The 36 Saltiest Restaurant Meals
Even if you are counting calories, cutting back on sugar, and diligently tracking your fat intake, there's one item on the nutrition panel that you might be ignoring: sodium. Turns out, the typical American adult eats enough salt a day to cause heart damage, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Researchers found that half of the participants consumed at least 3,730 milligrams of sodium a day—much more than The American Heart Association recommended max of 2,300 milligrams. Those who ate that much sodium were twice as likely as those who consumed the least sodium to have signs of muscle strain in the heart and have an enlarged left chamber of the heart, which controls pumping oxygen-rich blood into the body.
Although 3,700 milligrams seems like a lot, it's an easy number to achieve if you're dining out and not paying attention to the nutrition information. That's why we compiled a list of dishes from popular restaurant chains that each have nearly—and in most cases more than—4,000 milligrams of sodium, nearly twice your recommended daily amount.
"Salt is the deadliest ingredient in the food supply, and one of the biggest problems with chain-restaurant food," the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) co-founder and senior scientist Michael F. Jacobson explains. "But most chains aren't making much progress in reducing sodium."
Ranked from bad to the worst of the worst, find out which of your favorite chain restaurant meals are total sodium bombs. And while you're watching your sodium intake, be sure to try out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
TGI Friday's Signature Whiskey-Glazed Burger with Gluten-Free Bun
TGI Friday's Signature Whiskey-Glazed Burger is infused with Jack Daniels and not only has more than 3,500 milligrams of sodium, but those more than 70 grams of sugar are just alarming, too. A salt and sugar bomb? Skip!
Quiznos Classic Italian 12-inch Sandwich
This Italian sandwich is like a combo of the saltiest (and fattiest) deli meats available: capicola, salami, ham, and pepperoni. Add to that some olives and a vinaigrette dressing, and you've got yourself over 3,700 grams of belly-busting sodium.
Friendly's Loaded Waffle Fries
As if fries weren't salty enough, Friendly's douses theirs with cheddar cheese, bacon, and sour cream. This is one menu item that's not very friendly for your waistline (or blood pressure).
P.F. Chang's Hot and Sour Soup Bowl
It's no secret that soups tend to be heavy on the sodium, and a bowl of the Hot and Sour Soup from P.F. Chang's is no exception. Usually, if you order a bowl of soup, that's not the only thing you're eating, especially at P.F. Chang's, where it's easy to order a few dishes to share.
Chili's Quesadilla Bacon Ranch Steak
Bacon, ranch, and steak might sound like a delicious mix, but together, they create a dish that is packing a ton of sodium, fat, and even some trans fat. A quesadilla might seem like a lighter option compared to a thick burrito or a serving of nachos, but at Chili's, this one is a no-go.
Applebee's Chicken Fajita Rollup
Chipotle chicken is mixed together with lettuce, cheddar cheeses, pico de gallo, and a Mexi-ranch sauce in a tortilla to make up this meal. Wraps are always tricky to navigate, as it's hard to actually find one that isn't high in calories. This Applebee's rollup is further proof, as it's packing more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium.
On the Border Three-Sauce Fajita Burrito, Chicken
With such a large tortilla and a selection of salty sauces, it's no wonder this burrito has a whopping 4,070 milligrams of sodium. And that's just for the burrito itself; the number goes up if you add beans and rice on the side.
Red Robin Clucks & Fries Buffalo Style
Chicken fingers and French fries is already a fattening combo, so it's no surprise this entree from Red Robin clocks in at more than 100 grams of fat and about as many calories as you should have in a day. But it's a sodium bomb too, coming in with more sodium than 20 salt packets from McDonald's.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Grande Bloody Mary with Grilled Shrimp Spiedini
Yes, we know this is a cocktail that is a brunch staple, but we just had to call out the fact that this one drink has 4,120 milligrams of sodium. Maybe you should just stick with the grilled shrimp it comes with and hold-off on sipping away on this Bloody Mary…
TGI Fridays Chicken Parmesan Pasta
You know the chicken in this dish is fried and covered in sauce and cheese, so you're already aware it can be higher in calories and fat. But this version over a bed of pasta has trans fats, a ton of carbs, and a boatload of sodium. Instead, why not try your hand at cooking up this meal yourself with this healthier chicken Parmesan recipe.
On The Border Firecracker Stuffed Jalapeños with Queso
These jalapeño poppers should be called "firecracker" because of how much they'll make your waist explode. In addition to packing more than 150 percent of your day's worth of saturated fat, these stuffed jalapenños have more sodium than 22 packets of salt.
Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew Chicken
This spicy Mandarin-style dish that is served over rice features chicken smothered in green onions and roasted cashews will cost you more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium. Sorry, Cheesecake Factory, but this one is a hard pass.
Yard House Boneless Buffalo Wings
Boneless chicken wings usually mean more meat than the bone-in versions, meaning there's more room to pack in the sodium with a fried coating and thick and creamy sauce. The biggest sodium bomb at Yard House is a plate of Boneless Buffalo Wings, which have more than 4,200 milligrams of salt.
O'Charley's Deconstructed Breakfast Taco
Here, you'll find four eggs scrambled with diced chicken, bacon and pico de gallo served on potatoes, which is all topped with cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, and cilantro. Just because it's not all wrapped in a tortilla doesn't make the meal much better, as it's coming in with 85 grams of fat, 2 grams of trans fat and more than 4,200 milligrams of sodium.
Cheesecake Factory Burrito Grande
The Cheesecake Factory is known for its larger portions, and this burrito, while an entree, can easily be shared. Still, more than 4,200 milligrams of sodium is a lot, as is 160 grams of carbs. And that fat content? Big yikes.
