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This Is the #1 Unhealthiest Dine-In Chain In America, Dietitian Says

From rich dips and sauces to indulgent burgers.

There's something particularly comforting about the promise of a chain restaurant. We've all been there: hungry, on a Friday night, and craving the familiarity of a place where you know exactly what you're going to get.

No matter the part of the country, the town, or the time of day you find yourself in, there are a handful of chains that are just dependable. Olive Garden, Chili's, or Ninety-Nine, for example, are the kinds of places where you can enjoy a standardized favorite whenever you feel like it.

For more fast-food news, check out 8 Worst Fast-Food Burgers to Stay Away From Right Now.

The only issue with this picture? The cost of that convenience is paid for with your health. As huge fans of dine-in chains, we wanted to find out what the one restaurant chain is that we should stay away from when hunger pangs obscure our clarity of judgment. With the help of Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics, I went in search of America's unhealthiest dine-in chain.

And the unhealthiest dine-in chain is . . .

The Cheesecake Factory felt intuitively like the least nutritious option out there. The sheer portion sizes seemed overly indulgent. Goodson confirmed my suspicion but said that ultimately, it is possible to get a healthier meal at The Cheesecake Factory. The chain's Skinnylicious menu—with entrees like Grilled Turkey Burger, Grilled Salmon, and Grilled Steak Medallions—offers up plenty of ways to keep your meal on the lighter side.

"All the dishes on the Skinnylicious Menu are less than 600 calories," says Goodson, adding that ordering from this section would definitely be her pick.

In the end, after much menu analyzing and comparing, Buffalo Wild Wings seems to be the unfortunate winner.

Like The Cheesecake Factory, their portions are large—and often pack even more calories than you'd expect. A medium order of traditional wings tracks at 1,010 calories, without the sauce. As Goodson pointed out, if you add in the bleu cheese or ranch dressing the wings come with, you're looking at another 300-ish calories on top of that. And who eats wings without sauce?

The chain's burgers and chicken sandwiches are also mostly indulgent and loaded, and usually higher in calories than comparable fast-food burger and sandwich options.

Another problem is the salt—some orders clock in at over 3,000 milligrams of sodium, which is 700 milligrams more than you should be eating the whole day if you want a healthy cardiovascular system.

buffalo wild wings platter wings fries slaw
Courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings

And even though many chains have similarly unhealthy options, Buffalo Wild Wings doesn't have as many healthy options as its competitors.

"If you are looking to make a better-for-you, lower-calorie choice at Buffalo Wild Wings, your options are limited," says Goodson. "Considering most of the chain's items are fried at some level, there really isn't even a 'healthy' side item to add to your wings."

It's not impossible to eat decently at the wing chain, though. Goodson recommends trying a grilled chicken wrap, the Grilled Chicken Buffalitos (aka tacos), or the "naked tenders," all without the sauce and dressing if you can manage.

"The Dietitian's pick would be Naked Tenders with a side salad, the snack size of wings, if you need the wings, with a side salad, or the Chicken Buffalitos," she says. "The key at this restaurant is, in addition to your meal choice, to watch out for the sauces, dips, and rubs, as they 'unhealthify' your food real quick!"

Kaley Roberts
Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more about Kaley