We live in a world where McDonald's is healthier than Denny's.
Though the trend in the food world is shifting toward nutritional quality and transparency, many American restaurants are still run by chefs and “suits” who care more about their bottom line than their customers’ ever-expanding bottoms. Read on to find out if any of your favorites are on the list, and then discover your next favorite spots among these 35 Hottest Healthy Restaurants in America.
Because They Don’t Reveal What’s In Their Food
The restaurants below keep the very information the public wants to know strictly under wraps—and we sort of hate them for it. We bet you will, too, once you read what they’re hiding.
On The Border
Nowadays, you can log onto just about any restaurant website and get the nutrition stats on all of your favorite dishes. And while this is definitely a win for healthy foodies and those looking to melt some stomach fat, we can’t help but notice that there are bits of information missing from some of the menus. The On The Border’s nutrition guide, for instance, doesn’t provide trans fat or sugar information, which are two of the most buzzed-about nutrients of recent years. Coincidence? Probably not. In fact, if we had to guess, it was probably a deliberate move to ensure anyone who cares about health isn’t scared off. And guess what? When you're shady like that, then it's a sure sign you're stuck in the dark ages.
Ruby Tuesday is another restaurant withholding nutritional stats about their dishes—and it’s breaking our hearts—quite literally. Information on their dishes’ saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar content is totally MIA. And consuming too much of any of these nutrients has been linked to heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and abdominal obesity, which has been linked to, you guessed it, cardiovascular disease. You’d think Ruby would want her customers to be well enough to eat at her restaurants for years to come. But if she’s leaving off this vital information because it’s just that bad, she’s bound to run out of customers sooner rather than later, which can’t be good for business.
The Cheesecake Factory won’t budge when it comes to revealing what's really in its food. Aside from the chain’s SkinnyLicious menu, which is made up of 50 dishes with 590 calories or fewer, they’re not saying a word on their website about the nutritional makeup of their dishes. Years ago some of the information was available online (nothing on fat, trans fat, fiber, sugar, or protein, though), but since then the information has been totally removed from their website. And many of the menu offerings are now different, making the information that’s lingering behind on unofficial Cheesecake Factory websites pretty useless. If you want to know how good or bad a dish is before you dine, the only way to find out is by calling the company directly. And even then, they don’t reveal their trans fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol counts. (We know because we called…numerous times.) The best strategy for survival at the Factory is to run the other way before you reach the door. But if that’s not an option, at least stick to one of these diet-expert approved Cheesecake Factory orders.
Because The Meat Has Antibiotics
When McDonald’s vowed to stop using poultry raised with antibiotics last year, we knew it would be an industry game changer—and we were spot on. Soon after, Papa John’s, Subway, and a host of other chains rolled out plans to ditch drugged-up poultry, too. Consuming drugged meat can cause antibiotic-resistant bugs to develop that account for an estimated 23 thousand human deaths and 2 million illnesses annually in the United States alone. Plus, there’s a major consumer demand for antibiotic-free meat, so it’s crazy to us that so many restaurants are still serving the stuff.
While we give Denny’s props for making moves toward sourcing and serving cage-free eggs in all of their locations by 2026, they’re among one of the many chains that still serve meat that’s been pumped with antibiotics. In fact, they have no public policies in regards to antibiotic use in their supply chain. Grand slam? More like, you're out!
So far, Applebee's has not mentioned any plans to reduce antibiotic use—but don’t assume ordering a fish dish or vegetarian option is a safer bet than the chicken or burgers. The chain’s menu is filled with booby traps. Take the Hand-Battered Fish & Chips, for instance, which has over 1,000 calories and 100 grams of artery-clogging fat. And the Shrimp Wonton Stir Fry has nearly an entire day’s worth of salt, making it a catch you’re better off leaving in the sea.
Because There Are Hardly Any Healthy Options
A growing number of people are looking to eat a more wholesome diet but more of us are dining out regularly than ever before. So, you’d think that every restaurant would want to serve up a fair number of healthy offerings to attract and retain customers—but that’s far from the reality. In fact, some of the nation's more popular chains have yet to expand their menus to include more than one sad-looking entree salad. These are a few of the top offenders…
In an attempt to push the menu beyond slices, Pizza Hut expanded into pastas, salads, and something called P’Zones, which are calzone-like concoctions with more than 1,000 calories each. The salads aren’t much better, and the pastas are actually worse because they have about a half day’s worth of calories. Aside from their Fit ’N Delicious pizzas and the bone-in wings, they don’t serve anything that’s suitable for someone trying to lose 10 pounds, let alone eat a clean diet. Considering that other chains like Pizza Fusion carry organic ingredients sourced from local farms and gluten- and lactose-free menu items, we see no reason the Hut can’t up its health game.
Uno Chicago Grill
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Uno, home of the deep-dish pizza (one the world's most calorie-dense foods), is also home to far too many dishes that pack more than 1,000 calories. Their Mega Size Deep Dish Sundae, for example, has 2,700 calories. That's the calorie equivalent to 14 Krispy Kreme donuts! And their Cobb salad has more than an entire day’s fat, nearly an entire day’s worth of salt, and a belt-busting 900 calories. Finding something to order at Uno that won’t derail your weight loss efforts is like looking for a lost earring at the beach; it's nearly impossible. Sure, there are a few things that are okay on their “Less Than 500 Calorie” menu, but if you veer off that list (which is a little boring, to be frank), you’re sure to run into trouble.
