The #1 Unhealthiest Order at 10 Major BBQ Chains
Some of the best comfort food comes in the form of barbecue. Sticky ribs smothered in sauce, tender pulled pork or brisket on a toasted bun, creamed corn, and macaroni and cheese. Whatever your go-to order is, going to a barbecue chain restaurant can fill you up and satisfy your cravings in one trip. Unfortunately—and unsurprisingly—many of the BBQ favorites we love also tend to be packed full of calories, fat, added sugars, and sodium. While ordering these foods once in a while is completely fine, it's important to look out for the unhealthiest BBQ chain orders to really understand the excessive nature of these meals.
According to Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, barbecue restaurants are not generally healthy due to many of the following common factors:
- Fatty brisket and meats: Brisket is a popular barbecue choice, but it's also one of the fattier cuts of meat. When it's smoked, the fat renders and can make the meat quite rich in calories and saturated fats. If you get a sandwich or plate with a large portion of brisket and add high-calorie sides, this could be a high-calorie and unhealthy choice.
- Combo platters with multiple meats: Some menu items, like combo platters, offer a variety of meats. While this can be delicious, it can also lead to a higher calorie and fat intake. Combining fatty meats like brisket, pork ribs, and sausages can result in a calorie-heavy meal.
- Loaded sides: Many barbecue places offer hearty and indulgent sides, such as macaroni and cheese, baked beans with bacon, or creamy coleslaw. Ordering multiple sides or opting for loaded versions can significantly increase the calorie and fat content of your meal.
- Sugary sauces: Barbecue sauces often contain added sugars and can contribute to the overall calorie count. If you're not careful with your sauce choices or you slather your meat generously, you could be consuming extra sugar and calories.
Here are the unhealthiest orders at 10 of the most popular BBQ chain restaurants. Many of these chains don't have their exact nutrition information listed, so it is included where it is available online. "In addition," adds Sabat, "Depending on the sides chosen, the meal might be higher or lower in calories, fat, and sugar."
Read on, and for more healthy dining out tips, check out The #1 Healthiest Breakfast to Order at 14 Major Chains.
Famous Dave's Farmhouse Platter with Boneless Wings
Located in 30 states across the U.S. as well as Canada, Famous Dave's BBQ has a delicious menu full of all of your favorite classic barbecue foods. However, one of the items that Sabat suggests avoiding when you head to Famous Dave's is the Farmhouse Platter with Boneless Wings.
"This platter stands out as one of the unhealthiest choices on the menu due to its extraordinarily high calorie count, fat content, and sugar content before even considering any additional sauces," says Sabat. "With a staggering 3,540 calories, it significantly exceeds the daily recommended caloric intake for most individuals. The 58 grams of fat contribute to a substantial amount of saturated and trans fats, which can increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems when consumed in excess."
Sabat also adds that "The 55 grams of sugar are notably high, potentially leading to blood sugar spikes and contributing to weight gain."
Moe's Original BBQ Smokey Ribs with 3 Sides
Moe's Original BBQ is one BBQ restaurant without the nutrition information listed, but with three side items and a decently sized portion of ribs, you can guess that this option can easily be one of the unhealthier choices on the menu.
"At this restaurant, you choose your protein and of the choice of ribs, wings, or pulled pork, the ribs would be the highest in calories, fat, and sugar at most places. Ribs with three sides will most likely be high-calorie and high-fat content, often exceeding daily calorie needs and increasing the risk of heart disease when consumed regularly," says Sabat. "Additionally, some barbecue sides may contain added sugars and sodium, contributing to health issues like obesity and hypertension, while the overall portion size of such a meal can lead to overeating and weight gain. Choosing smaller portions and sides with lower added sugars and unhealthy fats can help make this meal a more balanced and less unhealthy option."
Mission BBQ 10-Bone Baby Back Ribs
When you go to Mission BBQ, your purchases will help support firefighters, soldiers, and first responders, as Mission BBQ's mission is to "proudly serve those who serve." But if you are going to head to this BBQ chain to support their cause, you may want to keep an eye out for their unhealthier menu items—such as the Mission 10-Bone Baby Back Ribs.
"Ordering these ribs without any sides can be one of the worst choices for health due to its extremely high calorie and saturated fat content," says Sabat. "At 1,972 calories, this dish significantly exceeds the daily recommended calorie intake for most individuals, potentially leading to weight gain and other health issues when consumed regularly."
Sabat adds "Moreover, the staggering 52 grams of saturated fat in this meal greatly surpasses daily recommendations and can increase the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems."
Joe's Kansas City Barbecue Hogamaniac
Those who are fans of Joe's Kansas City BBQ can enjoy their menu of all the BBQ classics like beef, pulled pork, ribs, and sandwiches. But when you go for The Hogamaniac—which is a combination of two ribs, pulled pork, sausage, a side, and Texas Toast—Sabat warns that it can be a concerning choice for your health.
