While it is okay to overindulge at restaurants every once in a while, it is also important to take care of yourself by avoiding the unhealthiest items on the menu. While some foods are obvious offenders, like deep-fried appetizers packed with trans fats and excessive calories, some entrees are a bit more deceiving. It also does not help that many restaurant portions are enormous, which leads to overeating and unnecessary calories.
We have identified fifteen of the worst offending restaurant menu items and entrees that should either be eaten in moderation or avoided altogether. All of these dishes contain excessive amounts of calories, fat, sodium, or sugar, which can lead to weight gain and various health problems. So, here are the fifteen unhealthy foods with the most calories to avoid at restaurants.
Applebee's: Oriental Chicken Salad with Crispy Chicken
1,570 calories, 105 g fat (17 g saturated fat), 1,730 mg sodium, 144 g sugar
How unhealthy can a chicken salad be? This particular salad has an alarming amount of sugar, equivalent to four Krispy Kreme donuts. It also contains an outrageous amount of sodium. Surprisingly, this chicken salad has more calories than Applebee's Prime Rib Dipper and its Chicken Dipper Platter. Applebee's also serves this salad in a wrap, which contains 1,900 calories. Moreover, the wrap is only 100 calories less than the average daily calorie intake for most people (2,000). As a result, this is a salad to avoid if you are trying to eat healthier while eating out.
California Pizza Kitchen: Waldorf Chicken Salad
1,320 calories, 94 g fat (22 g saturated fat), 2,020 mg sodium, 54 g sugar
California Pizza Kitchen's Waldorf Chicken Salad, made with grilled chicken, greens, walnuts, and fruit, may seem nutritious, but it is surprisingly unhealthy. A full-sized version of this salad not only has twice the recommended sugar intake but also contains nearly 100 grams of fat. Additionally, this salad eats up most of your recommended daily calories. Perhaps this nutritional profile is why Prevention magazine included it on its list of salads to avoid.
The Cheesecake Factory Chicken Parmesan Sandwich
1,960 calories, 126 g fat (60 g saturated fat), 3,510 mg sodium, 9 g sugar
The Cheesecake Factory is well-known for its delicious desserts, but it may come as a surprise that many of its entrees are also high in calories. For example, the Chicken Parmesan Sandwich contains a whopping 1,960 calories, which is nearly the entire recommended daily calorie intake. Additionally, this sandwich is loaded with 126 grams of fat, almost half of which are saturated fats. This amount of fat is a concern for people monitoring their cholesterol and weight.
The Cheesecake Factory: Louisiana Chicken Pasta
2,120 calories, 125 g fat (65 g saturated fat), 4,030 mg sodium, 16 g sugar
While not a total surprise because of the fried chicken and creamy pasta, the Louisiana Pasta dish at The Cheesecake Factory contains an incredible amount of calories. This entrée has 2,120 calories and 4,030 milligrams of sodium. As a result, it is a dish that should be avoided by anyone who has concerns about their weight or sodium intake. Additionally, it has a high amount of fat and 168 grams of carbohydrates, which only adds to its already poor nutritional profile.
Chik-fil-A: Cobb Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing
830 calories, 60 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 1,890 mg sodium, 8 g sugar
Many of us believe that a salad is always a healthy choice. However, this is not always the case. Take Chik-fil-A's Cobb Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing, for instance. The salad alone contains 830 calories, and when combined with the dressing, the calorie count spikes up to 1,050. Additionally, the salad has 1,890 milligrams of sodium, which is almost the entire daily recommended amount. Although this salad is tasty, there are better choices than this if you are looking to eat healthily. Or you can go ahead and order that chicken sandwich because it has almost the same amount of calories as this particular salad.
Chili's: Quesadilla Explosion Salad
1,340 calories, 87 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 2,140 mg sodium,17 g sugar
It is probably not a surprise that a salad with the name “Quesadilla Explosion” is not the pinnacle of healthy eating. However, with 1,340 calories and 2,140 milligrams of sodium, this is a health offender worth mentioning. According to Dr. Oz, eating this salad is the equivalent of eating two bags of potato chips. Back in 2020, Prevention magazine included it on its unhealthiest salads list.
IHOP: Buttermilk Biscuit
810 calories, 64 g fat (26 g saturated fat), 1,360 mg sodium, 4 g sugar
Did you know that IHOP's buttermilk biscuit is very high in calories, fat, and sugar? A single biscuit contains a shocking 810 calories, sixty-four grams of fat, and 1,360 grams of sugar. It is also high in cholesterol with 45 grams and has fifty-three grams of carbohydrates. Surprisingly, a single biscuit has almost twice the number of calories found in a short stack of pancakes, which includes three pancakes. It is better to choose the short-stack pancakes or the healthier English muffin option.
