Worst Meals in Restaurants

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Photo of buffalo wing chicken salad.

The Count: 1,040 calories, 72 grams fat, 3,470 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.

French Toast and Bacon

Photo of french toast and bacon.

The Count: 1,130 calories, 20 grams saturated fat, 1,780 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 also has more than an entire day's worth of saturated fat and sodium.

Chicken Fajitas

Photo of chicken fajitas.

The Count: 1,300 calories, 47 grams fat, 4,800 milligrams sodium

Chicken fajitas can be a healthy option. But they're often served with heaps of sour cream, shredded cheese, refried beans, and fried rice. Pack it all in, and you've got plenty of calories to pad your waistline! Instead, load up on grilled peppers, onions, chicken, and fresh salsa. Stick with just one tortilla.

Vegetarian Fried Rice

Photo of fried rice.

The Count: 1,090 calories, 19 grams fat, 2,210 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 half a baseball. Always ask for sauce on the side.

Pasta in Carbonara Sauce

Photo of pasta carbonara.

The Count: 1,570 calories, 113 grams fat, 2,460 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 With Sausage

Photo of deep dish sausage pizza.

The Count: 2,300 calories, 164 grams fat, 4,910 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.

Club Sandwich

Photo of club sandwich.

The Count: 1,520 calories, 20 grams saturated fat, 3,500 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, cheese, 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.

Large Fries

Photo of 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.


Photo of cheeseburger sliders.

The Count: (4 sliders) 1,560 calories, 83 grams fat, 4,520 milligrams sodium

How bad can those cute little burgers be? If you eat the whole order, pretty bad. A plate of 4 sliders at lunch leaves you just 440 calories to spare for the rest of your day. Solution? Don't eat the whole order. Pack up one or two in a doggie bag and have them tomorrow.

Eat Better: Find Hidden Calories

Breaded Shrimp in Cheese Dip.

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.

Eat Better: Ask How It's Cooked

Grilled Shrimps and Vegetables.

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

Eat Better: Go á la Carte

Smaller Portions of Food.

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.

Eat Better: Downsize

Double Patty and Single Patty Hamburgers.

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 --1,320 calories
  • Choose: Cheeseburger, kid's fries, extra-small soda -- 500 calories

Eat Better: Hide Temptations

High Carb Basket of Bread.

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.

Eat Better: Pasta

Eggplant Penne 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

Eat Better: Pizza

Healthier Slice of 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.

Eat Better: Dessert

Healthy Bowl of Berries.

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.



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  • 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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