"First, it packs a substantial amount of meat, including ribs, which are typically high in saturated fat and calories, and the addition of pulled pork and sausage only amplifies the calorie and fat content of the meal," she says. "Second, Texas Toast often contains high levels of butter or oil, adding more unhealthy fats to the plate. Last, while sides can vary, many barbecue sides are laden with sugars, sodium, and additional unhealthy fats."
Although the exact nutrition information isn't listed, Sabat says "This meal's overall composition is a recipe for excessive calorie and fat intake, potentially contributing to weight gain, heart disease, and other health issues when consumed regularly."
L & L Hawaiian Barbecue BBQ Cheeseburger
Easily the most popular BBQ chain in Hawaii, L&L Hawaiian BBQ goes by "Hawaii's Comfort Food." As with most comfort foods, their menu is full of calorie-dense items that taste amazing but may not do much for your health goals. This is especially true for the L & L Hawaiian BBQ Barbecue Cheeseburger.
According to Sabat, this cheeseburger can be considered the most unhealthy choice because first, "the juicy ground beef patty and cheese are high in saturated fat and calories, contributing to the overall calorie load of the meal," she says. "Additionally, the L&L House Special BBQ sauce contains added sugars and sodium, further increasing the calorie count and potentially affecting blood sugar levels."
On top of that, "Serving the burger on a white roll means refined carbohydrates with little nutritional value, and including French fries as a side dish adds more unhealthy elements to the meal, as they are typically deep-fried, high in saturated fats, and can be quite calorie-dense."
Dickey's Barbecue Pit Texas Frito Pie Stack
"When you take brisket and stack it high with other unhealthy choices, you get a nutritionist's nightmare," says Sabat. That is why when you're heading to Dickey's BBQ, you may want to skip over the Texas Frito Pie Stack.
"This stack comes in at 932 calories with a whopping 45 grams of fat and 14 grams of saturated fat, and it has 88 grams of carbohydrates, 25 of which are added sugars," says Sabat.
While barbecue beans can provide some fiber and protein, they often come with added sugars and may contain high levels of sodium. Furthermore, the addition of Fritos, which are deep-fried corn chips, not only contributes to the calorie count but also adds extra unhealthy trans fats. Diced onions are a relatively healthy component, but they don't counterbalance the overall nutritional concerns in this dish. When combined, these ingredients create a high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium meal, making the Texas Frito Pie Stack an option to be enjoyed in moderation for those concerned about their overall health.
Mighty Quinn's Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Compared to some of the other BBQ chains on our list, Mighty Quinn's is smaller in size and has fewer locations, being only in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, and one international location in Dubai. If you find yourself at one of their stores, Sabat suggests steering clear of the Mighty Quinn's Crispy Chicken Sandwich, or at least consuming it only in moderation.
"Their Crispy Chicken Sandwich can be considered an unhealthy choice because it features a fried chicken breast, which typically involves deep-frying in oil, adding significant amounts of saturated fat and calories to the dish," says Sabat. "Also, the inclusion of coleslaw on the sandwich adds extra calories from the mayonnaise-based dressing, and this item is served on a white roll, which adds refined carbohydrates to the overall meal."
4 Rivers Smokehouse Cuban Sandwich
4 Rivers had its humble beginnings in Orlando, Florida, but it can now be found in 15 different locations across the state of Florida. While the classic pulled pork or beef brisket are popular choices, it's the 4 Rivers Cuban Sandwich that Sabat suggests may potentially be trouble.
"While undoubtedly flavorful, this sandwich can be considered unhealthy because it is made of smoked pork and ham, both of which are typically high in saturated fats and sodium, contributing to elevated calorie and cholesterol levels," says Sabat. "Additionally, the melted provolone cheese adds extra saturated fat and calories, and the inclusion of onion rings, while delicious, deep-fried, and crispy, further increases the calorie and fat content."
Bill Miller BBQ Rancher Plate
Something you've most likely noticed is that at many BBQ chain restaurants, the unhealthiest meals are often the platters with multiple meats and multiple sides. This is also true for Bill Miller, a popular American BBQ restaurant.
Their Rancher Plate, which is also known as the #8 Combo, consists of two meats, three sides, and a large tea, which explains the fact that it has over 1,600 calories and 91 grams of fat. Not only will you most likely be getting an influx of carbohydrates and sugars from your side items, but the large iced tea will send you over the edge.
Sonny's BBQ Sonny's Sampler
Saving one of the more popular BBQ chains for last, Sonny's certainly has its fair share of calorie and fat-heavy menu items. One of their unhealthiest BBQ items? Their Sonny's Sampler.
This platter contains four different types of meat: ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and sliced beef, which explains the 111 grams of fat, 37 grams of saturated fat, and over 3,000 milligrams of sodium. If you're craving this sampler, make sure to share it with a few friends.