19 Unhealthiest Restaurant Appetizers in America—Ranked!
One of our best weight loss tips for dining out is ordering an appetizer instead of an entree to cut back on calories. But what happens when the restaurant you’re dining in offers appetizers that pack in more calories, fat, and sodium than many of the entrees on the menu? Don’t let your calorie-cutting strategy fail—just be sure to avoid these the calorie-bomb starters and go for something lighter, like a low-sodium soup or a side salad instead.
So which starter should you do without? We sifted through the nutritionals of all the appetizers at many of your favorite sit-down restaurants to identify the worst of the worst. Here, you’ll find the restaurant appetizers with the most calories, total fat including saturated fat and heart-disease-inducing trans fat, as well as blood-pressure-spiking sodium. We also took into account sugar contents; but because we’re talking about appetizers here, most of the menu choices are savory and don’t pack in too much of the sweet stuff. For diversity purposes, we didn’t include more than three apps from any single restaurant.
Each app on this list packs in at least 1,000 calories, so read on to find out the unhealthiest restaurant appetizers in America. And maybe keep in mind next time you order an app that they’re meant to be shared!
Ranked from bad to absolute worst
Olive Garden’s Lasagna Fritta
Lo and behold, the best of the worst appetizers in the nation. Olive Garden serves up the ultimate cheesy feast in the form of fried parmesan-breaded lasagna that’s topped off with marinara sauce, creamy Alfredo, and more parmesan cheese. The Lasagna Fritta houses over a thousand calories and the saturated fat equivalent of over 11 plastic-wrapped slices of Kraft Singles American cheese!
Red Lobster’s Langostino Lobster Artichoke Seafood Dip
While this app sounds like the ultimate upgrade to chips and dip, the baleful nutrition panel should deter you from ordering it. Dive into this dish packed with langostino and Norway lobster, artichokes, spinach, three types of cheeses, pico de gallo, and warm tortilla chips on the side, and you’ll take in almost a full day’s worth of sodium and a walloping 1,170 calories before you even fork into your entree.
Red Robin’s Bone-In Bar Wings with Buzz Sauce
Sure, chicken wings are jam-packed with muscle-building protein, but that doesn’t mean you should order this saucy app on your way home from the gym. This plate of wings houses as much heart-harming sodium as nearly 317 Rold Gold pretzel sticks.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill’s Steak & Cheese Spring Rolls
The combo of steak and cheese wrapped in a crispy wonton wrapper should indicate how much fat this app packs in. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than five to six percent of your total daily calories from saturated fat, so if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, you shouldn’t be having more than 13 grams of saturated fat. Uno’s app contains more than three times that amount!
Friendly’s Loaded Waffle Fries
Friendly’s wasn’t joking with this crispy tater dish because these waffle fries are fully loaded. The spuds are drenched with melted cheddar cheese sauce, bacon, and sour cream—which all account for the whopping 100 grams of fat and nearly two days’ worth of bloating sodium.
Red Robin’s NachO.M.G.
“OMG” was definitely our reaction when we read the nutrition panel of Red Robin’s NachO.M.G. appetizer. Besides the absurd calorie and sodium counts, we’re most concerned with these nachos’ trans fat content coming from the restaurant chain’s signature Red’s Chili Chili as well as the sour cream and two types of cheeses.
Olive Garden’s Loaded Pasta Chips
No one does pasta better than Olive Garden—and the joint just took their menu up a notch by offering their signature carb in chip form. Think: a wheat-based tortilla chip. It’s teeming with toppings, including a three-meat sauce, cheese, cherry peppers, and Alfredo drizzle. The damage? You’ll ingest 1,410 calories and the saturated fat equivalent of over 19 small-sized orders of McDonald’s fries.
Chili’s White Spinach Queso
Chips and dip is never a good idea—the snack is super caloric and packs in an outrageous amount of fat, carbs, and sodium, without much else. If you’re looking to order a starter at Chili’s, go with the Original Chicken Crispers, which boast 940 fewer calories and 54 fewer grams of fat. Plus, make this swap, and you’ll save nearly a full day’s worth of sodium.
