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The 15 Unhealthiest Meals for Diabetics

Keep your blood sugar levels in check by steering clear of these restaurant meals.
carrabbas rigatoni campagnolo

The news about diabetes is not so sweet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. And 34.2 million people are living with the disease right now, while some people don't even know they have it. Plus, the American Diabetes Association says that 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. What's even more shocking? The fact that 90-95% of the population with diabetes has the type that's completely preventable: Type 2.

See, the main cause of Type 2 diabetes is due to obesity and having such exponentially high blood glucose levels that it exhausts the beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to meet the body's needs.

What's insulin and why do we need it? Insulin is an extremely important hormone because it helps reduce the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. When you have Type 2 DM, excess sugar isn't utilized or "taken up" by muscle tissue, adipose (fat) tissue, and your liver as quickly as it should due to the lack of insulin. In other words, it just kind of floats throughout your bloodstream, which can cause serious problems, like hyperglycemia—the state of having too much sugar swarming through your blood. This happens by eating too many glucose-loaded products like bread, pasta, and syrup to name a few.

So clearly, you want to do the best you can when you're dining out to eat the right meals. You'll want to aim for a meal that has a variety of healthy carbs like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. You'll want to avoid ordering the following meals that are far too high in carbs, sugar, and even protein. And while you're making healthier choices, be sure to try out the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.

1

Cheesecake Factory Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic

Cheesecake factory farfalle chicken roasted garlic
Courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
2,060 calories, 123 g fat (50 g saturated fat, 2.5 trans fat), 3,830 mg sodium, 153 g carbs, (13 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 88 protein

We all know The Cheesecake Factory isn't Diet Central, especially when you're trying to lose belly fat. But it's not just the over-the-top cheesecakes you need to worry about. If you order the Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic, you'll already have eaten double the carbs you need for the day—in just one sitting. Not ideal, so steer clear.

2

Olive Garden Eggplant Parmigiana

olive garden eggplant parmigiana
Courtesy of Olive Garden
1,060 calories, 54 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,990 mg sodium, 113 g carbs (11 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 30 g protein

Olive Garden is known for its unlimited pasta options, which typically means you'll be loading up on the chain's beloved breadsticks, too. This combination is a rather dangerous option for people with diabetes—four breadsticks alone are equivalent to 100 grams of carbs—the dinner portion of the Eggplant Parmigiana contains enough carbs to put you into a hyperglycemic state immediately after consumption.

3

Chili's Crispy Honey & Chipotle Waffles

chilis crispy honey chipotle waffles
Courtesy of Chili's
2,590 calories, 126 g fat (42 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 5,180 mg sodium, 303 g carbs (14 g fiber, 128 g sugar), 63 g protein

Chicken and waffles might be an oh so delicious pairing, but that doesn't mean it's good for you. This meal from Chili's has more than 300 grams of carbs in one sitting? Big yikes! And what's even worse is the sugar content, coming in at 128 grams. Ditch this dish if you're trying to avoid a spike in blood sugar.

4

Applebee's Classic Combo

applebees classic combo
Courtesy of Applebee's
2,250 calories, 129 g fat (39 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 6,420 mg sodium, 190 g carbs (15 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 84 g protein

Applebee's Classic Combo is simply a diabetes disaster. Why? Just look at its carb and protein content—nearly 200 grams of carbs and more than 80 grams of protein. You already have an idea of how toxic that many carbs can be for blood glucose levels, but excessive protein intake is also a major concern. There's a microvascular complication that occurs when a person with diabetes has been consuming too much protein, and it's called nephropathy. Nephropathy is scientific jargon for kidney damage or kidney disease. It's also always a wise idea to check with your doctor to see how much protein is adequate for your body.

5

Cracker Barrel Buttermilk Pancakes with Fruit Topping

cracker barrel fruit topped pancakes
Courtesy of Cracker Barrel
Just the pancakes: 630 calories, 16 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,640 mg sodium, 111 g carbs (0 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 9g protein

Breakfast anyone? When you add any one of the three fruit toppings—country peach, sweet ripe blackberry, or cinnamon spiced apple—and whipped cream, you're eating up to 380 additional calories, 75 grams of carbs, and 68 grams of sugar. Opt out of this carb-heavy disaster and order a bowl of hearty oatmeal topped with fresh fruit to get your sweet fix.

6

TGI Fridays Signature Whiskey-Glazed Ribs: Full-Rack with Coleslaw & Seasoned Fries

Full rack of ribs from TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays/Facebook
1,630 calories, 75 g fat (25 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,940 mg sodium, 178 g carbs (7 g fiber, 132 g sugar), 69 g protein

The American Heart Association recommends men should consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day, and women shouldn't have more 25 grams per day. The fact that this full rack of ribs from TGI Friday's has more than five times the amount of that sugar allowance is a major red flag.