Mellow Mushroom: Great White Pizza
520 calories, 31 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,070 mg sodium, 3 g sugar
The nutritional information provided above is for a single large slice from Mellow Mushroom's Great White Pizza. A single slice contains 520 calories, 50 grams of carbohydrates, and thirty-one grams of fat. For a pizza with almost no toppings, that is a lot of calories, carbs, and fat to consume in one slice. For this reason, it is a pizza that you may want to avoid.
Olive Garden: Shrimp Fritto Misto
1,280 calories, 79 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 5,010 mg sodium, 9 g sugar
All of the other appetizers on Olive Garden's menu have fewer calories and salt than the Shrimp Fritto Misto, which has a whopping 5,010 milligrams of sodium. If you are watching your sodium intake, this is an appetizer to avoid. It contains twice the daily recommended sodium allowance. And, of course, deep-fried foods, though delicious, have a lot of fat, especially when you add in a dipping sauce. Furthermore, this appetizer has more calories than an entire meal. Even if you are sharing this appetizer you will consume a lot of unnecessary calories.
Outback Steakhouse: Bloomin' Onion
1250 calories, 54 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 6,350 mg sodium, 34 g sugar
The Bloomin' Onion appetizer served at Outback Steakhouse frequently features on the list of worst restaurant entrees, and it is not difficult to see why. This dish packs a whopping 1,250 calories and a staggering 6,350 milligrams of sodium, so even sharing it with friends can lead to a huge intake of calories and sodium. Furthermore, the eight grams of saturated fat present in the dish come from partially hydrogenated oil, which is associated with an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.
Panera: Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich
1,000 calories, 41 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 2,550 mg sodium, 11 g sugar
The Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich is one of the most popular menu items at Panera. However, it is also one of the unhealthiest sandwiches on their menu. While many people might assume that a turkey sandwich would be a healthy option, this sandwich contains 2,550 milligrams of sodium, which is essentially your entire salt intake for the day. It also packs a whopping 1,000 calories and approximately ninety-five percent of your daily saturated fat intake. If you are a fan of this turkey sandwich, a better option would be to order the half sandwich and pair it with a healthier side.
Panera: Mac & Cheese Bread Bowl
1,150 calories, 36 g fat (18 g saturated fat), 2,310 mg sodium, 9 g sugar
While this may be the ultimate comfort food item on the Panera menu, it might not be worth it. With 57.5% of your daily caloric intake and the maximum recommended daily sodium intake, this dish should be consumed in moderation. Additionally, it contains high levels of saturated fat, which can lead to clogged arteries and other health issues. Finally, this is an unbalanced carbohydrate-heavy meal, which dieticians suggest avoiding.
Ruby Tuesday: Crispy Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese
1,920 calories, 110 g fat (51 g saturated fat), 5,960 mg sodium, 26 g sugar
If you have high blood pressure, you should avoid Ruby Tuesday's Crispy Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese. According to Eat This, Not That!, this dish contains 5,960 mg of sodium, which is the same as eating thirty-three bags of Kettle Sea Salt and Vinegar potato chips. In addition, this entree has a staggering 1,920 calories, which is almost the entire daily recommended calorie intake. Although this dish may sound like a delicious comfort food, its nutritional value may make you uncomfortable later on.
Smoothie King: “The Hulk” Strawberry Smoothie
800 calories, 64 g fat, 390 mg sodium, 131 g sugar
People often view smoothies as a healthy food option. However, this is not always the case, as demonstrated by Smoothie King's “The Hulk” Strawberry Smoothie. A small twenty-ounce serving of this smoothie contains 800 calories. It also has a significant amount of sugar and 390 milligrams of sodium. If you order the large forty-ounce serving of this smoothie, it contains 1,770 calories, which is almost the entire daily calorie requirement of an average adult.
Tropical Smoothie Café: The Peanut Butter Cup
700 calories, 18g fat (6 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 131 g carbs, 108 g sugar
While the Tropical Smoothie Cafe's Peanut Butter Cup smoothie does pack a solid protein punch, it has twice the recommended daily allowance of sugar. Furthermore, this smoothie has a high-calorie count of 700, which is more than some meals contain. It also contains a significant amount of sodium. If you are choosing smoothies as a healthier option, it is advisable to avoid this one.
While we all enjoy going out to eat and occasionally overindulging in unhealthy food, the menu items on this list should give you pause. They should either be avoided altogether or consumed in moderation. All of these dishes contain enormous calories, often equaling almost the entire daily recommended caloric intake. Moreover, many of these foods sometimes have double or triple the amount of sodium one should consume daily. When you add in fat and carbohydrates, the long-term consequences may outweigh the enjoyment of these dishes. Being informed is one of the best steps you can take toward eating healthier, even while eating out.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com.