Some people see lists like these and take them as a way to figure out what’s “tasty,” what’s “not going to suck,” and what’s “okay to eat once in awhile.” But these items are literally the least nutritious, most caloric, most horrifying choices on menus that—generally speaking—aren’t exactly known for keeping people slim.
We understand that it’s practically an art to eat out and remain relatively healthy. But this list isn’t about that art — here, experts take a deep dive into the nutritional information of 40 restaurants and fast food chains and resurface with a definitive declaration: “If you go to this one restaurant, do not eat this one thing!”
Scope out this exclusive list—and start undoing the damage to your waistline with these 44 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat!
First, The Restaurant Chains
The first 20 places on our list are places like Chili’s and Olive Garden. You’re most likely sitting down, maybe with the fam, and it’s kinda nice. They probably have some very decent options for healthier meals—but the worst thing on their menu may also be much harder to guess. So before you ask for that table for four, find out what’s the one thing you and your crew should avoid ordering.
Attack of the beige! Whenever your dinner is monochromatic (in this case, the off-brown hue of deep-fried junk), you know you’re in trouble. Choosing a dish like this is easily one of the 40 Bad Habits That Make You Sick and Fat. Don’t blame the fish—the seafood is packed with lean, muscle-building protein and heart-healthy fats. No, the trouble here lies with a massively unbalanced fish-to-fat ratio. A coating of crispy batter and a heaping pile of deep-fried potatoes is no way to treat the golden child of nutrition. When it comes to seafood, always abandon ship on fried fish and opt for grilled instead.
What has nearly a day’s worth of calories and two days’ worth of saturated fat? This sneaky diet-derailing dish. Where all that fat and sodium comes from we may never know, but we can tell you this: This is one breakfast that will offer no benefits to your day. Stay far, far away—especially if you’ve been trying to cleanse your body of junk!
When it comes to contributing to our nation’s ever-expanding collective waistline, O’Charley’s — home of Free Pie Wednesdays and caloric Southern-inspired fare — is certainly doing their part. And this dish is no exception. Sitting down to a giant plate of nutrient-void cheese wedges, chicken tenders and “overloaded” potato skins is a recipe for disaster if you’re trying to improve your health — even if you consider it one of your weekly cheat meals.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Even if you divide this 24-piece platter into two portions, you’d still consume over 1,000 calories and more than your entire daily recommended intake of sodium! Wings may be tasty, but there are far better ways to spend your salt allowance.
California Pizza Kitchen
Think “Thin Crust” always translates to “healthy option?” Well, think again. These slimmer slices have as many carbs as a traditional slice, but way more sodium. In fact, it has more sodium than 22 slices of Oscar Mayer Hardwood Smoked Bacon! Scary stuff, right?
Shrimp! Mushrooms! Fresh basil! When you read the list of ingredients that goes into this dish, it’s hard to imagine it would be such a nutritional nightmare. But this is the restaurant industry we’re talking about here. Would you expect anything less? If you’re looking for carbs that won’t derail your weight loss progress, check out these healthy carbs instead.
We give the Cheesecake Factory props for rolling out some lighter options as of late, but its menu is still home to some of the most caloric fare in the nation. What’s worse, the Factory insists on keeping its nutritional info under lock and key. When it comes to the question, “Are you trying to hide something?” the answer for this restaurant is “Yes. A million times yes.” This creamy pasta dish, topped with peas, bacon, and chicken, has more than a day’s worth of calories and more saturated fat than 50 eggs! And that’s just according to the nutrition data we could actually get our hands on. The Factory refused to dole out the latest stats when we asked. Take it from us: Shady business is never good news for your body.
With nearly a day’s worth of calories and more fat than 10 hot dogs, this Southwestern-inspired, steak-and-bacon-stuffed quesadilla will pop the button right off your skinny jeans! Even if you shared it with a friend, you’d be taking in 2.8 times the American Heart Association’s recommended daily intake of saturated fat. Make it a rule to avoid anything with the word quesadilla in the title when you’re at Chili’s (yes, even the salads) none of the options have less than 1,400 calories per serving—not what you should be eating if your goal is to lose belly fat.
“It’s just a breakfast sandwich, how bad could it be?” You ask. “Pretty bad.” We say. With nearly a day’s worth of calories, saturated fat, and salt as well as half the day’s trans fat, this meal for one should really be split into thirds or quarters. Eat at your own risk!
Unless you’re stocking up to hibernate for winter, there’s no reason ever to order a menu item that contains the word “platter.” More often than not, it’s code for “way too many calories, carbs, and fat.” Don’t believe it? Consider: This bland bowl of beige serves up more carbs than 19 chocolate chip cookies and more calories than 122 small clams. Proceed with caution at the not-so-friendly restaurant—and be sure to steer clear of these 23 Restaurant Foods With Crazy-High Amounts of Sugar, too. They’ll all undo all of your valiant weight loss efforts.
