Worst Meals in Restaurants

Fried meat, oily sauce, and cheese push the calories in this meal through the roof at one popular restaurant.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

The Count:1,130 calories, 74 grams fat, 3,290 milligrams sodium

"Salad" is stretching it! Fried meat, oily sauce, and cheese push the calories in this meal through the roof at one popular restaurant. It has about as many as a whole pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The salad also packs nearly 25% more fat.

Want to use up a good chunk of your day's calories before noon? Eat this for breakfast.

French Toast and Bacon

The Count: 810 calories, 16 grams saturated fat, 1,180 milligrams sodium

Want to use up a good chunk of your day's calories before noon? Eat this for breakfast. Better make it brunch, or you won't have many calories left to spare for dinner. This dish has almost an entire day's worth of saturated fat.

Vegetarian fried rice can pack an unhealthy wallop.

Vegetarian Fried Rice

The Count: 910 calories, 16 grams fat, 1,360 milligrams sodium

Getting Chinese takeout? Don't assume the veggie options are the healthiest. Vegetarian fried rice can pack an unhealthy wallop. Instead, go for steamed dishes with lots of veggies and brown rice if it's on the menu. Keep the rice to a half-cup -- that's about half the size of a baseball. Always ask for sauce on the side.

A plate of pasta with shrimp and chicken in carbonara can creep up to unhealthy levels.

Pasta in Carbonara Sauce

The Count: 1,590 calories, 114 grams fat, 2,410 milligrams sodium

Grilled chicken and shrimp can be good choices. But if they're drenched in carbonara sauce, not so much. A plate of pasta with shrimp and chicken in carbonara can creep up to unhealthy levels. It also has more fat than you'd get from eating a half-dozen glazed doughnuts.

Deep dish pizza can be deep trouble.

Deep Dish Pizza With Sausage

The Count: 2,800 calories, 120 grams fat, 4,880 milligrams sodium

Deep dish pizza can be deep trouble. One "individual" sausage pizza serves up more calories than most people should eat in a whole day. It also packs double the daily limit of fat. Want to make it better? Skip the sausage and opt for thin crust.

Even with lean turkey or chicken, they can serve up a ton of calories and a whole day’s worth of saturated fat. Where is it all hiding?

Club Sandwich

The Count: 1060 calories, 52 grams saturated fat, 3390 milligrams sodium

Club sandwiches are sneaky. Even with lean turkey or chicken, they can serve up a ton of calories and a whole day's worth of saturated fat. Where is it all hiding? In the bacon, extra slice of giant bread, and mayo. Opt for a single-decker turkey sandwich instead. Choose plenty of veggies and add a few avocado slices for flavor.

In a pinch, you might think that just one order of fries -- and nothing else -- would be OK.

Large Fries

The Count: 1,314 calories, 57 grams fat, 1,327 milligrams sodium

In a pinch, you might think that just one order of fries -- and nothing else -- would be OK. Not really. Large fries can have more calories than a whole loaf of white bread, with an extra bonus of unhealthy saturated fat. If you're jonesing for fries, just get a small. You'll save 788 calories.

A plate of 3 sliders at lunch will account for almost half of your daily calorie allotment.

Sliders

The Count: (3 sliders) 930 calories, 55.5 grams fat, 3345 milligrams sodium

How bad can those cute little burgers be? If you eat the whole order, pretty bad. A plate of 3 sliders at lunch will account for almost half of your daily calorie allotment. Solution? Don't eat the whole order. Pack up one or two in a doggie bag and have them tomorrow.

You can skip the most fattening restaurant meals by reading the menu closely.

Eat Better: Find Hidden Calories

You can skip the most fattening restaurant meals by reading the menu closely. Look for clues. Words like pan-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, au gratin, cheesy, creamy, buttered, deep-fried, béarnaise, or crispy are usually signs of extra fat and calories. "Crisp" items are often deep-fried in oil.

Baking fish -- with herbs, veggies, and lemon juice -- adds very few calories or fat to the dish.

Eat Better: Ask How It's Cooked

Preparation makes a big difference. Baking fish -- with herbs, veggies, and lemon juice -- adds very few calories or fat to the dish. Other healthy cooking methods include:

  • Grilled
  • Broiled
  • Toasted
  • Baked
  • Poached
  • Steamed
Skip the jumbo portions and rich sides that come with restaurant entrees.

Eat Better: Go á la Carte

Skip the jumbo portions and rich sides that come with restaurant entrees. Instead, go for small plates that you can share, or choose side orders for your meal. In a Mexican restaurant, try one corn taco of grilled meats, a cup of chicken-tortilla soup, a side salad, and a fruit dessert. You get exactly what you want and a fraction of the calories.

When only a hamburger will do, or a drive-through is your only option, think small.

Eat Better: Downsize

When only a hamburger will do, or a drive-through is your only option, think small. Go for the child's meal or a junior burger. Try this switch to get your fast-food fix with fewer calories:

  • Skip: The mega burger, large fries, large soda --1,480 calories
  • Choose: Cheeseburger, kid's fries, extra-small soda -- 605 calories
Restaurants like to give you a sense that there’s plenty on the table.

Eat Better: Hide Temptations

Restaurants like to give you a sense that there's plenty on the table. It starts with an overflowing basket of bread or chips. Don't mindlessly devour a few hundred calories before your main meal. Ask the waiter to take away the basket of carbs before you've touched it -- or after you take a small portion.

Pasta swimming in cream sauce can be an unhealthy choice.

Eat Better: Pasta

Pasta swimming in cream sauce can be an unhealthy choice. It's packed with fat, calories, and cholesterol. Instead, eat a small portion of whole-grain pasta topped with better sauces, such as:

  • Red clam sauce
  • Marinara sauce without meat
  • Primavera sauce without cream
  • Marsala sauce with wine, not butter
Pizzerias are used to getting special orders.

Eat Better: Pizza

Pizzerias are used to getting special orders. A few simple changes can slash the calories and fat in your pie:

  • Pile on veggies and skip the meat.
  • Ask for extra sauce and half the cheese.
  • After a slice or two, take the rest home.
Fresh fruit is available at many restaurants now, even fast-food chains, thanks to demand from health-conscious diners.

Eat Better: Dessert

Fresh fruit is available at many restaurants now, even fast-food chains, thanks to demand from health-conscious diners. If it's not listed with the desserts, check the side dishes -- or ask for a special order.

Sources:

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REFERENCES:

  • Ben & Jerry's: "Our Flavors: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.”
  • IHOP: “Nutrition Information.”
  • American Heart Association: “Saturated Fat.”
  • American Heart Association: “About Sodium: Salt.”
  • Applebees: “Nutritional Information.”
  • American Heart Association: “Tips for Eating Mexican Food.”
  • P.F. Changs: "Nutritional Information."
  • American Heart Association: “Tips for Eating Chinese Food.”
  • American Heart Association: “What Is a Serving?”
  • Olive Garden: “Nutritional Guide.”
  • Dunkin Donuts: “Nutrition Catalog.”
  • Uno's Chicago Grill: “Nutrition Info.”
  • Five Guys: “Nutritional Information.”
  • Bimbo Bread: “Soft White.”
  • American Cancer Society: "Restaurant Eating Tips."
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Eat Right: Healthy Eating on the Run: A Month of Tips.”
  • American Cancer Society: “Restaurant Eating Tips.”
  • American Heart Association: “Tips for Eating Italian Food.”
  • American Heart Association: "Ordering Your Meal.”
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