The U.S. government thinks you're sweet enough. In fact, the USDA even issued guidelines recommending that Americans keep their consumption of added sugars low—to about 200 calories a day for those following a 2,000-calorie diet. Their guidelines translate to about 45 grams of sugar a day, tops, or about 11 teaspoons. But organizations from the American Heart Association to the World Health Organization recommend cutting that number further; they say no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women, and no more than 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons, for men is best for optimal health.
Think 11 teaspoons of sugar a day sounds like a lot? Well, it is. But you'll be surprised how easy it is to eat that much; in fact, the average American woman consumes about 25 teaspoons (100 grams!) of sugar a day. And if you're dining out a lot, there's a chance you're consuming a lot more of the sweet stuff, as the sugar in restaurant food isn't blatantly advertised when you're perusing the menu.
And even if you're not popping jelly beans or chugging high-fructose corn syrup, where are all those sugar calories coming from? Surprisingly, a lot come from foods you'd never think of as "sugary." Here's our list of surprising restaurant foods with more sugar than you should have in a day. And while you're making better choices, be sure to try out the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Bob Evans Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
This whole salad has more sugar than you'll find in a piece of cranberry pecan pie. No thanks! You can make your own just as tasty and less sugary salad right at home.
Applebee's Four Cheese Mac & Cheese With Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders
In this dish, you're feasting on four-cheese penne mac & cheese is that is topped with Applewood-smoked bacon and crispy chicken tenders that are tossed in honey pepper sauce. That pesky honey sauce is what's bringing on all the sugar here, and the sodium is also off the charts. Just avoid this meal!
Red Robin The Southern Charm Burger
If you're in the mood for a burger, you're most likely craving something savory not sweet, right? Well, this burger is topped with a brown sugar glaze, candied bacon, BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, cheese, lettuce, mayo, on a brioche bun. So it's easy to see where all this sugar is coming from, which is a little more than the amount you would get from eating four Krispy Kreme donuts.
Applebee's Honey BBQ Boneless Wings with Ranch
All of the sugar here comes from the sauce. You're better off eating them plain!
O'Charley's Chipotle Chicken Tenders
Your love of Chipotle shouldn't lead you to make bad choices. One of which, might be ordering this extremely sweet—and just as salty—appetizer from O'Charley's.
Denny's The Grand Slamwich
This take on Denny's classic Grand Slam takes scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, and cheese and stacks it between potato bread that is grilled with a maple spice spread. You wouldn't expect this dish to be packing more sugar than five Original Glazed Krispy Kreme Donuts!
Applebee's Crunchy Onion Rings
While this is an appetizer, even if you split it, you'd still be guzzling down as much sugar as you would from an entire 12-ounce Coca Cola can.
California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Chicken Salad
It sure sounds like the picture of good health—a salad of fresh apples, grapes, celery, walnuts, and blue cheese—but be cautious. The full-size portion combined with a sugary dressing means that you'll be taking in too much sugar for a single sitting.
IHOP Cupcake Pancakes
Fill IHOP's signature buttermilk pancakes with rainbow sprinkles, top with cupcake icing, more rainbow sprinkles, and whipped topping and you literally get dessert for breakfast.
P.F. Chang's Sesame Chicken
Covered in a thick coating of sauce, sesame chicken has never looked like the healthiest pick on the menu, but you probably didn't suspect that it has as much sugar as 20 jumbo marshmallows! Stay away from this dish and instead, ask your server to bring you the Dynamite Shrimp starter with a small side of Spinach with Garlic as your entree. You'll get that sweet, tangy taste you crave for a fraction of the calories and sugar.
Friendly's Clam Strips Platter
Unless you're getting ready to host a party or split this for the table, there's no rhyme or reason to ever 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 us? This bland bowl of beige serves you more fat than six servings of McDonald's greasy, oil-coated French fries.
Perkins Strawberry Croissant French Toast
This dish is described as "a flaky buttery croissant, dipped in a signature batter, grilled and loaded with sweet glazed strawberries and Bavarian cream," which is clearly just sugar overload and not the right way to start your morning.
Cheesecake Factory Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad
A salad that comes in at more than 2,000 calories salad and contains nearly 70 grams of sugar? This one way to make the basis of a "healthy" dish anything but that.
O'Charley's California Chicken Salad with Balsamic
Naming a salad after a state that evokes thoughts of juices and acai bowls seems certainly ironic when said salad has way more sugar than you should eat in an entire day!
Jamba Juice Island Pitaya Bowl
"Energy bowls" are a trend at many juice places, but remember that another word for "energy" is "calories." While some of the sugar comes from fruit, much of it comes from honey and granola, leading to more than two days' worth of sweetness.
Chili's Caribbean Salad with Grilled Chicken
A salad with grilled chicken—can't be too bad for you, right? This is a prime example of sugar hiding in a seemingly healthful dish. After eating Chili's Caribbean Salad—and its nine donuts worth of sugar—you won't be feeling any healthier that's for sure. Build a better salad at home instead with these awesome mason jar salad recipes.