A few years back, IHOP was one of the last chains to release its nutritional numbers. Given the national-debt-level calorie counts on much of its menu, it’s easy to see why. To makes matters worse, even the healthy-sounding dishes at the chain are just weight loss saboteurs in disguise. For example: The Chicken Fajita Omelette (which is filled with veggies, chicken, salsa, and chees) clocks in at 960 calories. Bet ya didn’t see that one coming! The spinach and mushroom omelet? Say hello to 890 calories and more than half your day's salt. Even the chicken and spinach salad with grilled chicken has over 1,000 calories. You get the idea. Proceed with caution if you must dine at this dark age eatery.
California Pizza Kitchen
At CPK, things get dangerous after you leave the appetizer section of the menu. Salads range from 530 calories up to 1,310 for the Waldorf Chicken—just 190 calories shy of what an adult woman should eat in a whole day. (Discover more of the 20 Worst Restaurant Salads in America!) CPK’s sneakiest trick, though, is making its “healthy” thin-crust pizzas somehow more caloric than its regular pies. A Five Cheese + Fresh Tomato Hand-Tossed is actually 200 calories per pie less than the Margherita Crispy Thin Crust. Oh, and if you order whole- wheat crust? Add another 140 calories.
Because Everything Is Laced With Trans Fat
Last summer, as the majority of us were lounging on the beach reading trashy novels, the folks of The Food and Drug Administration were finalizing a plan that requires all food companies (fast food and otherwise) to remove partially hydrogenated oils from their products within the next three years. While many eateries have rushed to comply, eliminating all man-man sources for their dishes within months on the decision, other restaurants are dragging their feet. These are a few of the slackers that don't deserve your dollars.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Not only are Buffalo Wild Wings boneless wings super salty, each and every one of them carries a gram or more of trans fat, an artificial fat invented to make deep-frying more convenient. To stay safe, stick with a snack size order of traditional wings. As long as you avoid the Parmesan garlic and Thai curry varieties, you can keep your trans fat intake to less than half a gram. For more insight into the best and worst menu picks at B-Dubs, check out these 13 Best and Worst Things About Buffalo Wild Wings.
Admittedly, the Five Guys menu is pretty small, but we can’t ignore that all but four items have trans fat in them! Our advice? Cross this place off your list of go-to burger joints so you can keep your ticker in tip-top shape.
Because Everything Is Drowning In Salt
Did you know that for every extra gram of salt you eat in a day (that’s a mere ⅕ of a teaspoon) your risk of obesity increases by 25 percent? Considering the fact that Americans consume nearly double what experts recommend, it’s really no wonder we have such an obesity epidemic in this country. And before you go and blame your salt shaker, you should know that most of the salt we eat comes from restaurants and packaged foods. For that reason, and many others, Manhattan's health department adopted the nation's first salt warning policy last fall. It requires that chain restaurants put warning signs in the form of salt shaker icons next to menu items that contain the total recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams. If the entire nation were to adopt the same policy, the restaurants below would need to print a giant salt shaker icon on over the entire menu.
While it’s now considerably easier to put together a nutritionally respectable meal at P.F. Chang's than it was a few years ago, we can’t turn a blind eye to the chains blatant disregard for the nation's collective blood pressure. About a year ago, we reported on Chang’s hot and sour soup, which contained a staggering 7,980 milligrams of sodium (the equivalent to 39 packets of salt)! Just when we thought the situation couldn’t get any worse, it did: When we checked in to see if the soup had been reformulated for the better, we discovered that it now contains 9,590 milligrams of sodium! And after scanning the rest of the menu, we found over 40 menu items that pack more than 3,000 milligrams of salt—which is 500 milligrams over the recommended daily intake. Shame on you, P.F. Chang’s! Shame. On. You!
Chili’s serves up some of the country’s saltiest, fattiest, most calorie-laden fare in the land, from tacos and salads to baby back ribs. The worst offenders are the burgers, fajitas, and appetizers, including the Texas Cheese Fries, which pack 5,310 milligrams of salt. That’s what you’d find in 29 servings (servings, not chips) of Cool Ranch Doritos, if you can even imagine that. And the salt attack doesn’t stop there. More than 30 menu items on the menu pack more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium. And that’s not even including items like chicken tenders with special sauces and customizable meals, where elements of the meal have to be added together piece-by-piece by diners. If you want to be good to your body, waistline, and overall health, stay away from this salty chain.
Because They’re Not Keeping Up With Trends
Sure, retro-themed eateries make for a fun dining experience. But when a chain is so old school that its menu, culture, and vibe are behind the times in a bad way, it’s actually a big downer. These chains with old school mentalities are often bad for your health, so beware.
We now live in an era when customization is seen as a need, not a luxury. Today's consumers want food that's fresh and made just for them. And we're not talking about choices like thin crust, regular, or deep dish; young adults these days favor restaurants (like Chipotle and McDonald’s) that offer a build-it-yourself dining experience, so they can regularly try something new and have total control over the flavors and calories that wind up on their plates. That said, it seems crazy that Burger King doesn’t let consumers craft their own burgers. Unless they want to become totally irrelevant, they need to give their customers more control over what winds up on their trays—and in their mouths.
Long John Silver’s
We won't hold it against Long John Silver's for having the most archaic website ever, but we will wag our fingers at them for being one of the only fast food chains to still have soda on their kids' menu. Wendy’s, Applebee’s, IHOP, and McDonald’s all removed the toxic beverage in 2015. WTF, LJS? It’s time to get on board! Still sipping soda yourself? Better find out the 70 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are!