7

Red Lobster Shrimp Linguini Alfredo

red lobster shrimp linguini alfredo
Tara M./Yelp
1,130 calories, 56 g fat (23 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fat), 2,690 mg sodium, 105 g carbs (8 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 49 g protein

The full-sized portion of this meal from Red Lobster is another dangerously high-in-protein selection. With this shrimp and pasta dish, you're exceeding your protein limit, in a single sitting!

8

California Pizza Kitchen Thai Chicken Pizza

cpk thai chicken pizza
Courtesy of California Pizza Kitchen
1,260 calories, 42 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,820 mg sodium, 156 g carbs (12 g fiber, 24 g sugar), 44 g protein

California Pizza Kitchen may have some mad pizza, but that carb content is just way too high for a person with diabetes. Protip: start paying attention to carb choices. One carb choice equals 15 grams of carbs. Women with diabetes should have up to 3-4 carb choices for lunch and dinner, which equates to 45-60 grams of carbs per meal. For men, 4-5 carb choices are recommended for both lunch and dinner, which equals 60-75 grams of carbs. This pizza alone takes care of your carb allowances for lunch and dinner, and then some.

9

Denny's Cinnamon Roll Pancake Breakfast with Cream Cheese Icing

denny's cinnamon roll pancakes
Courtesy of Denny's

1,030 calories, 35 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,660 mg sodium, 188 g carbs (4 g fiber, 127 g sugar), 10 g protein

At Denny's, these pancakes are basically a dessert and not something you should have for breakfast. This dish is made up of buttermilk pancakes that are cooked with cinnamon crumb topping and are topped with whipped cream. It's also served with a pitcher of warm cream cheese icing for drizzling. This makes for a carb-loaded, overly sugary meal.

10

Carrabba's Rigatoni Campagnolo With Gluten-Free Pasta

carrabbas rigatoni campagnolo
Courtesy of Carrabba's
1,270 calories, 51 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 3,070 mg sodium, 150 g carbs (20 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 51 g protein

Believe it or not, gluten-free doesn't always mean the dish is healthier. In fact, the gluten-free variety of this dish has 33 more grams of carbs than the variety with whole-grain spaghetti.

11

Buffalo Wild Wings Boneless Asian Zing

Courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings
Per 20 wings: 1,550 calories, 63 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 4 g trans fats), 6,480 mg sodium, 151 g carbs (4 g fiber, 78 g sugar), 98 g protein

Talk about a carb, sugar, and protein overload! The nutrition information listed above is indicative of the large portion size, but you know how easy it is to get carried away when you're eating boneless wings. Just be sure to always go for the smallest size and remember to share.

12

P.F. Chang's Chicken Pad Thai

pf changs chicken pad thai
Courtesy of P.F. Chang's
1,320 calories, 39 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,730 mg sodium, 190 g carbs (9 g fiber, 50 g sugar), 53 g protein

P.F. Chang's sure has a delicious Chicken Pad Thai, but its carb content is pretty high for a dish that's supposed to be mostly made of airy rice noodles. Ditch the carbs and all of the vegetable oil, which is one of the foods that cause inflammation, that comes with it. Not to mention, the sodium content is outrageously high which is bound to make you retain water and bloat.

13

IHOP Cupcake Pancakes

ihop cupcake pancakes
Courtesy of IHOP

For 4 pancakes: 810 calories, 24 g fat (13 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,970 mg sodium, 134 g carbs (4 g fiber, 63 g sugar), 17 g protein

Here, IHOP's signature buttermilk pancakes are filled with rainbow sprinkles and are topped with cupcake icing, whipped cream, and even more rainbow sprinkles. Clocking in at 134 grams of carbs and more sugar than if you ate six Original Glazed Krispy Kreme Donuts, it's easy to see why the meal is a no-go for diabetics.

14

Texas Roadhouse Fish and Chips

texas roadhouse fish and chips
Courtesy of Texas Roadhouse
1,180 calories, 42 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 4,770 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 61 g protein

Fish and chips is another dish that while tasty, never does your health any favors. This version from Texas Roadhouse is not an exception. The platter, but it's sky-high in sodium and protein content. Frankly, it's not only a poor choice for diabetics, but for anyone dining here.

15

O'Charley's Strawberry Waffle Combo with Ham Steak

ocharleys strawberry waffle combo
https://twitter.com/OCharleys/status/660834418743988225
1,450 calories, 83 g fat (36 g saturated fat, 3 g trans fat), 3,330 mg sodium, 132 g carbs (3 g fiber, 45 g sugar), 45 g protein

This waffle from O'Charley's is loaded in both carbs and sugar, but it's even more notably loaded in saturated fat, which contributes to visceral fat, aka belly fat. This kind of centralized abdominal fat is a main contributor to obesity and Type 2, so keep that intake low at brunch…and at every other meal, too.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more