Red Lobster Healthy Options for Athletes
Red Lobster is a popular seafood restaurant chain that athletes and sports teams frequently enjoy. It can be helpful for athletes to know healthy options on the Red Lobster menu that can support their sports nutrition needs.
Let’s take a look at tips for making nutritious choices when eating at a seafood restaurant. Then we will explore the Red Lobster menu to identify healthy options that athletes can include in their sports nutrition meal plan.
Tips for Making Healthy Choices at a Seafood Restaurant
Athletes looking for healthy options at seafood restaurants should focus on selecting a meal that provides a good source of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of lean protein, as well as healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.
Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy needed to perform at its best, while protein is important for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. Healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, supporting an athlete’s health and well-being.
Limit Fried Foods
When eating out, athletes should aim to limit their intake of fried foods. When foods are fried it increases the saturated fat content of the menu item. Saturated fat is associated with increased inflammation in the body (1).
Thus, when possible, athletes should choose appetizers, entrees, and side items that are grilled, baked, roasted, or steamed instead of items that are fried.
For example, choose shrimp cocktail over a fried shrimp appetizer, grilled fish over fried fish, or a baked potato instead of French fries.
Order the Sauce on the Side
It is common for menu items at seafood restaurants to come topped with sauces, such as lemon butter, cream sauce, or tartar sauce. It is best to request the sauce be served on the side so you can control the amount added to your meal.
Athletes should also request the salad dressing be served on the side in order to limit the amount added to the salad.
Choose Healthy Sides
Many seafood restaurants offer a variety of healthy side options that athletes can select from to accompany their meals. Look for items on the menu such as fresh steamed or grilled vegetables, side salads, baked potatoes, rice, fruit cups, or applesauce, which are all great choices.
Focus on Hydration
Hydration is important for an athlete’s health as well as sports performance. With the meal, athletes should choose a healthy beverage such as water, sparkling water, unsweet tea, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit juice.
Athletes should aim to limit their intake of sodas, lemonade, sweet tea, alcoholic beverages, and other sugar-sweetened drinks. I urge athletes to be particularly mindful of this at restaurants where the refills are unlimited.
Be Aware of Portion Sizes
Finally, when eating out, be mindful of portion sizes. Often restaurants serve large portion sizes that may exceed an athlete’s nutrition needs in a single meal. It is best to enjoy your meal in moderation and then have a healthy snack later in the day when hungry.
At seafood restaurants, the amount of protein served with the meal is often quite large. In general, athletes should aim to eat ~0.25-0.3 grams of protein per kg of body weight at each meal. This amount of protein will optimally stimulate muscle protein synthesis in the body (2, 3).
For reference, this calculates to be in the range of 20-40 grams of protein per meal (2), with larger athletes needing more protein than smaller athletes.
While athletes can consume and digest more than this amount of protein in one meal, they may be better off balancing out their meal with more carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. When large portion sizes are served, consider taking half of the entrée home to enjoy for a later meal.
Red Lobster Healthy Options for Athletes
Now that you have some general ideas for making healthy choices at seafood restaurants, let’s explore the Red Lobster menu to identify healthy options for athletes.
All the nutrition information included in this article comes from the Red Lobster® website. Menu options and nutrition information may change as products are updated. For the most current nutrition information, refer to the Red Lobster® website.
Red Lobster Healthy Starter Options
Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail
The shrimp cocktail is a great high-protein appetizer option at Red Lobster. The premium jumbo shrimp provides 23 grams of protein and only 1 gram of saturated fat.
Thus, this is a lean protein option and a healthy way for athletes to start their meal.
Red Lobster Healthy Entrée Options
The Atlantic Salmon is a nutritious, lean protein option that athletes can enjoy at Red Lobster. The meal includes a grilled Atlantic salmon fillet served with a choice of two sides.
- Grilled Atlantic Salmon: 630 calories, 64 grams protein
In addition to protein, salmon provides athletes with a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have many important roles in the body, such as supporting optimal brain health, cardiovascular function, and working to help reduce inflammation in the body (4).
