Slideshow: Worst Meals in Restaurants
Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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Buffalo Chicken Salad
The Count: 1030 calories, 68 g fat, 4350 mg sodium
"Salad" is stretching it! Fried meat, oily sauce, and cheese push this meal to 1030 calories at one popular restaurant. That's about the same as a whole pint of chocolate-chip, cookie-dough ice cream. The salad also packs nearly 25% more fat.
French Toast and Bacon
The Count: 1850 calories, 65 g sat. fat, 2290 mg sodium
Want to use up almost all of your day's calories before noon? Eat this for breakfast. It's got a stunning 1850 calories. It also has 65 grams of saturated fat. That's three times the daily limit for this unhealthy fat.
The Count: 1320 calories, 47 g fat, 4650 mg sodium
Chicken fajitas can be a healthy option. But they're often served with heaps of sour cream, shredded cheese, refried beans, and fried rice. Pack it all in, and you've got 1320 calories ready to pad your waistline! Instead, load up on grilled peppers, onions, chicken, and fresh salsa. Stick with just one tortilla.
Vegetarian Fried Rice
The Count: 1090 calories, 19 g fat, 2210 mg sodium
Getting Chinese takeout? Don't assume the veggie options are the healthiest. Vegetarian fried rice can hide 1090 calories. That's over half of your calories for the whole day. Instead, go for steamed dishes with lots of veggies, steamed rice, and always ask for sauce on the side.
Pasta in Carbonara Sauce
The Count: 1440 calories, 88 g fat, 3000 mg sodium
Grilled chicken and shrimp can be good choices. But if they're drenched in carbonara sauce, not so much. A plate of pasta with shrimp and chicken in carbonara can creep up to1440 calories. It also has 88 grams of fat. That's more fat than you'd get from eating a half-dozen glazed doughnuts.
Deep Dish Pizza With Sausage
The Count: 2300 calories, 164 g fat, 4910 mg sodium
Deep dish pizza can be deep trouble. One "individual" sausage pizza is 2300 calories. That's more calories than most people should eat in a whole day. It also packs in double the daily limit of fat. Skip the sausage and opt for thin crust.
The Count: 1400 calories, 23 g sat. fat, 2100 mg sodium
Club sandwiches can be deceptive, even with lean turkey or chicken meat. This one hides 1400 calories and a whole day's worth of saturated fat. Where are all those calories hiding? In the bacon, cheese, extra slice of giant bread, and mayo. Opt for a single-decker turkey sandwich, instead. Choose plenty of veggies and a few slices of avocado for great flavor.
The Count: 1474 calories, 71 g fat, 213 mg sodium
In a pinch, you might think that just one order of fries -- and nothing else -- would be OK. Not necessarily. Large fries can have more than 1400 calories. That's like a whole loaf of white bread, with an extra bonus of unhealthy saturated fat. If you're jonesing for fries, just get a small. You'll save 1100 wasted calories.
The Count: 1800 calories, 111 g fat, 4070 mg sodium
How bad can those little, cute burgers be? If you eat the whole order of them, pretty bad. A plate of sliders can add up to 1800 calories. (That leaves 200 for the rest of your day.) Solution? Don't eat the whole order. Pack up one or two in a doggie bag and have them tomorrow.
Eat Better: Find Hidden Calories
You can skip the most fattening restaurant meals by reading the menu closely. Look for clues. Words like pan-fried, sautéed, battered, breaded, au gratin, cheesy, creamy, buttered, deep-fried, béarnaise, or crispy are usually signs of extra fat and calories. "Crisp" items are often deep-fried in oil.
Eat Better: Ask How It's Cooked
Preparation makes a big difference. Baking fish -- with herbs, veggies, and lemon juice -- adds very few calories or fat to the dish. Other healthy cooking methods include:
Eat Better: Go á la Carte
Skip the jumbo portions and rich sides that come with restaurant entrees. Instead, choose side orders for your meal. In a Mexican restaurant, try one corn taco of grilled meats, a cup of chicken-tortilla soup, a side salad, and a fruit dessert. You get exactly what you want and a fraction of the calories.
Eat Better: Downsize
When only a hamburger will do, or a drive-through is your only option, think small. Go for the child's meal or a junior burger. Try this switch to get your fast-food fix with fewer calories:
- Skip: Double cheeseburger, large fries, large soda --1240 calories
- Choose: Cheeseburger, kid's fries, small soda -- 550 calories
Eat Better: Hide Temptations
Many restaurants present a picture of abundance, starting with an overflowing basket of bread or chips. To prevent mindlessly inhaling a few hundred calories before your main meal, wave the waiter away when he swoops in with the basket of carbs. Or ask the waiter to remove the basket as soon as you've had a small portion.
Eat Better: Pasta
Pasta swimming in cream sauce can be an unhealthy choice -- it's packed with fat, calories, and cholesterol. Eat a small portion of whole grain pasta and top with better sauces, such as:
- Red clam sauce
- Marinara sauce without meat
- Primavera sauce without cream
- Marsala sauce with wine, not butter
Eat Better: Pizza
Pizzerias are used to getting special orders. A few simple changes can slash the calories and fat in your pie:
- Pile on veggies and skip the meat.
- Ask for extra sauce and half the cheese.
- After a slice or two, take the rest home.
Eat Better: Dessert
Fresh fruit is available at many restaurants now, even fast-food chains, thanks to demand from health-conscious diners. If it's not listed with the desserts, check the side dishes -- or ask for a special order.
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