T.G.I. Friday's Survival Guide!

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Heading to T.G.I. Friday's? You NEED this survival guide! You probably know that giant burgers and loaded potato skins aren't exactly light, so we're focusing on the truly shocking SKIPS... and the truly crave-worthy PICKS!

  A Word About...

Cocktails - Places like Friday's seem to pride themselves on their oversized fruity cocktails, which can pack in MAJOR calories. Ignore the specialty drinks, and order with a little help from our Happy Hour Survival Guide. The one exception on the Friday's menu? The Skinny Blackberry Margarita, with 130 calories! Nice...

The "Right Portion, Right Price" Label - This means that a menu item has under 750 calories. Kind of a high calorie cap, especially since it says nothing of the fat content. Case in point? The RPRP Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad with Caesar Vinaigrette has 46g fat. Bottom line: Allow the label to steer you in the right direction, but check the full stats for a more complete picture.

Salad Dressings - In general, the dressings here are rather frightening: 210 - 320 calories and 22 - 34g fat! The exceptions are the Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (80 calories, 3g fat, and, in a distant second place, the Caesar Vinaigrette (120 calories, 12g fat). Just don't confuse the Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette with the standard Balsamic Vinaigrette, which has 300 calories and 31g fat.

Desserts - Some of them are available in both individual and shareable sizes, but know this: Even the single-serve desserts have ginormous calorie counts. Your best bet if you must order dessert? A scoop of orange sherbet from the kids' menu, with 150 fat-free calories. A better bet? Head home for a guilt-free treat... or stash a VitaTop in your purse (or murse, for the fellas)!

Sodium - The sodium counts are pretty high across the board here (and for most chain-restaurant meals). If excess sodium is a concern, you may want to avoid dining out at chain restaurants as much as possible.

  Meal-Starter Mania!

PICK IT! Spinach Florentine Flatbread
1 order: 540 calories, 30g fat, 1,000mg sodium, 49g carbs, 3g fiber, sugars n.a., 17g protein 

When it comes to a shareable starter, this crispy oven-baked flatbread isn't a bad option. Just remember to share...

SKIP IT! Classic Mediterranean Hummus
1 order: 1,020 calories, 43g fat, 1,870mg sodium, 134g carbs, 9g fiber, sugars n.a., 26g protein 

Here's an item with a bit of a health halo around it. ALAS! This hummus 'n pita app has almost as many calories as the White Cheddar Spicy Beef Queso with tostada chips. Yikes! This dish may very well be the shocker of the century...

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PICK IT! Soup of the Day: Chicken Noodle
1 order: 250 calories, 7g fat, 1,240mg sodium, 33g carbs, 2g fiber, sugars n.a., 15g protein 

These stats aren't super impressive for broth-based soup, but this is the best pick if you're in the mood for soup at Friday's. And you know what they say about starting your meal with broth-based soup. (You don't? They say you'll take in fewer calories overall!)

SKIP IT! Soup of the Day: Tomato Basil
1 order: 300 calories, 24g fat, 1,920mg sodium, 20g carbs, 4g fiber, sugars n.a., 5g protein 

That's a whole lotta fat for a tomato-based soup. It's not as bad as the New England Clam Chowder, of course, which has 500 calories and 30g fat. But we felt it warranted a warning. Slurp smart!

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PICK IT! Friday's House Salad with Bread Stick (without dressing)
1 order without dressing: 210 calories, 7g fat, 280mg sodium, 30g carbs, 4g fiber, sugars n.a., 8g protein 

Don't get us started on the fact that the bread stick stats aren't listed separately, preventing us from savvy subtraction. But it's safe to say that if you skip the stick, your salad will have considerably fewer calories, carbs, and fat grams. When it comes to dressing, go for the aforementioned Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette. Or just add a spritz of lemon or a few spoonfuls of salsa!

SKIP IT! Classic Wedge Salad
1 order: 620 calories, 59g fat, 1,140mg sodium, 12g carbs, 3g fiber, sugars n.a., 13g protein 

Nearly 60g fat? More than 600 calories? NO. That's a BAD salad! Go back to the kitchen and think about what you did, you silly cheese-and-bacon-topped wedge of lettuce.

