The 11 Worst Foods of the Year

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Fast food and chain restaurants have evolved significantly over the last few years. Burgers, fries and sodas are still the status quo for many diners, but those who seek healthier foods have plenty of options, from fruit and yogurt parfaits and baked potatoes, to apples cut like fries and grilled chicken. Trans fats have been reduced and eliminated; lowfat milk, fresh fruits and vegetables grace the menus at even the most ubiquitous roadside eateries; and more companies are disclosing nutritional information.

Despite those changes, fast foods menus remain dichotomous: Healthy choices reside next to triple-stacked burgers and extra large fries.

We've rounded up 11 of the worst foods we've seen this year.

Stay far, far away from the foods listed below, and instead select from the plentiful healthy choices at each of the restaurants included in this article.

Starbucks Signature Hot Chocolates

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know you need your caffeine fix. And yes, we know, Starbucks is delicious. But these Signature Hot Chocolates are drinkable desserts, plain and simple.

The no-frills version has 430 calories, which has more than three times as many calories as a grande skinny Caffè Latte and almost twice as many calories as a skinny Caffè Mocha. (You save a few calories by getting iced hot chocolate, but in the middle of winter, who wants to drink that oxymoron?)

Hazelnut Signature Hot Chocolate (no whip)*
510 calories
22 g fat
14 g saturated fat

Salted Caramel Signature Hot Chocolate (no whip)*
550 calories
24 g fat
14 g saturated fat

Signature Hot Chocolate (no whip)*
430 calories
20 g fat
12 g saturated fat

(*calculated for a grande with 2% milk; add 70-80 calories and 7-8 g fat for the whipped cream, and save 30-40 calories and 3-4 g fat by asking for nonfat milk)

Wendy's Gourmet Mushroom Swiss Burger

Wendy's worked hard to class itself up in 2008, giving its namesake a tuxedo in ads and stressing the freshness and "gourmet" items on its menu. The home of the fresh-never-frozen-burger earned a respectable B rating on its restaurant report card, thanks to a variety of salads and healthy side items such as yogurt, chili, baked potatoes and mandarin oranges. After last year's Baconator, we thought Wendy's had learned its lesson.

Then Wendy's came out with this:
"A 1/4 lb. of fresh, hot 'n juicy beef, topped with natural Swiss cheese, sautéed Portabella mushroom blend, hickory smoked bacon, a savory peppercorn sauce, crisp lettuce and red, ripe tomato."
Gourmet and gourmand aren't synonymous, Wendy's. This burger would be better named the "Glutton Mushroom Swiss Burger." A regular 1/4 pound hamburger has 170 fewer calories and 16 fewer grams of fat! Stick with the chili and a baked potato if you want to watch your girlish figure, Wendy!

600 calories
36 g fat
14 g saturated fat
1.5 g trans fat
110 mg cholesterol
1,090 mg sodium
37 g carbs
2 g fiber
35 g protein

Burger King Mushroom Swiss Steakhouse Burger

Wendy's, we take back what we said. Yours is not the worst mushroom Swiss burger to show up on fast food menus this year. That award goes to Burger King, which relied on Simon & Garfunkel style warbling ballads to sell its upgraded burger:

"Flame-grilled Angus beef, tender mushrooms, warm, melted Swiss cheese,* crispy onions, golden corn dusted bun. (*Processed and pasteurized cheese)"

Burger King doesn't mess around with lettuce and tomato on this burger and nixes the bacon, too. I'm not really sure where those extra 220 calories come from, but they're certainly not helping you reach your five a day vegetable and fruit quota!

Maybe, instead of naming each of these burgers to our list, we should have just named "Mushroom-Swiss fast food burgers" the worst food trend of 2008.

850 calories
48 g fat
18 g saturated fat
2 g trans fat
130 mg cholesterol
1,950 mg sodium
54 g carbs
4 g fiber
41 g protein

Romano's Macaroni Grill
Seared Sea Scallops salad

Why bother even calling this a salad? Could we ask restaurants to have a calorie and fat limit for the salad section? I'd like to be able to order salads without worrying I'm consuming an entire day's worth of protein and fat. Judging from the Macaroni Grill menu, it's impossible to create a salad with more than lettuce and dressing for under 500 calories. Macaroni Grill flunked the Men's Health restaurant review.

"Seared sea scallops, tender leaves of spinach, arugula, feta cheese, crispy prosciutto, toasted walnuts and Parmesan crisps with light citrus dressing."

Psst… vegetables and lean protein taste good. You don’t need to douse them in fat for us to eat them. (Don't you just love that it comes with a "light" citrus dressing? Nothing in this salad is light, judging from the nutritional info!)

