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11 Unhealthiest Dishes to Order at Chili's

Chili’s menu is better known for its appealing flavor than healthfulness, but these dishes have some excessively unhealthy nutrition facts.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

The jingle from the Chili's baby back rib commercial has no doubt implanted itself in your mind at some point or another. Chili's started in Texas as a neighborhood bar and grill, and the restaurant chain can now be found nationwide, with baby back ribs remaining one of their most popular menu items. Although their menu has evolved over recent years to include a "guiltless grill" section that offers lower calorie and healthier selections, the majority of the Chili's menu is more known for its appealing flavor than balanced nutrition. Those famous ribs, well, they can set you back a whopping 1,500 calories.

Even if you aren't headed to Chili's for a nutritious meal, the nutrition facts associated with some of their most popular items may shock you. There is no shortage of options that pack an entire day's worth of calories into a single meal, desserts with more sugar than you should eat in a workweek, and sodium content that blows the recommended intake out of the water. Luckily, the guiltless grill section, along with portion control and modifications made to even the unhealthiest menu items can lead to more reasonable choices at your next Chili's visit.

When in doubt, avoid fried items, choose veggie side options, share a meal or plan to bring home at least half, and avoid excess empty calories from sugary drinks and desserts. With these suggestions in mind, you'll be on your way to a healthier Chili's meal. Here are the 11 unhealthiest dishes to order at Chili's. For better-for-you options, check out 8 Healthiest Dishes to Order at Chili's, According to Dietitians.

Honey Chipotle BBQ Full Rack of Baby Ribs, without side

Honey Chipotle BBQ Full Rack of Baby Back Ribs, without side
Nutrition: 1,520 calories, 106 g fat (41 g sat fat), 1,800 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (0 g fiber, 34 g sugar), 98 g protein

Perhaps one of their most notable menu items, the baby back ribs pack one of the highest calorie counts. This full rack of ribs provides over 1,500 calories, and that doesn't even include the fries and mac & cheese they are served with! Add another 700 calories for those two side items, and you have a meal comfortably over 2,000 calories. The half rack of ribs drops you to 760 calories, which is more reasonable, but consider sharing this meal and swapping the fries and mac for veggies.

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Bacon Rancher Burger, without sides

The Bacon Rancher Burger chilis
Nutrition: 1,710 calories, 123 g fat (50 g sat fat), 2,660 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (3 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 100 g protein

A burger that packs two patties, six slices of bacon, American cheese, and ranch dressing, this meal has more saturated fat than one should consume across several days, let alone one meal. With a side of fries, you have another 2000+ calorie meal. The Oldtimer cheeseburger is the lowest-calorie burger option, and you can skip the cheese to drop the calorie and fat count a little more. Enjoy open-faced and with veggies instead of fries and you have a much more reasonable meal.

Nashville Hot Chicken Crispers, 6-count, without sides

Chili's Nashville Hot Chicken Crispers Combo
Nutrition: 1,770 calories, 130 g fat (22 g sat fat), 6,520 mg sodium, 78 g carbs (3 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 73 g protein

Fries and chicken tenders tossed in sauce make this list for a few reasons. Not only do they provide over 1700 calories, but the combination of 130 grams of fat and over 6,000 mg of sodium makes these one of the last healthy menu items. Luckily, they don't contain much added sugar, which is about the only positive. Skip the chicken tenders altogether and instead look for grilled options with a healthier nutrient profile.

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Chicken Bacon Ranch Quesadilla

Chili's Chicken Bacon Ranch Quesadilla
Nutrition: 1,670 calories, 125 g fat (40 g sat fat), 2,950 mg sodium, 69 g carbs (4 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 70 g protein

A traditional quesadilla with chicken, bacon, and ranch dressing allows this meal to provide more calories than many need in an entire day. Save some calories by skipping the ranch and sour cream that comes with the meal, and have only 1/3 of the dish to keep calories more reasonable. Save the rest for future meals or share with others to avoid an excessively high-fat meal.