TGI Fridays Signature Whiskey-Glazed Burger with Gluten-Free Bun
TGI Fridays Signature Whiskey-Glazed Burger is infused with Jack Daniels and not only contain 72 grams of sugar but has 3,570 milligrams of sodium, too. For perspective, The American Heart Association recommends that you consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day to keep your heart healthy.
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Root Beer Glazed Ribs
It's important to keep in mind that this is just an appetizer option. It could easily be a meal though, as it's five slow-roasted baby back pork ribs that are slathered in BJ's handcrafted root beer glaze. That's where the 75 grams of sugar are coming in—from the sauce!
Cheesecake Factory Teriyaki Chicken
"Terror-yaki" is more like it. This entree is the sugar equivalent of 3 Snickers Bars, and comes topped with a whopping amount of sodium. As much as we hate the idea of ordering anything called "Skinnylicious" in front of a dinner date, at Cheesecake Factory that might be your best.
IHOP Milk 'n' Cookies Pancakes
Made with Oreo cookie crumbles, powdered sugar, cereal milk mousse, and drizzled with vanilla sauce, these IHOP pancakes are by far one of the most fattening seasonal restaurant items you'll find, clocking in with nearly 100% of the recommended dietary allowance of saturated fat. And knowing it has more than 70 grams of sugar, too? Big yikes.
P.F. Chang's Spicy Chicken
We're starting to see a trend here where "spicy" really means you're getting a plate of chicken with as much sugar as 18 Chips Ahoy cookies.
Cheesecake Factory Orange Chicken
Starting to see a trend here with these saucy, deep-fried chicken dishes? The orange chicken dish at Cheesecake Factory does come with white rice and veggies, but you're better off skipping this entree.
Buffalo Wild Wings Asian Zing Boneless Wings
Sure, 20 wings may seem like a lot, but it's easy to get carried away with bite-size boneless wings. They are described as "Sweet meets heat: A chili pepper, soy and ginger sauce" but judging by the nutrition, the two flavors met, and sweet just ran right by and claimed these wings as its own.
Bob Evans Double Blueberry Hotcakes
Blueberry topping, whipped topping, and powdered sugar come together on top of four pancakes for nearly a whopping 80 grams of sugar.
Denny's Salted Caramel & Banana Cream Pancake Breakfast
Here, shortbread pieces are stuffed into buttermilk pancakes and then are topped with not just vanilla cream, but also bananas and warm salted caramel sauce. And then more shortbread pieces on top. Still not full? You can round out the meal with the extra bacon, eggs, and hash browns. Big yikes.
Panda Express 3-Entree Plate
They call them "sweetfire" meats for a reason. Listen to the warning shot, and take evasive action. Getting a trio of String Bean Chicken Breast, Broccoli Beef, and Kung Pao Chicken with a side of brown rice instead will save you a ton of sugar!
Chili's Crispy Honey Chipotle Crispers with BBQ Sauce
With the word "crisp" in the title twice, you'd think fat would be your biggest worry, but Chili's manages to pack 52 grams of sugar into the actual Crisper itself—before even adding on the BBQ Sauce.
O'Charley's Baby Back Ribs, Carolina Gold
The sugar in these Baby Back Ribs isn't the only culprit. The sodium in this dish is through the roof, and this is without any side dishes factored in. Yikes.
Jamba Juice Strawberry Surf Rider, Large
Strawberry Surf Rider? Strawberry Couch Rider might be a better name for this sugary combination of fruit, lime sherbet, and lemonade. Even downgrading to the smallest size, 16 ounces, will still put you at 54 grams of the sweet stuff.
Applebee's Honey BBQ Riblets Platter
Yes, honey is an added sugar, no matter what Winnie the Pooh says.
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Baby Back Pork Ribs Full Rack with Peppered BBQ Sauce
We don't know what is in the Big Poppa Smokers' Sweet Money Championship Rub, but it turns this full rack of pork ribs into an item worthy of the dessert menu with 100 grams of sugar. For something a little more figure-friendly that saves you over 100 grams of sugar, plus 500 calories to boot, ask for the sirloin instead. It's packed with just as much protein!
Cheesecake Factory Bruleed French Toast with Bacon
Calling this "dessert for breakfast" wouldn't even cut it, since an average slice of white cake with chocolate frosting only has 30 grams of sugar.
Denny's Cinnamon Roll Pancake Breakfast with Cream Cheese Icing
The chefs at Denny's must've had a field day with this one, as you're treated to buttermilk pancakes that are "cooked with cinnamon crumb topping and topped with whipped cream and are served with a pitcher of warm cream cheese icing for drizzling. A pitcher seems a bit excessive, don't you think?
Chili's Crispy Honey Chipotle & Waffles
No one ever thought chicken and waffles is healthy, but would you have guessed your order came with more added sugars than you should consume in two whole days? This dish from Chili's is one to avoid, as it's also loaded in a ridiculous amount of sodium, fat, and calories.
Smoothie King The Hulk Strawberry, 40 Oz
"Blended to help you get toned, build muscle, last longer or recover faster" is the claim Smoothie King makes for its line of Fitness Blends, of which The Hulk is the beefiest. It contains butter pecan ice cream and a proprietary "weight gain blend." We're pretty sure we know what's in that: multiple days' worth of sugar.