The Absolute Healthiest Dishes You Can Eat The Cheesecake Factory

In 2010, The Cheesecake Factory was voted "worst family restaurant" by Men's Health's Clint Carter, who said that "no restaurant chain exemplifies America's portion problem more than Cheesecake Factory." It used to be that the average meal would fulfill nearly all of your calorie requirements for the day, and that was before you had a chance to order dessert. But, a lot of things have changed since then. In fact, David Zinczenko, co-author of the book "Eat This Not That," acknowledged its less-than-healthy past, but called the newly revised menu a "really a smart business decision."

Going out to eat at The Cheesecake Factory no longer means that you need to let go of your healthy eating habits for the day. You can absolutely eat a nourishing, healthy, and balanced diet there, as long as you know what to look for. With its long menu and a wide variety of dishes, The Cheesecake Factory offers more than just sweets, from appetizers to salads and main meals, and yes, also desserts.

Healthiest Salads - SkinnyLicious Asian Chicken Salad

Salads have a reputation of being healthy, but at restaurants, you never know what you're going to get, from cheap refined oils which can increase your risk of obesity according to a 2017 study published in the journal Missouri Medicine, to added sugars, or even just an unexpected amount of calories.

If you're looking for a healthy salad choice, you can feel confident ordering the Asian Chicken Salad from the Cheesecake Factory's SkinnyLicious line. With less than 600 calories and a whopping 43 grams of protein, and nearly half of your fiber requirement, the Asian Chicken Salad is a perfectly acceptable choice for lunch or dinner.

According to the Cheesecake Factory menu, you will be served a wholesome plate of grilled chicken, romaine, carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, rice noodles, wontons, almonds and sesame seeds, with the SkinnyLicious® sesame-soy dressing. Need to lower the fat and salt content? Ask for the dressing on the side, and only use part of it, and consider skipping the wontons.

Healthiest Salads - Factory Chopped Salad

All of the Cheesecake Factory's SkinnyLicious line salads are healthy choices, being under 590 calories, but a simple tossed green salad can leave you envious of your dinner mates' orders. If you're craving flavor, one of your best choices has to be the Factory Chopped Salad. According to the restaurant's menu, the salad comes with "a delicious blend of julienne romaine, grilled chicken, tomato, avocado, corn, bacon, blue cheese, and apple, with (their) SkinnyLicious vinaigrette." 

Normally, bacon and blue cheese aren't what comes to mind when one thinks of diet food, but their addition to an otherwise vegetable-heavy salad doesn't tip the scale too far, as the calorie count is below 530, with a healthy 35 grams of protein. If you want to lower the calorie and fat count even lower, ask for the dressing on the side, and only use part of it. Be sure to select this menu item from the SkinnyLicious line, as the regular Factory Chopped Salad clocks in at 780 calories for exactly the same amount of protein.

Healthiest Appetizers - Grilled Artichokes

It's not every day that you can order grilled artichokes in restaurants. It is a shame because artichokes are an exceptionally healthy food with a myriad of benefits. A 2018 study published in Pharmaceutical Research found that the humble artichoke showed a lot of promise in lowering cholesterol levels naturally, and "convincing evidence on its health benefits." And, a 2021 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that artichokes can potentially lower blood pressure levels in hypertensive patients.

But there's a catch. The garlic dip that comes with it is where nearly all of the fats and calories hide. Instead of ordering the Grilled Artichokes with their dipping sauce, ask for a freshly cut lemon or some lemon juice instead. The citrusy touch will highlight the natural flavor of the artichoke without drowning it in refined vegetable oils and other diet-destroying ingredients.

If you must have the garlic dip, try diluting it in a little water, and drizzling just a portion of it on the artichokes.

Healthiest Small Plates - Beet and Avocado Salad

With less than 300 calories and only 12 grams of fat, the Beet and Avocado Salad from the Cheesecake Factory's Small Plates section is a palate-pleasing choice that won't throw your diet off track. And what's not to like about glazed beets, avocado, fresh orange, and arugula?

While not in the nutritional breakdown, the Cheesecake Factory Beet and Avocado Salad also packs a nutritional punch in a small plate. According to registered dietitian Camille Skoda, "Beets (are) one of very few fruits or vegetables that have that deep red-purple color, which provides a different set of nutrients and antioxidants than you'll get from produce of other colors."

When ordering, be sure to ask for the honey-yogurt sauce on the side. While the salad itself isn't high in calories, you can make it even healthier by only using part of the dressing, giving you the option to order another dish and still stay within your caloric requirements.

Healthiest Main Meals - Filet Mignon

Protein is one of your best allies in your healthy eating journey, as it provides nutrition while also keeping you full for long periods of time. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition from 2012 which studied the role of dietary protein and its role in weight loss and health found that "dietary protein contributes to the treatment of obesity and the metabolic syndrome" and prevents "a weight cycling effect." For this reason, the Cheesecake Factory Filet Mignon is a great choice, with only 860 calories and a powerful 73 grams of protein.

Described as their "most tender steak," the Filet Mignon comes with mashed potatoes and green beans. Because the mashed potatoes alone have almost 500 calories for 25 grams of fat, ask for a different side instead. The green beans provide a modest 150 grams of calories. Other choices include the broccoli with 280 calories, and asparagus with only 120 calories.

