research and Development team.
Applebee's Guest Relations
No, that didn't answer my question. I wanted to know how many carbs are in the new "Crispy Brick Chicken" meal. Was that too difficult a question to get a simple number for an answer? As for those "carb-conscious menu items," I doubt the "famous Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwich" could be considered low-carb on any planet! Oi, these people kill me with the ignorance--knowingly or otherwise. I still think it's a crying shame that they can't post their nutritional info for their customers like every other restaurant chain does. GET WITH THE PROGRAM, APPLEBEE'S!