Chili's Buffalo Chicken Ranch Sandwich
Starting to notice a trend about buffalo chicken? It's always a sodium bomb and this sandwich from Chili's is no exception.
BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Hickory Brisket and Bacon Burger with Fries
With bacon, mayo, BBQ sauce, and brisket, it's no wonder this sandwich from BJ's has more than 4,200 milligrams of the salty stuff.
UNO Pizzeria & Grill Buffalo Mac & Cheese
Smothering Buffalo chicken all over some mac and cheese sounds like the ultimate comfort food, but this dish from Uno is simply not worth all those calories, fat, carbs, and sodium!
Red Lobster Dragon Shrimp
Don't be fooled by thinking this shrimp dish "isn't so bad" compared to others on this list. It's overall lower in calories (although still high!), but with a whopping 4,370 milligrams of sodium, you still want to be careful if you're thinking of ordering this during your next trip to Red Lobster.
Applebee's Brew Pub Pretzels & Beer Cheese Dip
Pretzels might seem like a harmless appetizer option at first glance, but it should really come as no surprise that they're carrying a lot of salt. You'll be downing more than 4,500 milligrams of sodium before your main course arrives.
TGI Fridays Southern Fried Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
It's no secret Southern-inspired food tastes simply delicious, but this fried chicken sandwich topped with white cheddar cheese and a Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce isn't doing much to help your waistline coming in at over 4,400 milligrams of sodium.
UNO Pizzeria & Grill Boneless Buffalo Bites
The serving size of these Buffalo bites seems reasonable, but just eating these bites serves up a day and a half's worth of sodium. And most likely, you're eating more than just these bites. Big yikes.
Chili's Crispy Mango Habanero Crispers
The word "crispy" should already be a red flag because it's just code for deep fried. This chicken is served with French fries and slathered in sauce that is also rather high in sugar. But taking a look at the sodium, it's clear this meal that is doing no favors for your health.
Pei Wei Chicken Pad Thai
Even though this chicken dish has some veggies thrown in, that doesn't mean it's healthy. After this chicken is tossed in a salty sauce, it's served on top of a bed of noodles, making it a shocking 1,490 calories and more than 4,720 milligrams of sodium.
O'Charley's Baby Back Ribs, Nashville Hot
Sure, you might want to kick things up a notch by adding Nashville hot sauce to your ribs. But this meal has a whopping 4,750 milligrams of sodium—more than you should eat in an entire day. If you really want these ribs, try sharing them with a friend or two.
Cheesecake Factory Evelyn's Favorite Pasta
This pasta dish at Cheesecake Factory might be Evelyn's favorite, but it's one you should avoid at all costs, as it's packing more than 4,800 milligrams of sodium. And we all know how easy it is to get carried when eating a bowl of pasta!
Texas Roadhouse Beef Tips with Seasoned Rice
Here, you'll find a steak that is with served alongside sautéed mushrooms and onions in a brown gravy, with seasoned rice. Sounds harmless, but it ends up being a meal that comes in with just over 4,900 milligrams of sodium. That is just not worth it!
Applebee's Neighborhood Nachos, Chicken
If you order Applebee's Neighborhood Nachos as an app, you're ingesting over 4,900 milligrams of sodium before your entrée even arrives. Yikes.
Cheesecake Factory Shrimp with Angel Hair
Eating a shrimp-based dish is naturally a healthier option, right? Well, this pasta dish smothered is in sauce and cheese and instantly changes that theory as it comes in at almost 5,000 milligrams of sodium.
Cheesecake Factory Pasta Napoletana
Between the four different kinds of meats, the rich tomato sauce, and parmesan cream pasta, this dish is packed with calories upon calories, fat, and, yes, sodium. A staggering 5,150 milligrams of sodium, to be exact! No wonder it's considered the worst dish to order from The Cheesecake Factory…
Maggiano's Gnocchi & Italian Sausage
You already know pasta is carb-heavy, which is why the slightly more than 100 grams of carbs for this gnocchi shouldn't be a huge shock. But the added salty Italian sausage brings this dish over 5,000 milligrams of sodium—that's more than two day's worth.
Chili's Crispy Honey Chipotle & Waffles
Chicken and waffles is a meal that you already know isn't necessarily the healthiest, but with more than 5,000 milligrams of sodium and more sugar than 12 Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donuts, this is one dish you want to completely avoid.
Texas Roadhouse Cactus Blossom
Sometimes, you might just want to order an appetizer as your entree and typically, they are smaller than the main dishes, so this sounds like a healthier meal option, right? Well, if you decide to munch on an entire Cactus Blossom at Texas Roadhouse, you're in for more than 5,200 milligrams of sodium. And those 2.5 grams of trans fat? No thanks.
Applebee's The Classic Combo
Can't make up your mind? This appetizer sampler gives you a little bit of everything, and it's more than enough food to fill you up, but a little variety will cost you nearly three days worth of sodium.
Buffalo Wild Wings Hot Boneless Wings, 30 Count
Sure a large order (around 30 wings) may seem like a lot, but it's easy to mindlessly eat some wings. Next thing you know, you've easier eaten 10 of them. Hey, it happens! While you always want to share an order with friends, it's best to completely avoid ordering these.
Buffalo Wild Wings Spicy Garlic Boneless Wings, 30 Count
And if you thought that amount of sodium couldn't be beaten, BWW outdid themselves. This order of wings and sauce can cost you more than 13,000 milligrams of sodium. Even if you're sharing this order (which we hope you are), it's best to have plenty of water and celery on hand.