Similar to the salmon, the grilled rainbow trout is a lean seafood option athletes can enjoy at Red Lobster. The trout comes served with lemon and a choice of two sides.
- Grilled Rainbow Trout: 490 calories, 67 grams protein
Grilled Shrimp Skewer
Red Lobster is known for offering shrimp prepared in a variety of ways. The grilled shrimp skewer is the healthiest shrimp option at Red Lobster, providing a nutritious source of lean protein. The shrimp skewer comes served with rice.
- Grilled Shrimp Skewer with Rice: 320 calories, 17 grams protein
Simply Grilled Sea Scallops and Shrimp Skewers
Another healthy grilled seafood option at Red Lobster is the Simply Grilled Sea Scallops and Shrimp Skewers. This is my personal favorite pick when eating at Red Lobster.
The meal includes a skewer of grilled sea scallops as well as a grilled shrimp skewer served over rice along with a choice of two sides.
- Grilled Sea Scallops and Shrimp Skewers: 410 calories, 32 grams protein
Classic 7-oz Sirloin
If an athlete desires a steak at Red Lobster, the grilled 7-oz sirloin is a high-protein choice. In general, sirloin is a leaner cut of meat, containing less saturated fat, than other cuts of steak. The sirloin at Red Lobster comes served with a choice of two sides.
- Classic 7-oz Sirloin: 260 calories, 41 grams protein
Surf and Turf
If you can’t decide between steak or seafood, consider opting for the Surf and Turf. Red Lobster’s Surf and Turf combination with a 7-oz sirloin and shrimp is a high-protein option.
- Surf & Turf: Walt’s Favorite Shrimp and 7-oz Sirloin: 520 calories, 51 grams of protein
For a healthier option, I would recommend substituting the grilled shrimp skewer instead of the fried shrimp that comes with the meal.
The Maple-Bacon Chicken is another lean protein option that athletes can enjoy at Red Lobster. The meal includes a maple-glazed chicken breast topped with bacon and is served with an athlete’s choice of two sides.
Athletes can consider ordering the chicken without bacon to decrease the saturated fat content of the entrée.
- Maple-Bacon Chicken: 570 calories, 65 grams of protein
Red Lobster Healthy Side Options
There are a variety of healthy side options that athletes can select from at Red Lobster. My top recommendations include:
- Seasoned broccoli
- Cole slaw
- House side salad*
- Orzo rice
- Baked potato*
*When ordering the side salad or the baked potato, athletes should request the salad dressing and/or potato toppings be served on the side. Limiting the amount of dressing used on the salad as well as butter and sour cream used on the potato, can help decrease the saturated fat content of the meal.
Are Red Lobsters Cheddar Bay Biscuits® Healthy?
The Cheddar Bay Biscuits® are a favorite menu item at Red Lobster. Although the biscuits provide athletes with carbohydrates, they are high in saturated fat.
- Cheddar Bay Biscuit (1 biscuit): 160 calories, 4.5 grams saturated fat
Athletes should remember moderation when enjoying the Cheddar Bay Biscuits®. In addition, athletes should be mindful not to fill up on the biscuits before the entrée arrives.
Red Lobster Healthy Catering Options for Athletic Teams
If you are in charge of planning a meal for an athletic team, Red Lobster’s catering can be a good option. They offer a variety of boxed meals as well as catering spreads that can provide athletes with a nutritious team dinner.
When planning the catering order, make sure to select from the list of healthy entrees and sides discussed above.
Red Lobster Healthy Options for Athletes
You are now set with a variety of healthy options that athletes can order at Red Lobster to support their sports nutrition needs.
For additional sports nutrition tips for dining out, check out my blog: Fast Food for Athletes: Healthy Eating Out Guide.
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About the Author
Mandy Tyler is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy has experience working with athletes at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels. She believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation.