Nutrition Articles

12 of the Worst Restaurant Foods in 2015

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Whether you're road-tripping, heading out for date night or just need a break from dirty dishes, there are bound to be times when a restaurant meal is in order. As long as you avoid the fast food and opt for a full-service restaurant, you should be okay, right? Not always. You may be surprised to learn that many of the dishes highest in calories and fat are served up at sit-down eateries instead of drive-thrus, according to a University of Toronto study.
 
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has announced the "winners" of their 2015 XTreme Eating Awards, an annual list of the biggest calorie culprits at restaurants across the country. All of the meals top 1,000 calories, while some clock as many as 3,000. Below are some of the (dis)honorable dishes that made CSPI's list, along with some other menu items that have mind-boggling nutritional stats, ranked from smallest to biggest offenders.
 
12. IHOP's Chorizo Fiesta Omelette (1,290 calories, 105 grams of fat)
 
Unless you want to start your morning with an entire day's worth of calories, it's best to avoid this colossal dish. According to CSPI's report, it's "loaded with spicy chorizo sausage, roasted peppers, onions and pepper jack cheese, then topped with a citrus chili sauce and sour cream." As if that wasn't enough, it's paired with a trio of buttermilk pancakes.
 
11. Cheesecake Factory's Louisiana Chicken Pasta (1,400 calories, 38 grams of fat)
 
Each ingredient alone doesn't sound too terrible—but the chicken, mushrooms, pasta, peppers and onions are drowning in a calorie-packed cream/butter sauce. We'd suggest grilled salmon or grilled chicken as healthier alternatives.
 
10. IHOP's Country Fried Steak & Eggs (1,500 calories, 520 grams of fat)
 
When you choose sausage gravy and two scrambled eggs, this frighteningly fatty platter will send you straight into a 1500-calorie food coma. To start your day on a healthier note, opt for scrambled egg whites paired with chicken sausage.
 
9. Maggiano’s Zuccotto Chocolate Cake (1,790 calories, 112 grams of fat)
 
Each one-pound piece of this decadent chocolate cake has a whopping 26 teaspoons of added sugar. If you must indulge, we'd suggest ordering the mini Zuccotto bites and sharing them with the table.
 
8. Numero Uno Deep Dish Pizza from UNO's (1,848 calories, 128 grams of fat)
 
Run--don't walk--away from this calorie-packed pizza. The 1-1/2" thick crust is loaded with pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms, then smothered in cheese and sauce. A whole personal pizza will rack up a full day's worth of calories. Consider the Thin Crust Roasted Eggplant Spinach & Feta Pizza option instead.
 
7. Chili's Bacon Ranch Beef Quesadilla (1,858 calories, 142 grams of fat)
 
They might not seem so sinful at first glance, but these tantalizing tortillas are stuffed with two days' worth of fat and sodium, not to mention nearly a day's worth of calories. Skip the quesadillas and start with a Caesar or side salad instead.
 
6. Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion (1,954 calories, 154 grams of fat)
 
The fact that this insane amount of calories is (hopefully) shared by multiple diners doesn't make this Aussie monstrosity any more acceptable. Instead, go for a non-creamy cup of soup or the grilled shrimp appetizer.
 
5. SONIC's Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast, Large (2,020 calories, 95 grams of fat)
 
Don't be fooled by the fruit -- it doesn't negate the colossal amount of fat and calories contained in the ice cream, salted caramel and pie crust pieces. This sinful shake will singlehandedly blast your diet plan.
 
4. Red Lobster's Create Your Own Combination (2,710 calories, 101 grams of fat)
 
If you choose the unhealthy combo of Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Walt's Favorite Shrimp and Shrimp Linguine Alfredo—along with fries, a biscuit and a Caesar salad—you'll rack up almost two days' worth of calories.
 
3. Big Hookup Platter from Joe's Crab Shack (3,280 calories, 205 grams of fat)
 
If you're fishing for two days' worth of calories and sodium in a single meal, this fierce fried seafood platter will hook you up. You'd need to do about five hours of step aerobics to burn it off.
 
2. Red Robin's Monster Burger with Bottomless Fries & Monster Salted Caramel Milkshake (3,540 calories, 69 grams of fat)
 
If you have 12 hours to spare to walk it off afterward, feel free to indulge in this monster-sized meal. Otherwise, explore our tips for diet-friendly dining at Red Robin.
 
1. 3-Meat Platter from Dickey's BBQ Pit (3,816 calories, 190 grams of fat)
 
Drumroll, please! Our biggest culprit is all about the meat—and lots of it. Diners choose three types of meat and two sides, along with pickles, onions and a free ice cream cone. According to the CSPI, "It’s like having three Big Macs with five vanilla cones."
  
Tips for Diet-friendly Dining
 
While it may not be realistic to count every calorie at a restaurant, there are some general best practices for avoiding a massive overload. Follow these sensible tips next time you dine out:
  • Look for lighter options. Most restaurants offer reduced-calorie selections or even special menus dedicated to lighter fare, such as the Skinnylicious Menu at Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden's Leggeri menu.
  • Go green. A salad is almost always a wise choice, but watch for hidden calories lurking among the lettuce. Read up on our best and worst salad toppings so you can get the extra vitamins, antioxidants and fiber without the extra fat, sodium or calories.
  • Go grilled. Bypass fried foods in favor of grilled (or broiled, or steamed) options.
  • Downsize your steak. When you choose the 6-ounce filet over the 12-ounce New York strip, you'll still get plenty of protein and great taste, with half the calories.
  • Be smart about sides. Instead of fries or a potato, opt for a vegetable.
  • Order sauces on the side. This allows you to still get a little extra flavor while controlling how much you consume.
  • Split it or box it. Restaurants typically put two or three servings of food on the plate. Consider splitting an entrée with your dining partner, or box half of it before you start eating.
Check out our Diet Friendly Dining series to learn which restaurants and dishes are most conducive to healthy living.

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Member Comments

  • Fortunately, the only one of these I have even tried is the Bloomin' Onion. It was Go-o-o-o-o-o-od
  • I agree that many restaurant meals can be completely over the top. But a savvy consumer can eat healthy if one is careful. Just a note on that IHOP Country fried steak breakfast - 520 grams of fat would put this over 4500 calories (nor counting carbs or protein!). I suspect that zero shouldn't be there.
  • ETHELMERZ
    Many of these meals are no longer served st some of those restaurants. Funny thing, when restaurants come up with "healthy" meals, they are not popular choices, and don't sell well!! Despite all the whining by some folks about "health", when going out to eat, they want tasty more than "healthy", and then the consumer can blame the restaurant for weight gain.
  • Thanks for this!
  • I used to love the 'bloomin onion' - who knew how bad it was for you!!
  • Thanks for sharing.
  • NIKEET92
    The amount of fat in these dishes is absolutely horrifying! Wow... O.O
  • I don't eat out much and I do watch the calories in the meal before i order it! I could not live with myself if I ate a 600 calorie breakfast, lunch or dinner. I also have a problem with grease and try to stay away from fried foods and greasy foods. I prefer to make my meals at home so I know what is in it!
  • People really eat this stuff? WOW! I had no idea!
  • Arrgh! I LOVE the Cheescake Factory's Louisiana Pasta! Didn't know the calorie count was SO high! Of course, being the Cheescake Factory, the portions are HUGE, so if I can manage to bring half of it home it's still tolerable as an occasional treat.
  • The grams of fat for IHOP's Country Fried Steak and Eggs is not correct. Should be 83 grams of fat without eggs and if you add 2 fried eggs would total about 95 grams of fat.
  • Would be amazing to see a Canadian equivalent of this list! Anyone else think that would be very helpful! I once looked up the nutritional info for Jack Astor's Sauced Up Chicken Fingers on their website and was shocked when I saw over 3,000 calories. This was a few years ago and a bunch of my coworkers, who LOVE sauced up chicken fingers as a go to choice. We actually called the head office because we were so shocked. They were not very helpful at all and kind of thought we were nuts from what I remember. Anyways, if Spark has any Canadian content for this list that would be awesome!
  • ETHELMERZ
    I've been going to those places for years, never even noticed many of those menu items on the Menu before, lol, makes you wonder if some of the stuff is made up or from older menus............
    ...never tasted any of those things, ever!

About The Author

Melissa Rudy Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.