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
Red Robin’s Chili Chili Cheese Fries
You’ll find eight slices of white bread worth of carbs in this plate of steak-cut fries loaded with Chili’s trademarked Red’s Chili Chili as well as cheese, bacon crumbles, jalapeños, and ranch sauce.
Outback Steakhouse’s Aussie Signature Sampler
Order the Aussie Sampler, and you’ll get a taste of everything—including a wider waistline. The sampler comes packed with Outback’s famous Bloomin’ Onion petals served with the spicy signature bloom sauce, Steakhouse Mac & Cheese bites with house-made ranch dressing, and a generous portion of the Aussie Cheese Fries. This monstrous app boasts 2.5 more grams of trans fat than a McDonald’s Big Mac! If your tastebuds are begging you to order this, make sure to split the dish with your mates.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill’s Mucho Nachos with Pulled Pork
Uno’s Mucho Nachos are as excessive as they sound: the plate is chock-full of tortilla chips, cheddar, mozzarella, salsa, beef chili, black olives, banana peppers, and jalapeños, and topped with a generous dollop of sour cream. That fatty combo delivers double the recommended daily intake of heart-harming saturated fat and 1,900 more milligrams of sodium than what you should eat in an entire day.
Applebee’s Neighborhood Nachos
Loaded nachos may be a crowd pleaser, but this rendition isn’t doing your body any favors. A bed of white corn tortilla chips is smothered with taco-seasoned ground beef, queso blanco, a blend of Cheddar cheeses, sour cream, pico de gallo, and fried jalapeños. This finger food will cost you over four days’ worth of saturated fat and over two days’ worth of sodium if you’re not splitting it with pals.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill’s Pizza Skins
If you’re dining at Uno, we’re guessing you’re here for the infamous deep dish pies. But if you’re pregaming your pizza with more pizza with this cheesy app, then you’ll want to split this fat bomb with a party of six. The joint’s signature thick crust is stuffed with even more carbs in the form of mashed potatoes and then topped with bacon and cheddar.
TGI Fridays’ Wings Roulette Platter
TGI Fridays allows you to take control by mixing and matching three servings of your favorite wings—but in reality, you’re playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with your health if you order this appetizer. The plate of wings houses almost as much sugar as a full pint of Häagen-Dazs Banana Peanut Butter Chip ice cream!
Chili’s Texas Cheese Fries with Chili
Cheese fries on their own are caloric, so why add bacon, jalapeños, green onions, and ranch to the mix? Not only will you get a plate of soggy fries, but you’ll also ingest as much sodium as over five Auntie Anne’s Original pretzels and more than five days’ worth of saturated fat!
The Cheesecake Factory’s Pork Belly Sliders
The Cheesecake Factory denotes that these pork belly sliders serve two to four people—so make sure you bring your friends to help you polish this off. Best case scenario: if you split the plate in four, you’ll take in 510 calories, which is about the number of calories in an entire meal. Do you really want to subject yourself to that before even placing your entree order?
Applebee’s The Classic Combo with Brisket Quesadilla
Applebee’s advertises that you’re getting “all the classic apps you love on one plate,” but 2,260 calories worth of boneless wings, spinach and artichoke dip, brisket quesadilla, and mozzarella sticks aren’t pulling on our heartstrings. With the staggering amount of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat, we’re looking at a one-way ticket to heart disease.
Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion
Just as Outback is known for its iconic pumpernickel bread, folks also come to the steakhouse for its Bloomin’ onion. While the calorie, sodium, and carb counts are clearly excessive, we’re most intrigued by the fried onion’s outrageous trans fat content. Because there’s no naturally-occurring trans fat from animal products in here, that means that Outback is frying its veggie in partially-hydrogenated oil, which has been linked to heart disease as a result of increasing your blood’s LDL (bad cholesterol) and reducing the HDL (good cholesterol).
The Cheesecake Factory’s Factory Nachos with Spicy Chicken
Leave it to The Cheesecake Factory to house the absolute worst restaurant appetizer in the country. While these stacked nachos serve two to four people, they still manage to cram in the most calories and fat out of all the apps on our list. These spicy-chicken-topped nachos boast as much sodium as 1.6 teaspoons of salt, so if you wouldn’t spoon that into your mouth, then why would you order this fat-laden plate?