Healthiest Main Meals - Fresh Grilled Salmon

The Fresh Grilled Salmon is the go-to option for seafood lovers. While not very low in calories at 940 calories, it still comes with 50 grams of protein which are sure to keep you full for a long time. If you plan on getting the salmon, simply adjust your other meals of the day to stay within your diet parameters.

Remember that healthy eating is not just about counting calories, but also about getting quality nutrition and not feeling hungry all day, which would eventually derail your efforts. Salmon is high in omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown in many studies to provide immense health benefits. A 2012 study in Advances in Nutrition reported that they "have been linked to promising results in prevention, weight management, and cognitive function" and "beneficial effects on depression" according to a 2019 study from Translational Psychiatry.

While The Cheesecake Factory's Grilled Salmon is a healthy option, remember to skip the buttery potatoes and opt instead for simple asparagus or green beans for a low carb meal that will keep you full.

Healthiest Main Meals - Grilled Steak Medallions

In general, a small portion of protein with vegetables as a side dish is a good low carb, high protein, and healthy option for lunch or dinner. The Cheesecake Factory's SkinnyLicious line makes picking a healthy meal even easier. According to their menu, the Grilled Steak Medallions from their Skinnylicious line are served with fresh asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, sauteed cherry tomatoes, crusted croutons, mashed potatoes, and a Madeira wine sauce. With only 440 calories and 45 grams of protein, but just under 20 grams of fat, the Grilled Steak Medallions are a great low-calorie option.

Make it low carb by asking them to remove the crusted croutons and mashed potatoes, and replace them with extra veggies. While the meal itself isn't high in either calories or carbohydrates, lowering both can allow you to order an additional side dish, like one of the healthy salads, or even a bowl of fruit for dessert (or a bite of someone's cheesecake!)

The Cheesecake Factory's Healthiest Kids Options

According to the CDC, childhood obesity is a major problem in our country that's contributing to poor health in adolescents and putting them at risk for serious illnesses. While we do not recommend a low fat and low calorie diet for children, and having a restaurant meal every once in a while can be part of an otherwise healthy diet, it is still a good idea to select menu items that are low in refined oils and excessive amounts of processed foods.

Just like their parents, children can enjoy a portion of grilled chicken or grilled salmon, just in a smaller portion size. As for sides, The Cheesecake Factory offers several options that will appeal to little ones, including green beans, fresh corn, sauteed spinach, and grilled asparagus. If your children insist on having healthy carbs, the restaurant chain offers a choice of steamed white or brown rice. With a bit of experimentation, it is possible to feed your children a healthy, protein-packed, nourishing meal while also having fun dining out as a family.

The Cheesecake Factory's low carb and keto options

If you follow a keto diet that's low in carbs, you can still eat the way that makes you feel best at The Cheesecake Factory. The only obstacle is resisting the dishes that don't fit within your dietary requirements. For Paleo dieters, be sure to check for cheese if you do not consume dairy, and skip the salads which come with dressings that are not Paleo-friendly.

Keto dieters aim to keep their carbohydrate intake below 50 grams per day. This means that, based on the Cheesecake Factory Nutritional Guide, you can enjoy the Stuffed Mushrooms, the Crispy Crab Bites, and the Buffalo Wings as your appetizers. For your main meal, you can order the Pan Seared Branzino, Grilled Steak Medallions (without the sides), the SkinnyLicious Tuscan Chicken, the Farm Fresh Eggs (plain, with bacon, or with ham), any of the omelets with vegetables (skip any breads or added carbohydrates), and the SkinnyLicious Grilled Salmon. Any of these choices will keep you well below the 50 grams limit, as long as you do not add more dishes. And of course, be sure to skip all of the desserts except for the bowl of fresh strawberries, which only has 26 grams of carbohydrates.

Healthiest Desserts - Bowl of Fresh Strawberries

Can you have dessert at the Cheesecake Factory? Yes, you can. Unfortunately, that does not include actual cheesecakes, but the restaurant chain does offer fresh strawberries for a sweet end to your meal. The Kids' Strawberries contain 180 calories compared to the adult-sized Bowl of Fresh Strawberries which contains 250 calories. For a healthier version, skip the whipped cream on the side.

You can also follow the European example of ending your meal with a cup of coffee. The cafe, cafe cortado, double espresso, freshly brewed coffee and cold brew coffee all are very low in calories. Other than that, all the other dessert options usually boast over 1,000 calories, which is half of the average person's daily requirements. If eating at the Cheesecake Factory, remember to focus less on the cheesecakes themselves, and more on the variety of healthy menu items that the restaurant chain offers. You can still have an enjoyable and filling meal and enjoy spending time out with friends, without the stress of deviating from your diet.

How to hack The Cheesecake Factory menu and make It healthier

If you don't feel like researching the menu to find out which meals are healthiest, look for the following parameters. A main meal composed of protein (like a grilled steak or fish) with simple vegetables will generally fit the bill. Try the Cheesecake Factory's Grilled Salmon, Steak Medallions, or Filet Mignon, with any of the lower-calorie vegetables like the asparagus, the broccoli, or the green beans, which are all under 300 calories.

If you feel like having a salad, or if meat and fish aren't an option, look for salads in the SkinnyLicious line, or ask for dressing on the side. You can also ask to remove the usual offenders like croutons, sour cream, bacon, and cheese. The Asian Chicken Salad and Factory Chopped Salad are good options, as are the Grilled Artichoke and Beet and Avocado Salad. Stay away from menu items that are deep fried or come with creamy sauces (or both!)