Just look at that plate of crispy brown nastiness! “Monster” mozzarella sticks, onion rings and chicken strips all on one plate? This dish is a giant fat bomb tainted with trans fats and sky-high levels of salt. Even if you split it with a friend, you’d still offset an entire day of smart eating! Wondering what other foods you should steer clear of to trim down? All of these 150 Worst Packaged Foods in America fit the bill.
Ziti, prosciutto, asiago cheese and red pepper cream sauce join to create this artery-stiffening dinner disaster that packs more than a day’s worth of trans fat. Not convinced you should add it to your “do not eat” list? Consider this: A 150-pound woman would need to run for nearly three hours to burn it off. And this is only the entrée! Add your appetizer, dessert, and a drink, and it’s easy to amass half a week’s worth of calories in one meal at Maggiano’s. If you’re craving a starchy meal, indulge with these 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss instead.
In their purest form, mussels are one of the lowest-calorie proteins in the sea. But despite their innocent appearance, these are not your average mussel. After the chefs at Bonefish doused these guys in a fatty lemon wine sauce, the appetizer became your body’s worst nightmare, serving up more than a day’s worth of trans fat and twice the amount of saturated fat! But that’s not all: Even if you split the entire lot with a friend, you’d still take in ample amount of calories—and that’s before your entree even arrives! There are much smarter items on the menu.
On The Border
For $12.29, On the Border will give you a full day’s calorie intake, nearly two day’s of salt and three days of fat in the form of their beer-battered, deep fried fish tacos. Remember when fish was actually healthy? Us, too! And in your kitchen, it still is, if you pick the right kind. Use our exclusive list of 40+ Most Popular Types of Fish—Ranked for Nutrition! to figure out which fish is best to eat.
Shrimp is the healthier choice over chicken, right? Wrong. This seemingly innocent swap adds 280 milligrams of sodium to an already absurdly salty dish. In fact, this Pad Thai Shrimp contains two days’ worth — plus an extra 650 milligrams — of sodium. This dish also happens to contain your entire day’s worth of added sugars. Looks like you got to have dessert for dinner after all.
It’s hard to screw up a plate of roasted lobster tail, shrimp, sea scallops, and mussels, but by adding linguini and a fatty garlic-and-white-wine sauce, Red Lobster manages to transform a protein-rich plate of seafood into one that can give you an instant heart attack. Just say no to this disgusting, deep-sea diet bomb. For better-for-you options at your favorite seafood chain, don’t miss our special report 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Red Lobster.
Beware: This isn’t your bubby’s classic chicken parm! The massive serving of capellini under the poultry is doused in a thick sauce, and the Milanese-style chicken is piled high with fatty mozzarella. And even if you split this dish with a friend, you’d take in half the day’s calories, salt, and saturated fat. But all hope is not lost, pasta fans; to eat your favorite Italian noodles without losing your figure, check out these 40 Ultimate Pasta Tips to Stay Skinny!
Topped with crispy chicken, bacon, and layers upon layers of cheese, this grown-up twist on mac and cheese is one of the worst pasta dishes you can order when you dine out. In fact, all of the pasta dishes at Ruby Tuesdays carry more than 900 calories! Stay away if you want to stay slim.
TGI Fridays Restaurant & Bar
Three words sum up this T.G.I. Fridays’ dish: Salty fat-laden disaster. Just a quick read of the ingredients should tick you off: classic and white barbeque sauces, spicy Jack cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, and Cajun-spiced onion strings. (P.S. The nutrition information doesn’t even include the choice of side you’re offered.) You’d be better off having two McDonald’s Big Macs than this monstrosity. It’s hard to imagine, we know, but you’d actually take in fewer calories, fat, carbs, sugar and blood-pressure-spiking salt. For more calorie-saving hacks, check out these 25 Food Swaps That Cut 2,500 Calories a Week!
Olive Garden’s menu is in desperate need of a makeover. The seafood is swimming in sodium, the cocktails are packed with sugar, and the average dinner-size plate of pasta packs a staggering 976 calories — thanks in part to the soggy plate of carbs pictured above. Not only does it pack nearly a day’s worth of sodium, but it also serves up a day’s worth of trans fat), an artificial fat that’s been linked heart disease. All of this is before you tack on the breadsticks and salad.
And Now for the Fast Food Chains…
The second half of our list is made up of popular fast-food joints. You’re probably swinging through the drive-thru or desperate for a meal while traveling, and you know going into it that you’re not about to have a very healthy meal. It can be a little easier to decipher what you should stay away from—anything that has “triple” in its name is probably dangerous—but there are still some options that sound innocent enough. Don’t be fooled; find out what’s the one item to skip at each of these 20 popular fast food places.
This two-patty, bacon-topped sandwich is by far the worst burger on Burger King’s menu, surpassing all others in waistline-demolishing ingredients. The quarter-pound patties, bacon, cheese, and mayo alone deliver a whopping 79 grams of fat—worse than five of the King’s classic hamburgers. It also comes packed with 3.5 grams of artery-clogging trans fats and 31 grams of saturated fat, which is more than you should have in an entire day.
A remnant from the days when “super-sizing” was cool, this sandwich takes a perfectly fine burger and multiplies it by two. There’s no reason to eat a half-pound of beef for lunch, unless, of course, it’s 2004 and you’re making a documentary about getting fat. To see how your favorite McDonald’s menu items stack up against this devilish dish, check out our exclusive report, Every Menu Item at McDonald’s—Ranked!!
Moe’s Southwest Grill
Homewrecker? More like an ab wrecker! This burrito has not one, not two, but three major sources of carbs (tortilla, rice, and beans) and three major sources of fat (cheese, sour cream, and guac), so it’s really no surprise it has such a scary nutritional profile.
It may not look too dangerous, but this is the absolute worst item you could order at Chick-fil-A. The sodium count alone is clucking ridiculous! The one thing that cemented this salad’s place on the “Worst” list? The Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing. With inflammatory soybean oil as a leading agent, you can bet that the 32 grams of fat this dressing contains are a major reason why the small packet climbs up to 310 calories. (And, by the way, that’s as many calories as a Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich!) To see how other dishes at the chicken joint stack up, check out our exclusive report, The Entire Chick-Fil-A Menu—Ranked!.
When made in the safety of your own kitchen, a turkey sandwich isn’t a half-bad lunch option, but tread carefully in the land of greasy-spoon finger foods. This sandwich is over-packed with carbs, fat, and sugar. Yes, sugar! Where’s all the sweet stuff coming from? Most likely the honey wheat bread, which is just blood sugar-spiking junk in disguise. And speaking of the evil granulated stuff, if you’re trying to cut back, check out these 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar.
This fully loaded burrito from Chipotle has a day’s worth of salt and more than a day’s worth of saturated fat. Yes, seriously. But that’s not all: This dinnertime disaster serves up more carbs than you’d find in nearly six whole-grain dinner rolls! Although almost everything in this burrito is carb-heavy, the tortilla (46 grams) and white rice (40 grams) tip the scales.
Watch out for terms like “XXL” and “Stuft”—they’re both codes for “far from diet-friendly.” This particular meathead burrito may offer up 32 grams of protein but it also contains a whopping 96 grams of carbs (about what you’d find in 6 slices of Ezekiel bread), and you’re also holding a whole day’s worth of salt in one hand. These are just two of the many factors that make this dish a “Not That!” Oh, and don’t even think about washing it down with one of these 70 drinks that give you a soda belly!
You can love meat without taking in half a day’s saturated fat with one slice of pizza. Specialty pies are an excuse to go crazy with a ton of high-fat toppings that do virtually nothing for flavor and increase your calorie load considerably. At Pizza Hut, don’t be a Lover, be a fighter with the less caloric pepperoni slice. Or better yet, make one of these Healthy Homemade Pizzas, instead.
Chicken pot pie: The dish your mom makes for your dad on his birthday and the meal your grandma loved whipping up for your mom when she was a kid. Word of warning: This isn’t anything like the homemade variety you know and love. Despite the fact that this is one of the only dishes at KFC that’s stuffed with veggies and never touches the deep fryer, it’s still the worst option on the menu. The main calorie culprit is its buttery shell, but the creamy sauce that binds the filling together certainly doesn’t help matters either. To save 250 calories, order an Original Recipe Chicken Breast with Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Sweet Kernel Corn. Or if you’d rather just enjoy come poultry at home, whip up one of these amazing healthy chicken recipes.
Featuring pepperoni, sausage and six different types of fatty cheese, this pie is said to be Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s favorite—but frankly, we’re not buying it. Spend a few moments Googling Mr. Schnatter, and you’ll discover that he’s surprisingly fit. There’s no way a 410-calorie slice is his mainstay. And speaking of super-trim dudes, steal their lean-for-life knowledge in our exclusive report 25 Weight Loss Tips From The World’s Fittest Men.
Dave’s Triple is triple trouble! Start with three beef patties, and you’re already skating on thin nutritional ice. To make matters worse, this dish has three pieces of processed cheese and fatty mayo. The result? A burger that has two days’ of heart-harming trans fat and as much fat as nearly five orders of small fries off the Wendy’s menu.
Jack In The Box
Jack in the Box’s menu has come a long way in the past few years, but a few major changes still need to be made, including banishing this bacon-topped beef burger. If the double helping of meat wasn’t bad enough, Jack adds garlic herb butter, Swiss cheese and globs of bacon mayo to his signature bun—and your buns will pay for it if you indulge. Just say no to this rear-expanding dish. Trying to slim down and trim the fat? Check out these 50 Best-Ever Weight Loss Tips!
One former Sonic employee may have told the Reddit community to never order the Steak or Grilled Chicken, but we found something else you should back away from. This super-sized sip has more calories than 24 chocolate chip cookies, more fat than 36 strips of pan-fried bacon and more sugar than 6 Snicker bars! Need any more explanation as to why it made this list? Didn’t think so. Stay away if you want to protect your hard-earned flat belly!
If you want something fried and starchy at Popeyes, go with the Loaded Chicken Wrap and skip this crustacean-filled calorie bomb. With a day’s worth of salt and half a day’s trans fat—the most dangerous fat in all the land—this is one nutritionally poor Po Boy.
You knew ribs weren’t exactly healthy, but did you realize that they are filled with so much fat and sugar?! To keep 400+ calories and 73 grams (!!!) of waist-expanding fat off of your plate, ask for the Quarter Skinless Rotisserie Chicken with Zesty BBQ Sauce, Fresh Vegetable Stuffing, Garlic Dill New Potatoes. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy a big plate of variety instead of one lame rack of ribs? We know we would! For more insider info on all of your favorite eateries, check out these 25 Things Fast Food Chains Don’t Want You to Know!
We’re usually on board with spicy food, mainly because capsaicin—the compound that makes your tongue hurt so good—is a known metabolism-booster. But this jalapeño-, pepper-jack cheese-, and habañero-topped burger is most definitely an exception to the rule. Not only does it fill your belly with half a day’s calories, but it also has more salt than 27 saltine crackers—which is more than an entire day’s worth! Next time you’re at Carl’s, order the All-Natural Burger sans mayo instead and raise the heat with an addition of jalapeño coins.
Panera’s Steak & White Cheddar Panini contains 1,000 fewer milligrams of sodium than their Italian sandwich, but it earned our worst spot because it’s higher in calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, carbs, and sugar. If you can’t bear to part with this sad excuse for a lunchtime classic, at least order the half-portion and pair it with a house salad—your waistline and blood pressure with thank you. For even more ways to slim down and get fit, check out these 42 Ways to Lose 5 Inches of Belly Fat.
Jimmy says that this sandwich is “huge enough to feed the hungriest of all humans!” And we think he hit the nail on the head—1,135 calories is a lot to down in one sitting. Thanks to the salami, sliced smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey and provolone combo you’ll also get a day-and-a-half of fat—what a deal! (If you can’t tell, we’re being sarcastic.)
Long John Silver’s
Fat in the breading, fat in the sauce, fat in the tortillas—and none of it’s the healthy kind. It all adds up to a half day’s worth of the stuff, plus over a full day’s allotment of salt. While Long John Silver’s has come a long way in recent years, there are still plenty of fried entrees that could sink your battleship.
Picking the worst dish at DQ was pretty tough. Though a nearly 1,000 calorie burger is borderline unethical, that’s nothing compared to the chain’s 1,250-calorie, six-piece Chicken Strip Basket. At the end of the day, though, the burger’s massive trans fat count earned it a place on our Terrible 40 list. While the chicken has just a half-gram of the stuff, this bad-boy burger packs an entire day’s worth. Skip it at all costs. Having met some of the worst kids on Fast Food Lane, team up with some of the best with the help of our exclusive report, 25 Restaurant Meals Under 500 Calories!
If the fat count on the 2/3 LB. Monster Thickburger has you wondering what Hardee’s piles on this thing, take note of the thick pile of bacon peeking out from between its buns. But what really burns us up is how much sodium they back into a meal you can eat with your hands: 136 percent of what you should eat — in an entire day! Find out what you should pick instead with our exclusive report: The Best & Worst Burger From Every Popular Fast Food Chain.
The Worst of the Worst
Let’s recap! Now that you know the sketchiest choice for 40 popular American restaurants, you’ve probably started to look for what’s really bad. Ranked simply by calories in this instance, the scariest item on this entire list is a plate of Buffalo Wild Wings’ Large Boneless Wings with 2,580 calories. The experts at Eat This, Not That! take solace that this dish is an appetizer and probably being shared—but we can’t say the same for the Pasta Carbonara with Chicken (2,291 calories) from The Cheesecake Factory or Sonic’s Large Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dream Master Blast (2,300 calories). Be careful, people. You’ve officially been warned.