1,270 calories
94 g fat
27 g saturated fat
2,740 mg sodium
42 g carbs
76 g protein
6 g fiber

Butterscotch Rocks Pancakes at IHOP

That IHOP doesn't provide nutritional info should be enough reason to skip breakfast. Most of the foods gracing the pages of its large glossy menu are desserts masquerading as breakfast and have more toppings than a banana split!

We shook our heads at the "stuffed" French toast, dropped our jaws at the coffee cake pancakes and finally threw down our forks at the Butterscotch Rocks pancakes:

"Four fluffy buttermilk pancakes filled with pecans, granola and butterscotch chips, then topped with whipped topping and drizzled with caramel sauce."
Needless to say, these pancakes didn't find their way onto the "IHOP for Me" healthier section of the menu. This dish seems to be the winner of a "how many sweet-and-sugary-toppings-can-we-cram-onto-a-stack-of-pancakes" contest!

We conservatively estimated the nutritional content of these pancakes based on menu description.

1,310 calories
52 g fat

A standard 4" pancake has just 80 calories and 3 grams of fat; however, IHOP's flapjacks would dwarf your homemade ones. You could eat more than a dozen regular 4-inch pancakes with a 1/4 cup of syrup and a tablespoon of butter for the same calories.

KFC Original Recipe Fully Loaded Box Meal

Nobody needs a box of food. Chances are good that if your restaurant food comes in a box, it should be shared or just avoided. KFC made our Worst Foods of 2007 list with its Chicken & Biscuit Bowl. Now, the folks that brought you a chicken dinner in a bowl bring you the "KFC Original Recipe Fully Loaded Box Meal." It comes in a Guitar Hero box, but we're slightly confused. Are you supposed to eat this while playing Guitar Hero? When I think about rocking out to a video game, I don't conjure an image of myself holding a drumstick seasoned with 11 herbs and spices.

"The KFC Original Recipe Fully Loaded Box Meal brings all your favorites together for an over-the-top concert of flavor. Each box is jammed with two Original Recipe Strips pressure-cooked in the Colonel's famous 11 herbs and spices, plus an Original Recipe Snacker, your choice of a drumstick or thigh, 2 individual homestyle sides, a famous KFC freshly-made biscuit and 32 oz drink. Man that's a lot of food!"

1,320 calories (calculated with barbecue baked beans, cole slaw, a drumstick and a Pepsi)
43 g fat
8 g saturated fat
3.5 g trans fat
100 mg cholesterol
2,740 mg sodium
196 g carbs
40 g protein
13 g fiber

Taco Bell Fully Loaded Nachos

If there were 10 Diet Commandments, somewhere on that list would be this sage piece of advice: Thou shalt never eat the receptacle in which thy food is served. Nothing healthy comes in a carbohydrate bowl! Taco Bell has taken the edible food vessel one step further. Their "Fully Loaded Nachos," which are already a big pile of greasy chips with "double the seasoned beef, fiesta salsa, guacamole, hearty beans, three cheese blend and nacho cheese sauce," are served in a giant fried tortilla. Nachos served in a nacho. Na-cho best idea, Taco Bell.

Parent company Yum! had been making tremendous progress on the healthful fast food front, by touting its Fresco menu at Taco Bell, adding lighter items at Long John Silver's and volunteering to post nutritional info. This, along with that whole "Fourth Meal" campaign, is a giant step back across the border, Taco Bell!

1,390 calories
83 g fat
17 g saturated fat
4.5 g trans fat
70 mg cholesterol
2,190 mg sodium
15 g fiber
34 g protein

Olive Garden Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara

Carbonara pasta is essentially bacon-and-egg pasta. Delicious, yes. Healthy, no. The simple dish is traditionally made with "egg, pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon), black pepper, and parmesan or pecorino" cheese. Olive Garden's version "combines chicken and shrimp with bucatini pasta in a pancetta and parmesan cream sauce." It's then "baked and topped with seasoned breadcrumbs."

UPDATE: Olive Garden now lists nutrition info! (Score one for the Olive Garden! Thank you!) However, we now know that this pasta has 1,440 calories, 88 g and 3,000 mg sodium! Olive Garden doesn't release its nutritional info, but this dish is rumored to have upwards of 1,400 calories . Picture fettuccini alfredo--an Italian fat bomb on its own--with bacon and breadcrumbs, plus shrimp and chicken. The photo on the Olive Garden website shows pasta swimming in sauce, so this clearly is a high-calorie dish.

Maybe someday Italian food in America will no longer be drowning in butter, cream and cheese. Plenty of traditional dishes contain those rich ingredients, but Italians have learned a word that's been lost in translation: moderazione, or moderation.

Jack in the Box Egg Nog Shake

Jack must have been knocked in his noggin before he came up with this eggnog shake. Egg nog, that delicious yet caloric holiday beverage chock full of eggs, sugar and cream, is blended with ice cream for a seasonal treat. That's almost an entire day's calories in a glass. You could eat four Jack in the Box hamburgers with cheese for about the same calories and 23 fewer grams of fat. Pretty hard to swallow, isn't it?

1,450 calories (large shake)
68 g of fat
24 g of saturated fat
3 g trans fat

Quizno's Prime Rib Cheesesteak

"It’s the sandwich your mouth always wanted," says Quizno's. It's the sandwich your heart always feared, we say. This beefed-up cheesesteak boasts "prime rib, Swiss, sautéed onions, mayo" on toasted bread. Let's return to the list of Diet Commandments for a moment. #4:Thou shalt not eat anything thy can't fit in thy mouth. No one needs to eat sandwiches so big you must unhinge your jaw like a snake to consume. Pass them by, Dagwood, unless you want to eat an entire day's worth of sodium and saturated fat in one meal.

Large sandwich
1490 calories
88 g fat
21 g saturated fat
2,675 mg sodium
(Small: 640 calories, 37 g fat, 8.5 g saturated fat)

Chili's Texas Cheese Fries with Jalapeno Ranch dressing

Whose idea was cheese fries? They're delicious, sure, but really, did we need to top deep-fried potatoes with greasy melted cheese and bacon and dip them in dressed-up mayonnaise? No, we did not. Now they're a staple at chain restaurants, who try to one-up each other with signature ranch dressings, extra toppings and, ultimately, more fat.

Chili's boasts: "homestyle fries topped with melted cheese, jalapeños, applewood smoked bacon & jalapeño-ranch dipping sauce."
These fries lost the contest for the worst cheese fries in America (that dishonor went to Outback Steakhouse's cheese fries), but it was a tight race.

One hundred and sixty grams of fat. One-six-zero. 160! (Oh, and you'll get 1 1/2 days' worth of sodium in one meal!)

2,070 calories
160 g fat
73 g saturated fat
73 g carbs
85 g protein
8 g fiber
3,730 mg sodium

Eating away from home--even when you're on the run--doesn't mean eating unhealthfully. We've got 11 ways you can slim down your fast food order.

Have you tried these foods? Do you intend to try them? Know of a food that should be on our list?

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It is very disheartening nowadays to see restaurants that do not offer nutritional info. I work for Applebee's and they only offer it if you call and request it. They don't even have it on their website. Makes me wonder what is in all their delicious foods . . . hmmmmm Report
I don't get any of those foods, ever. Thank goodness for that at least. Report
I had no idea! Report
I know that FF with cheese is a bad idea,but I did realize how BAD... Over 2000 calories and 160 gms of fat, that is awful! Shame on Outback Steak House.
Thanks for the info. Report
I just read your blog entry on the 2009 list and these are worse!

It's worth noting IMO that all the chains on this list are well known for their high cal fare so to me it'd be a matter of not even thinking of eating at any of them because whatever they have is going to be high. Report
Since joining weight watchers I have tried to go to the website of the planned eating establishment and choose what i will eat and figure up the points/calories/fat/fiber. This has really helped me from deception. Report
Romano's Macaroni Grill
Seared Sea Scallops salad

It's hard to imagine that a "salad" can have 94 grams of fat... just shocking.
This would be the most likely item to "reel me in" thinking it was a healthy choice....
OMG !!!!! Report
I have had the hot chocolate from SB before an the pancakes from IHOP. Never again! Sheesh!!! Report
I've never had any of these items, but they certainly sound sinfully delicious! I think I may try making them in my own kitchen, tweeking them with alterations to make them healthy! Report
I just went on the Olive Garden website to tally up what I would used to eat when I went there and it was over 1830 wonder I got this big. That is disgusting.... Report
All those foods sound pretty disgusting to me. And I can't believe even the seared scallop salad has so many calories. Kind of gross and disgusting.... Report
I've never had any of those foods, and am now very glad I haven't!
Wow. What a ton of calories.

