How to Eat Healthy at IHOP, According to a Registered Dietitian
IHOP may go back and forth about whether it wants to remain known as the international house of pancakes or if burgers are their new hero food, but one label it's never claimed to be is healthy. Let's be honest: If you're going to IHOP, chances are it's because you really want a tall stack of flapjacks—or it's an ungodly hour and it's the only place around that's open.
Sometimes, you may want to go all in with that pancake order. But other times, you may want to stick to your preferred eating plan—whatever that looks like for you. Wondering how to pull that off at IHOP? Integrative and functional dietitian Nour Zibdeh, MS, RDN, CLT has it covered. Here, she shares recs on what to order if you're vegetarian, on the ketogenic diet, or gluten-free. Even if you don't follow to one of these eating plans, her picks can provide guidance on how to keep your order healthy overall.
Keep reading for tips on how to eat healthy at IHOP.
Menu picks: House salad; spinach & mushroom omelette
What an RD says: If you're vegetarian, Zibdeh says that IHOP has a lot of omelettes on their menu to choose from. Her favorite is the spinach and mushroom. "I like this one over their egg white omelette because eating the whole egg gives you more omega-3s," she says. "The spinach and mushroom omelette has both protein [48 grams, about half of what you want for the day] and fiber [4 grams of the 25 grams recommended for the day]."
However if you're vegan, the house salad is one of the few options that works—and honestly, it's a pretty dull choice. All it has is romaine, onion, and tomatoes. "Looking at IHOP's menu, they don't seem to offer tofu or edamame, but they do have avocado in some of their dishes, so I would ask the waiter to add that in," Zibdeh says. "Otherwise, it isn't going to be very filling."
Order tweaks: As Zibdeh points out, the house salad likely isn't going to be filling on its own, so ask for avocado for satiating healthy fats and pair it with a side.
Side dish recommendations: "The red potato and onion hash and fresh fruit are both good vegetarian side dish options," Zidbeh says. "You can even ask the waiter to add avocado to the potato hash and it would actually make a pretty good meal, paired with the fruit," she adds.
Menu picks: Grilled chicken and veggie salad; chicken bacon griller
What an RD says: You'd think the omelette menu would be a safe zone for keto eaters (eggs! bacon!), but Zibdeh checked out the nutritional facts for each and points out that they are all surprisingly high in carbs. Better picks, she says, are the grilled chicken and veggie salad or the chicken bacon griller. "The meat isn't exactly going to be good quality, but they they both provide good protein, and the salad has fiber, too," she says.
Order tweaks: If you go for the sandwich, Zibdeh says that the bun is of course off-limits as it's too high in carbs. "The dressing for the salad has carbs as well, so ask for it on the side to control how much you eat," she says.
Side dish recommendations: If you get the chicken bacon griller, Zibdeh recommends ordering the house salad to round out your meal and get some more veggies, but again, she says to be mindful of the dressing.
Menu picks: Grilled chicken and veggie salad; cage-free egg white veggie omelette
What an RD says: The grilled chicken and veggie salad comes out on top once again. Not only is it gluten-free, but she says it's more nutrient-rich than the other salads on the menu—the cobb salad is double the calories and the house salad lacks the same protein and healthy fats of the grilled chicken salad. "As for the omelettes, the only one IHOP marks as gluten-free is the cage-free egg white veggie omelette, which means there is either gluten in the egg batter for the others, or they are labeling the others as not being gluten-free because they are served with a side of bread," Zibdeh says. (You can check for potential gluten content on all of their menu items here.) If you have a true gluten allergy, Zibdeh says to be sure to let the waiter know, but, overall, she says the egg white veggie omelette should be a safe choice as the menu labels it as gluten-free and it's also full of protein and fiber.
Order tweaks: None needed, but Zibdeh says it's important to let the waiter know if you have a gluten allergy or are highly sensitive to ensure no cross contamination occurs.
Side dish recommendations: The house salad, red pepper and onion hash, and the fresh fruit are all winners in Zibdeh's healthy book—and gluten-free. "IHOP actually does have healthy options," she says. "You just have to get a little creative at times, especially if you're vegan or vegetarian, and go in with a plan."
For more advice on how to eat healthy while dining out, check out a dietitian's recommendations for Red Lobster and The Cheesecake Factory.
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