  Main Meals & EntrĂ©es

PICK IT! Dragonfire Chicken
1 entrée: 670 calories, 15g fat, 2,160mg sodium, 99g carbs, 6g fiber, sugars n.a., 40g protein 

Yum! This chicken dish is A-OK by us. The Kung Pao sauce gives it some kick, while the fruity salsa cools things down. Pssst... We've been known to order it without rice and with double broccoli!

SKIP IT! Hibachi Chicken Skewers
1 entrée: 1,330 calories, 41g fat, 4,760mg sodium, 187g carbs, 8g fiber, sugars n.a., 56g protein 

Now this just makes us mad. It's so deceptive! The kebabs are marinated in soy sauce, grilled, and basted with miso glaze. They're served with the same rice as the Dragonfire Chicken, plus fresh veggies and some pita bread. This all sounds so innocent. WHAT GIVES?

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PICK IT! 6 oz. Sirloin (without sides)
1 entrée without sides: 370 calories, 24g fat, 1,450mg sodium, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, sugars n.a., 38g protein  

In case you haven't heard, a nice petite sirloin is generally a good choice at most restaurants! Ask the server to skip the butter, and you'll save some fat and calories. Then choose from the smart side dishes listed below!

SKIP IT! Sedona Black Bean Burger
1 order: 1,160 calories, 71g fat, 3,400mg sodium, 103g carbs, 16g fiber, sugars n.a., 33g protein 

One would think a meatless burger would be the best of the burger bunch. No such luck. This bean-patty offering has more calories than the Cheeseburger and just as much fat!

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PICK IT! Balsamic-Glazed Chicken Caesar Salad
1 salad: 490 calories, 26g fat, 1,960mg sodium, 25g carbs, 5g fiber, sugars n.a., 40g protein 

The salads on this menu can be downright scary (see the next item in this email for proof). However, this is a totally reasonable option. To slim down the fat count, swap the Caesar Vinaigrette for the Low-Fat Balsamic. Even better!

SKIP IT! Chipotle Yucatan Chicken Salad
1 salad: 850 calories, 59g fat, 1,950mg sodium, 46g carbs, 10g fiber, sugars n.a., 38g protein 

Way to put the YUCK in Yucatan. We expect numbers like these from fried-chicken salads, but not a roasted-chicken selection. Avocado, multiple cheeses, tostadas, a fatty dressing, and a creamy topping are the culprits. So not worth it...

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PICK IT! Jack Daniel's Chicken & Shrimp (without sides)
1 entrée without sides: 570 calories, 11g fat, 2,630mg sodium, 77g carbs, 3g fiber, sugars n.a., 44g protein 

Craving that sweet Jack Daniel's sauce? It's not off-limits! Here's a great way to get it. Just be smart about the sides. Steak fries and mashed potatoes would sink this ship FAST. And yes, we KNOW the sodium is very high, but it's nothing compared to the next meal on this list...

SKIP IT! Jack Daniel's Ribs & Shrimp (without sides)
1 entrée without sides: 1,770 calories, 80g fat, 4,220mg sodium, 176g carbs, 6g fiber, sugars n.a., 89g protein 

What a difference a protein makes! Lean shrimp can't save this calorie catastrophe. We're too afraid to even begin calculating the stats with the addition of side dishes. Skip it, skip it, skip it!

  The Side Dish Rundown... Choose Responsibly!

The Good:
Broccoli: 50 calories, 0.5g fat 
Tomato Mozzarella Salad: 90 calories, 6g fat 
Fresh Vegetable Medley: 110 calories, 9g fat 
Ginger-Lime Slaw: 120 calories, 10g fat 

The Bad & The Ugly:
Mashed Potatoes: 210 calories, 10g fat 
Seasoned Fries: 290 calories, 22g fat 
Sweet Potato Fries: 390 calories, 20g fat 
Jasmine Rice Pilaf: 420 calories, 11g fat 
Parmesan Steak Fries: 660 calories, 49g fat 

  Swap-a-rama Time!

Re-create decadent T.G.I. Friday's dishes with HG recipes! We've made over the Loaded Potato Skins, the Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad, and the Sedona Black Bean Burger. And our Sweet 'n Salted Caramel Cake Mug is a perfect substitute for the Salted Caramel Cake at Friday's!


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