cj Report
I have eaten the angus swiss mushroom burger at McDonald's. It tastes good, but I know that that too must have tons of calories and fat. I haven't tried the steakhouse burger at Burger King, but thanks to this article, I don't think I want to! Report
That salad is a shocker!!! I don't even know how that's possible?!?! Are they frying the scallops? Cutting off the fattiest parts of pruscitto? I feel bad for the people who've ordered it thinking it was a healthier choice.... ugh. Report
About that salad. It seems like there's a new trend for restaurants to attract people who are a little bit more health-concious but still emjoy going out. It's great that low-carb and low-fat, light meals are popping out in fast-food and sit-in restaurants. What's not great is the fact that they make those foods so deceiving. Calling it a salad and pointing out it comes with a light dressing can really make one think "Oh, that sounds like something I would be safe eating without ruining my entire day of watching calories and fat intake". Well, unless you actually spend some serious time either at the restaurant or before going in trying to analyze what actually goes in to preparing those meals, there's really no guarantee that instead of a healthy-salad you're going to get a heart-attack in a bowl.
We went to a restaurant the other day (sit-in type) and I ordered low-carb chicken roll-up. Well, when they brought it in and it was full of lard and sour-cream on the inside I could't help but ask the waitress what the heck this item is doing on the menu under a pretencious healthy name. The waitress just looked at me puzzled. I took one bite and couldn't eat it anymore. So is this fair that I still had to pay for this crap? Report
I can't believe that some of those "foods" actually used to be appealing to me before SparkPeople. Seeing kids eating that stuff with their parents is scary too! Report
I actually cannot believe that its possible to make something (chili cheese fries) with 160 grams of fat in it. Holy freakking cow. This is just SCARY. Report
Thanks for the info on what NOT to eat. That scares me a restaurant has a salad with "light" dressing that is so unhealthy. It makes it so hard to know what to get when I go out anymore. Score one big time for Olive Garden for now giving nutritional info. They are one of my fave restaurants. Now to go see how my favorite meal from OG rates.... Report
You know, everyone is saying "yuck" and "that's disgusting" but honestly, even though it scares me to look at the fat content, some of these foods are honestly appealing to me. I am a vegetarian, so a lot of these foods are not something I would eat anyway, but that doesn't mean I can't notice something that I know I would like. That's right, I am going right out there arnd saying it. Obviously if I have joined Sparkpeople then I feel the need to lose weight, and the fact that I would want something such as an eggnog shake shows that. But remember people- the real disgusting thing ISN'T the food- it's the fact that anyone would sell it. Report
OK, yes, disgusting, but... half of these things I would never eat all of, all on my own, or I would split into multiple meals. How about comparisons of reasonable-sized portions of these items? Like, the amount that a person actually eats? I know some people probably do eat that much, but I have trouble believing that's the rule rather than the exception.

I also question what purpose is served in standing here pointing and going, "Ewwww, look at how gross they are!" Perhaps it would be more helpful to offer alternative, similarly-flavored and still easy but healthier, suggestions for people craving these items. Or ways to still have these foods but cut down on how bad they are (order dressing on the side, save half for later, don't eat the shell on the Taco Bell item, etc.)

I mean... eating out can be really bad for you. Yes, we get it. Really. And? What can we do about it without completely giving up foods we love? Report
yes that is pretty disgusting !!! Report
All I can say after reading the specs on each of those items is
EWWWWWWWWWW ! YUCK! I feel sick just thinking about it

Keep up the great work on eating out. I have two businesses and am on the road almost daily. I have to admit I will pack a lunch for my kids but not myself! I know shame on me! But I love my coffee and it's nice to know that there are options out there without having to sabotage your diet and health!

Thanks again Report
I'm so glad my husband and I cook and eat mostly at home. It's so much easier to control calories, fat, carbs and portion size. It's good to have this information to reflect upon when dining out. Report
Wow now that was an eye opener. And a button popper for sure. I can't even imagine eating something with that many grams of fat. I am luckly not a person whom enjoys eating out. Report
That salad blows me away!! I'm sure it tastes wonderful though! Plus you are not including the bread you receive once you sit and the fancy wine you drink at Mac Grill. I do enjoy the presence and atmosphere of that place. Report
Some of those items contain a frightening amount of sodium. Good to know for those of us with high blood pressure. Report
I have Starbucks every morning before work, thankfully I skip the hot chocolate but I do have a venti shaken black tea lemonade and I'm going to check the caloric intake on that now, yep I'm pretty much disgusted! Report
I live in Australia so I don't even know half those places but when I was reading especially about the burgers I just imagined a Homer Simpson moment.. we did have a simaliar thing here though for KFC called the All Stars Box.. basically yes enough food for 2 or more. I have to admit though I am curious about some of these things, we don't have mushroom swiss burgers and taco bell over here :p Report
How awful! All those calories and fat.
My mom and I ate at Bob Evans the other day and she was saying how good this salad was. So we had the Pecan Cranberry Salad. I'm thinking salad, okay, I can handle that. When I got home and looked at the calorie content I was blown away. Thank goodness I only ate half and took the other half for lunch the next day. Report
Well at least we know that subway is not on the list? that pretty much scares me of the things that are consumed everyday by people, no wonder there's health problems. But i have to admit that i was the fast food junkie at times, not every day thank God, i went out with me kids maybe once every other week. now that really makes me think twice on where to eat with my family, at home. Report
Thats fast food for you. They can get off with the cost by making everything with fat.

