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The Bariatric Foodie Survival Guide to Denny’s

Ah Denny’s…great American slinger o’ pancakes! What have you to offer me, the surgically altered, health conscious, slightly carb-phobic post-op???

You’d be surprised.

Denny’s has come up a bit in the world from its roots as a culturally insensitive greasy spoon. I can say that I eat there at least once every two months (and if the divas had it their way, it’d be once every two days).

So here’s our peek at Denny’s: what to order, what to avoid and what to convince your spouse to get so you can have approximately one bite of it!


This is the foundation of the Denny’s menu and there are a lot of choices. Many of them are not very good. Some look ok from a protein perspective (like steak and eggs for example) until you look at how they are cooked (in copious amounts of butter and oil).

So what’s a post-op to do? Well…first you have to get a bit high maintenance. Denny’s does have “Fit Fare” choices on the menu, but I find it’s often stuff I don’t like very much, so I err on the side of ordering something from the traditional menu and swapping some things out. You go with what feels right for you. Here’s some favorites of mine.

Senior Omelette w/ egg whites, chicken sausage and veggies

I don’t know why folks think the senior portion needs to be smaller. In my family, the older you are, the more you tend to eat. But I digress. This omelet is made with two eggs instead of there (although the regular omelet seems like it is made out of six). I get egg whites because they stopped offering egg substitute. At home I make my omelet with one egg white + one whole egg (I like my omelet to be yellow) but try that in Denny’s and…you’re never quite sure if you are getting all the eggs or what you asked for.

Senior Grand Slam

I get this and make some modifications. I usually ask for fruit instead of toast (and extra points if they have melon, which I like very much), or cottage cheese (which I gladly pay extra for). I get my eggs either as egg whites that are scrambled in cooking spray (and I ask specifically for cooking spray) or over medium (I am not fat-phobic…just a moderator). I usually ask for turkey bacon (I’ve all but forgotten the taste of pork bacon…I think I’m going to keep myself weaned) and/or chicken sausage. The chicken sausage is about 80 calories less per serving than the pork, but still has 9g of fat. So you can use your best judgment on whether it’s “better” or not. A serving of their turkey bacon has 72 calories, 4g fat and 8g protein.


I generally stay away from them. It’s just not worth it to try to consume pancakes. HOWEVER, the divas love them. And I must admit that if I am feeling particularly robust in appetite, I will have a bite (especially since the divas have all but forgotten the taste of sugar syrup and always get sugar free). For this reason, I suggest the Hearty Wheat pancakes. They still have white flour in them but it’s mixed with whole wheat and typically made using cooking spray instead of oil on the grill. I’d err on the side of requesting the cooking spray though. The Hearty Wheat pancakes are 310 calories an order (versus 340 for the regular), a whopping 64g of carbs, with 8g of fiber (versus 68/2 for the regular). Yeah…I’ll stick to my bite. And from now on, the divas are sharing an order!

For pancakes you can feel good about eating any time, click here.

Lunch/Dinner Options

I don’t usually do dinner at Denny’s. It just doesn’t feel right. The divas like the burgers. Me and beef got beef though. And to me…sorry…a Boca Burger is not a real burger. So I tend to stick to breakfast. I have, on occasion, however, gotten dinner and here’s what I’ve had.

Senior Tilapia Meal

The tilapia is the stand-out “diet” meal on the menu, and even the stats on that aren’t great. The regular meal will cost you 640 calories (which, in comparison to the rest of the menu is not bad), but if you get the senior version (a smaller filet), you knock it down to 450. The fish is grilled soft and comes with with two sides and you can make both of those veggies if you want. Mine has a Cajun variation (which is decidedly un-Cajun). I usually ask for mine with the Cajun seasoning nonetheless and ask for a side of salsa and work it out. To cut calories more, I’d insist they use cooking spray. Luckily, you can tell if they complied or not. The fish comes out more flaky and without a puddle of oil if they’ve done what you asked them to do.

Cranberry Pecan Salad

This is a relatively new offering and may not be at all Denny’s locations. But it is pretty decent. What I like most is that it comes in a half portion. At 2+ years out, I can finish the half portion. Basically, it’s grilled chicken atop a bed of salad greens with roasted pecans and craisins. If you are sensitive to sugar, tell them to hold the craisins. I can do them so I eat them with whatever low-cal dressing they have. A half portion will cost you 210 calories + whatever dressing you choose. Not bad!

Fit Fare Grilled chicken meal

This meal is always awkward for me. It’s good…don’t get me wrong…but it’s a little meal served on a big plate which comes out looking…empty. It’s the same deal as the tilapia meal, just throw a grilled chicken breast in there. Usually I only eat the chicken (it’s about 5 oz. so that fills me up) and ask for a piece of cheese melted on top and I pretend there’s a bun. It’s not quite the same but I feel like if I keep telling myself there’s a bun…someday it’ll taste like there’s a bun…Anyway, it will run you 380, 57g of protein (which almost guarantees you can’t eat it all…so plan for half that amount of calories and protein).

Ok, so here’s some things you may want to stay away from (besides the obvious like the loaded nachos, buffalo wings, and sampler plate…)

Grits – I eat them in moderation but mostly at home. Denny’s has a tendency, no matter how much you ask them not to, to load your grits down in copious amounts of butter. Paula Deen would marvel. I do not. So I skip them.

Any of the “sizzling skillets” – …And don’t give me the “but, Nik, it’s protein!” I don’t care. Some stuff is just a heart attack waiting to happen. All of the skillets are very heavy on the oil and they sort of have to be so as not to burn the food. If you absolutely must try one, get your spouse or companion to order one, take a bite of theirs and leave it at that. They will cost you at least 900 calories alone and lots of fat!

Toast – now this is subjective. Sometimes I eat the toast. Again, good luck getting them not to slather it in butter. For what it’s worth, though, they serve wheat toast but technically it’s kind of not. It’s actually enriched wheat bread, which is basically white bread with some wheat germ in it. So I’d skip it if I were you. You want “dip it” eggs? Make them at home with your own 100% whole wheat bread, or, better yet, a portion of protein bread.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. If you come up with a great menu choice at Denny’s that will help out your fellow WLSer, give us a shout! We’d love to hear what you order.

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