35 Sugariest Restaurant Meals on the Planet
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 180 calories a day for women following an 1,800-calorie diet and 200 for men 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 the USDA advises you should have in a day.
RELATED: The science-backed way to curb your sweet tooth in 14 days.
Quizno’s Apple Harvest Chicken Salad with Acai Vinaigrette
Studies have found that people who perceive not-so-wholesome meals as “healthy” will tend to eat 35 percent more of the meal than if they thought of it as a regular food. That’s particularly bad news because Quiznos has marketed this salad with a bunch of these health food buzzwords: “apple” and “acai” to name but a few. Brace yourself for the truth: This dish actually has more calories than a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s and more than a day’s worth of sugar. Yes, seriously!
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.
Red Robin’s 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 the same amount you would get from eating four Krispy Kreme donuts.
Applebee’s Honey BBQ Boneless Wings with Ranch
Yes, honey is an added sugar, no matter what Winnie the Pooh says. In fact, 42 grams of the sugar in this platter comes from the sauce alone.
O’Charley’s Chipotle Chicken Tenders
Your love of Chipotle shouldn’t lead you to make bad choices. One of which, may be ordering this extremely sweet—and just as salty—appetizer from O’Charley’s.
Buffalo Wild Wings Asian Zing Boneless Wings, Large
Sure a large (around 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
P.F. Chang’s Orange Peel Chicken
The blend of Hunan chili sauce and fresh orange slices results in a dish with more sugar than three 8-ounce glasses of orange juice.
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!
Buffalo Wild Wings Hickory Pulled Pork Sandwich
Although whipping up a slow-cooker batch of pulled pork makes low-calorie desk lunches a breeze, we’d recommend sticking to your homemade version over this dietary disaster.
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.
IHOP Mexican Churro Pancakes
Churros are a sweet treat that you might indulge in after dinner once in a while. But piled on top of four pancakes along with whipped cream, cream cheese icing, and a warm cinnamon spread, you’re having a sugar-filled dessert for breakfast. And that’s just your first meal of the day!
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.
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 contain 76 grams of sugar but has 3,530 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.
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.
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!
Bob Evans Double Blueberry Hotcakest
Blueberry topping, whipped topping, and powdered sugar come together on top of four pancakes for nearly a whopping 80 grams of sugar.
IHOP Strawberry Vanilla Stuffed French Toast
Anytime you see “stuffed” to describe a menu item, you know it’s going to be highly caloric, but 85 grams of sugar is simply way too much to be consuming in one meal.
Applebee’s Honey BBQ Riblets Platter
Yes, honey is an added sugar, no matter what Winnie the Pooh says.
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.
O’Charley’s Full Rack Baby Back Ribs with Broccoli and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
The culprit for the sugar isn’t just the Baby Back Ribs. Would you ever guess that a side of mashed sweet potatoes had 18 grams of sugar in it? That’s more than what’s in three KIND Fruit & Nut Delight bars!
Boston Market Half-Rack St. Louis Style BBQ Ribs
With a holiday weekend’s worth of sugar and two days of sodium, your blood sugar and blood pressure will be in a race to see who can redline faster. Opting the same plate but with a Quarter Skinless Rotisserie Chicken with gravy instead of BBQ sauce won’t cost you nearly as much sugar and then you’ll have plenty you can set aside for dessert.
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?
BJ’s Baby Back Pork Ribs Full Rack
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. Meet the absolute Worst Breakfast in America.
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.
Denny’s Cinnamon Roll Pancake Breakfast
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?
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: about five days’ worth of sugar. If you’re looking to bulk up, take a look at these protein powders instead.