As for Starbucks, try teas instead of coffies. Tea is 0 calories anyway. Any thing "blended" has fat and carbs from milk. You can get a blended tea lemonade for under 100 calories. If you ask for no sugar its even better! Report
Many of these actually sound good to me which is sad but honestly, I'm all for healthy stuff now so the thought of the calories and junk that is in some of them really make me shy away from lots of it! Thank GOD for Spark and the help that I have had over the years to help me make the better decisions! Report
Not a one of these sound good to me, luckily. (I have to guard against calorie creep over the day, or eating to much at night).
Each of these providers could find a way to make these food types healthier, which makes me mad at them. Yes, people should be allowed to make choices, but what excessive calories! Report
I used to work at Wendy's. I remember when the Baconator came out. We laughed our butts off at it! And the Mushroom Swiss, we hated making that burger, it was nasty and messy. Oh the orders I used to get. I swear, on my honor, my favorite of all time was: "Number Three (Triple) only Ketchup, Large sized with a Diet Coke". My partner and I just stared at each other and about died laughing at the Diet Coke. Report
I confess, I split the KFC Box with my husband. It was totally enough food for two people. And it was really good, too. Thanks for the research1 Report
Wooooow OMG!!!!! I really had no idea that these foods are so loaded with cal and all that well I will change alot of things now that I see the over view on them thanx Report
i love starbucks caramel apple spice and it is not that bad. Report
That Scallop salad really opened my eyes....You see Seafood and Lettuce, it cant be THAT Im glad I know the truth! Report
I remember seeing the ad for the KFC meal in a box (BTW...haven't they always sold meals in boxes since right after the bucket concept? Maybe a box is an upgrade from a "bucket" of food?) and saying to my husband that there is enough food there that we could order one and split it someday. Now I'm thinking it's in our best interest to pass on the whole thing!

Also, I thought the JIB egg nog shake came out for the holidays in 2007. That was when I had one...and felt sick within the hour. Now I know why....

Reading this didn't make me hungry at all. I think my chest hurt a little bit while reading the Macaroni Grill and Olive Garden parts and I have this sudden urge to go into my kitchen and hug and kiss my dear vegetables and healthy foods. Report
Not the fully loaded meal! Just kidding! I knew it was bad. I have never had it i sure won't! Report
The Starbuck's hot chocolate is terrible tasting.
My daughter works for the place and she gave me a sample.
I dont' think that will be on the menu for very long. Back to my Mocha Frappicino ;-) Report
Nothing too surprising in the article (although I have had some of them before).

If you like Starbucks/Caribou - there are a lot of better options. Their websites are great. You can get skim/soy in any drink, and skip whipped cream. They even have sugarfree flavor shots. One of these is my weekly treat, and the medium northern light raspberry latte is only 120 calories (the small is 90). It's good, and I don't feel horrible for drinking it. Report
Oh my STARS!!!! :-o
That's just a travisty. I never imagined these foods having that many calories. I was hooked on the Starbucks hot chocolate, strawberry frap and chai tea latte for a while, but I figured it was full of calories. It was just way too good. But Chili's Texas Cheese Fries at 2,070 calories is just plain evil. They should be fined and then still jailed for that one. Report
Luckily, I've trained myself not to go for such things though that cheese steak mahy be worth the hit as a special treat. It's too bad no one is doing a lean cheese steak using 2% cheese and a wheat bun. It would make a big difference. I dream of a healthy fast food joint with whole grain buns, lean meats, low fat cheeses and a drive through. It amazes me that no one has done it yet! Report
There weren't any surprises on the list....and reading it didn't make me hungry (ah, progress)! How about an article about good choices in hard to find places! Report
crazy....some of the foods I wouldnt think would have had so much ~ Thanks for sharing..makes you choose better foods that is for sure...GOD BLESS! Report
OMG I didn't the Texas Cheese fries were that bad. My friends and I went to Chili's all the time and got those for each of us. Well looks like I will never being doing that again LOL Report
OMG!! But those mushroom swiss burgers are to die for!!! Report
This is exactly why I don't eat out much any more and when I do, I try to eat the smallest portion I can. Report
the only thing i've had on this list was the hot chocolate... never again. it was practically a meal in a cup. Report
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