Operating in 49 states, Applebee's offers a casual dining experience that's reasonably priced for college students and families on a budget. The real question is, are there healthy, good-for-you options? The answer is YES. 

As a former Applebee's employee myself, I spent nights working late, which meant late night meals that could keep me full of energy. Although salad is a great choice, I wanted to have a variety of exciting options to choose from.  

And as tempting as those comfort dishes like buffalo wings, loaded nachos and creamy mac n' cheese were, these menu items came with a hefty calorie count and I was not about it. I turned to some healthy options to keep myself full without feeling sluggish. Check out these lighter items during your next meal!

Sirloin, broccoli, and a baked potato

The key word here is "grilled." If you're craving meat, this 6 oz steak is the way to go. This low-calorie entrée with 33 grams of protein can be paired with a baked potato and steamed broccoli. Skip the butter, and instead use ketchup or lemon for the potato and broccoli, creating more flavor.

Thai Shrimp Salad

This seasoned shrimp salad with mixed greens, edamame and almonds is a tasty and filling option. Shrimp is rich in protein and high in vitamins and minerals, while edamame is gluten- and cholesterol-free! Cut out the crispy wontons and substitute the Thai peanut sauce for lemon to enjoy an even lighter salad with a fresh twist.

Cedar Salmon with Mustard Glaze

This 6-oz Cedar-seasoned grilled salmon with a maple mustard glaze entrée has 37 grams of protein! Salmon is a low-calorie choice that contains omega-3 fatty acids and a ton of Vitamin-B. Add roasted veggies or sautéed spinach for extra fiber, and a baked potato if you're really hungry.

Grilled Chicken Breast

Recently, Applebee's has been offering grilled options instead of fried like the grilled chicken breast  and we are lovin' it. Garlic string beans or broccoli are available as a side dish, or try splitting fries with a friend if you're feeling adventurous. Grilling is the best way to add flavor to you food without adding unwanted extras such as oil and butter.

Tomato Basil Soup

If you're feeling a bit under the weather, this soup will definitely warm you up. Have this as a snack or side dish with a salad. Only 180 calories, Applebee's tomato basil soup is super creamy and cheesy with garlic croutons and melted mozzarella cheese.  

It's important to remember that it's not always about what you eat, but controlling your portions and researching what's in your food. Over the last 50 years, food portions have risen by a substantial amount, which is why it's common to have one restaurant meal be nearly 1500 calories. 

We are consuming more than our body actually needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Although calories are an important aspect of food that we should consider, looking at the overall amount of fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and protein content in food can help lead a more productive life in the long run.