10 Unhealthiest Restaurant Pasta Dishes
Are you a fan of gnocchi, an aficionado of lasagna, or do you prefer penne? Perhaps you're the kind of person who likes to dine on linguine, macaroni, or ravioli. Of course, you can't forget about good ol' spaghetti. There's surely no doubt that there is a wide range of pasta and even more dishes made with each. There are also just as many mistakes that you can make while cooking pasta and, unfortunately, the same can be said for choosing certain pasta dishes that you find in restaurants.
"Pasta dishes at restaurants usually aren't very balanced," Alyssa Pacheco, RD, tells Eat This, Not That! "Since most restaurants will use white pasta, as opposed to a whole grain or legume-based pasta, the dishes are usually high in carbs while being low in fiber. Fiber is a type of carb that can keep our blood sugar levels more stable and keep us feeling full for longer periods of time."
Pacheco also notes that "pasta dishes at restaurants are typically loaded with sodium, which can cause your body to hold onto more fluid and increase blood pressure levels."
With that in mind, check out the following which are some of the unhealthiest restaurant pasta dishes that you may want to avoid. Read on, and for more, don't miss 7 Restaurant Chains That Serve the Best Pasta Dishes.
Ruby Tuesday Crispy Chicken Mac 'n Cheese
Ruby Tuesday's Crispy Chicken Mac 'n Cheese may leave you drooling over its appearance thanks to the marinara sauce, melted mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese that covers a chicken breast and bed of penne, but this cheesy restaurant chain pasta dish is particularly dangerous to those with high blood pressure due to its harmful levels of sodium. One dish contains 5,960 milligrams of sodium, which is the equivalent amount of what's in 33 bags of salt and vinegar potato chips! The 51 grams of saturated fat in this dish is also nearly the same amount of saturated fat as an entire stick of butter.
Olive Garden Chicken Tortelloni Alfredo
"Saturated fat has been linked with increased cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk," Pacheco says while giving us some context for why you should be wary of the Chicken Tortelloni Alfredo from Olive Garden. "It's generally recommended to limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your total calories per day. For someone who consumes approximately 2,000 calories per day, you'd ideally want to limit your saturated fat to about 22 grams for the day."
Pacheco then notes that "Olive Garden's Chicken Tortelloni Alfredo has over 75 grams of saturated fat in it, which is over three times the recommended amount for someone following a 2,000-calorie diet" and the equivalent of 11 tablespoons of butter. Yikes!
Chili's Cajun Pasta with Grilled Chicken
"Choosing a pasta dish with grilled chicken is usually one of the healthier options available," Pacheco tells us while discussing the next dish. In fact, "Chili's Cajun Pasta with Grilled Chicken is one of the lower calorie pasta options you can often find at restaurants, coming in at 1,280 calories for the dish." However, that still doesn't mean that it's an ideal choice. Just consider the fact that it contains 3,820 milligrams of sodium and 27 grams of saturated fat which is far too much for one meal.
Frankly, to make it doable, you won't be able to eat it as it's served. Pacheco says, "One way to make this a little more balanced is to plan to eat half of the pasta dish and order a side of veggies or a side salad to give you more fiber and antioxidants." If you take this advice, then you can save the second half of the pasta dish for later and end up getting two meals out of one. Otherwise, you'll need to skip it completely.
Applebee's Four Cheese Mac & Cheese With Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders
Applebee's tells potential customers that its Four Cheese Mac & Cheese With Honey Pepper Chicken Tenders is "comfort food," which is surely due to the overwhelming cheesiness, Applewood-smoked bacon, and the honey pepper sauce that covers the crispy chicken tenders. However, it might not leave you feeling as good as you would hope due to a few unappealing facts.
"Applebee's Four Cheese Mac & Cheese with Honey Pepper Chicken has 160 grams of carbs in it, with only 7 grams of fiber," says Pacheco. "Since it uses honey in the recipe, there will be more sugar as well, which is rapidly digested and can contribute to a high blood sugar level."
Outback Steakhouse Queensland Chicken & Shrimp Pasta
The Outback Steakhouse Queensland Chicken & Shrimp Pasta from Outback is another dish that's so big it could be split into two meals. Along with a rather sizable bowl of fettuccine noodles which is "tossed in a bold Alfredo sauce" is served with both a full piece of chicken as well as six pieces of shrimp. All of that together adds up to 1,620 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of saturated fat, and 1,360 calories. The only way you could likely make those kinds of numbers work is if you cut them in half by splitting your meal or avoiding it completely.
Olive Garden Chicken Alfredo
Although we happen to know of a delicious low-calorie fettuccine alfredo recipe, Olive Garden's Chicken Alfredo goes in another direction. An unhealthy one. Before you order this dish, consider the fact that it has 1,570 calories and—get ready for it—2,290 milligrams of sodium. That is far, far, far too much. In fact, along with the increased blood pressure levels that Pacheco mentioned, getting too much sodium in your diet regularly can lead to a higher risk of fatal cardiovascular disease, according to a study published by Cambridge University Press.
Carrabba's Italian Grill Filet and Shrimp Pasta Toscana
"Carrabba's Italian Grill Filet and Shrimp Pasta Toscana actually has 12 grams of fiber in it, which is an impressive amount for a meal," says Pacheco which might give fans of this dish a little hope. Granted, that won't last long when you find out more about this arguably problematic menu option. "However, there's almost 150 grams of total fat, including 80 grams of saturated fat, and 4,810 milligrams of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, so this dish has over double what's recommended for an entire day."
TGI Friday's Chicken Parmesan Pasta
TGI Friday's Chicken Parmesan Pasta is another dish that has what most people would consider to be way too many calories (1,630) and an excessive amount of saturated fat (28 grams). That's not to mention what might be the most eye-popping part which is the fact that this dish contains no less than 3,990 milligrams of sodium.
Red Lobster Garlic Cajun Chicken Linguini Alfredo
When you decide to head to Red Lobster, you might want to stick with the shrimp or scallops and skip the Garlic Cajun Chicken Linguini Alfredo. The latter option takes it over the top when it comes to everything from calories (1,190) to sodium (3,170 milligrams) not to mention the carbs (86 grams carbs) and saturated fat (25 grams).
Bob Evans Rancher BBQ Beef Mac & Cheese
The fact that Bob Evans Rancher BBQ Beef Mac & Cheese contains 1,240 calories might be enough to make you steer clear of it. The same could be said of the 28 grams of saturated fat and 3,200 milligrams of sodium—that's the equivalent amount of sodium as what's in 121 pretzels!