Brisket Quesadilla

Chili's Brisket Quesadilla
Nutrition: 1,670 calories, 129 g fat (40 g sat fat), 2,950 mg sodium, 69 g carbs (4 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 70 g protein

Another quesadilla option, this one is made with brisket but has similar nutrition to the chicken bacon ranch option. Skipping the condiments saves significant calories, but still leaves you with a meal well over 1,000 calories. If you are looking for a meaty meal, try the 6-ounce sirloin with grilled avocado for only 360 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Skillet Queso and Chips

bowl of chilis skillet queso with basket of tortilla chips and salsa
Nutrition: 1,340 calories, 77 g fat (26 g sat fat), 4,560 mg sodium, 129 g carbs (10 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 35 g protein

One of their most popular appetizers, chips make for a salty and crunchy start to your meal. Trade the salsa for queso, and you add several hundred calories from fat, saturated fat, and a little protein. Not to mention, you'll more than double the amount of sodium. All of the appetizers pack high calorie counts and excessive fat and sodium, so consider getting a cup of chicken enchilada soup for only 200 calories and a more reasonable start to your meal.

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Texas Cheese Fries, full order

Chili's Texas Cheese Fries
Nutrition: 1,800 calories, 122 g fat (51 g sat fat), 4,130 mg sodium, 99 g carbs (8 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 77 g protein

It probably doesn't surprise you to see loaded cheese fries as one of the unhealthiest menu options, but the number may surprise you. At 51 grams of saturated fat, this option provides the most on this list. While you may not get this as your entrée, even sharing it as an app or size could cost you serious calories. Even worse, top your fries with chili to push calories over 2100. Skip this menu selection altogether, and go with plain fries as your side or the cup or soup, or a salad as an appetizer.

Bone-In Wings, Lemon Pepper, 16 count

Bone-In Wings, Lemon Pepper
Nutrition: 1,480 calories, 100 g fat (18 g sat fat), 3,640 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 144 g protein

Wings are loaded with protein, but once fried, they pack plenty of fat, too. While the saturated fat count on these wings is much lower than other options on our list, the calories, total fat, and sodium still leave this as an unhealthy meal. Not to mention, these nutrition numbers don't include a dipping sauce you may get on the side, which could easily add hundreds of calories. Go with a 12 count of boneless plain wings to split with fries, and skip the sauce, the keep this meal more reasonable.

Quesadilla Explosion Crispers Salad

Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Crispers Salad
Nutrition: 1,520 calories, 104 g fat (28 g sat fat), 2,900 mg sodium, 96 g carbs (8 g fiber, 16 g sugar), 52 g protein

Many are surprised at the calorie count of salads, and this one is no exception. While lettuce and veggies are the base of this meal, the battered and fried chicken, cheese quesadilla, tortilla chips, and dressing pack in the calories. The Santa Fe Chicken Salad is a much better option at only 550 calories and comes with house-made ranch, your choice of protein, and plenty of other tasty toppings that add flavor and texture.

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Ultimate Cajun Pasta

Chili's Cajun Pasta With Shrimp
Nutrition: 1,310 calories, 62 g fat (36 g sat fat), 3,690 mg sodium, 109 g carbs (8 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 78 g protein

Chicken, shrimp, penne pasta, and alfredo sauce make this flavorful dish. Unfortunately, the flavor comes with a high carb count, along with excessive fat, saturated fat, and calories. The cajun pasta is the only pasta dish on the menu for adults, so you're better off skipping noodles here and going with a protein-based entrée. The Guiltless Grill has several options to meet your flavor preferences for a healthier number of calories and nutrition profile.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Skillet chocolate chip cookie
Nutrition: 1,230 calories, 52 g fat (25 g sat fat), 1,020 mg sodium, 174 g carbs (3 g fiber, 103 g sugar), 13 g protein

Our list of unhealthiest Chili's orders wouldn't be complete without a dessert. Even if you split this 1,200-calorie skillet cookie four ways, you'll be adding over 300 calories and more than 25 grams of sugar to your meal. Instead of getting dessert at the restaurant, head home for a more reasonable portion of something sweet, or finish your meal with a cup of coffee instead of a sugar-loaded dessert.

Kelsey Hampton, MS, CSSD, RDN, LD
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey