Choosing the 10 worst foods of the year is like shooting beer-battered deep-fried fish in a barrel of boiling oil. Everywhere you aim, you’re bound to hit one.
This year, we scoped out a few fast food joints and a couple of America’s favorite sit-down restaurant chains.
A number of popular restaurants (Cheesecake Factory, anyone?) do not post their nutritional values online. While most restaurants we researched do share info with consumer, not all are so open with the numbers. And that always raises a red flag for the diner looking to take control of his or her health.
Some of the following “worst 10” are special meals that are rolled out “for a limited time only”; others are standard menu fare at some of our most-visited eateries. Check out our list of the worst of the worst, then be sure to forward it to your friends!
Taco Bell Triple Steak Stack
13g saturated fat
They say: “A warm, soft flatbread layered with a triple portion of 100% USDA Select marinated, grilled steak and a delicious, melted three-cheese blend.”
Mr. Bad Food says: Despite a cool TV campaign that had a guy who looked part-chef, part-ninja concoct one of these “sandwiches,” I wouldn’t stake my diet on this fast-food meal. I must say Taco Bell has done an amazing job using the same basic ingredients to construct “new” offerings – menu choices that traditionally run fatty and salty.
The damage: A 155-pound person would have to spend 90 minutes of vigorous stationary rowing to sail away from the caloric damage. (Instead, try Food on the Run: Taco Bell.)
KFC Cheesy Bacon Bowl
8g saturated fat
They say: “Everything is better with bacon.” That’s the advertising slogan for the limited-time Cheesy Bacon Bowl, which includes layers of mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, popcorn chicken, shredded cheese and bacon.
Mr. Bad Food says: Maybe because it’s only available for a limited time, but the nutritional info for the Cheesy Bacon Bowls is not available on the KFC website. I even called the main office and was told that the info I sought should be there. The numbers listed here are for the bacon-free original Mashed Potato Bowl. (Try it: Food on the Run – Is KFC Becoming KGC?)
The damage: A 125-pound person would have to toss a Frisbee for FOUR HOURS to bowl over those estimated calories!
10g saturated fat
They said: “Join the club. The club who loves the flavorful pork and tangy barbeque sauce of our favorite sandwich. We're a discriminating group who don't mind getting sticky.”
Mr. Bad Food says: McDonald’s has brought the McRib sandwich about as many times as the Friday the 13th horror film series brought back serial killer Jason Voorhees. In fact, the “limited time only” sandwich was featured on last year’s Worst Foods list. You can’t keep a bad man – or a bad sandwich – down, I guess. (Try: Food on the Run: McDonald's)
The damage: An hour and 15 minutes of badminton would serve notice to these calories for a 185-pound person.
Dunkin’ Donuts Sausage, Egg & Cheese on a Croissant
19g saturated fat
They say: “We offer a wide variety of food and beverages that get you going and keep you running. Find the choices that best fit your lifestyle.”
Mr. Bad Food says: My son and I love these breakfast sandwiches but it’s obvious the sandwiches don’t love us back. Consider this a divorce! (We Tried It: Healthier Options at Dunkin' Donuts)
The damage: Someone who weighs 125 pounds could take the high road and burn off the calories with 90 minutes of rock climbing.
Olive Garden Baked Pasta Romana with Slow-Cooked Beef
40g saturated fat
They say: “Baked layers of ruffled lasagnette pasta and fontina-asiago cheese sauce topped with slow-cooked beef braised in a chianti wine sauce.”
Mr. Bad Food says: Mamma mia! This saucy little number looks luscious, but looks are deceiving as the beefed-up nutritionals prove. (Reach for this instead: Diet Friendly Dining: Olive Garden)
The damage: Feel the burn because it would take three hours and 15 minutes of low-impact aerobics to slow-cook away these calories.
Ruby Tuesday Triple Prime Bacon Cheddar Burger
They say: “Our handcrafted burgers are fresh, never frozen 100% USDA Choice beef. We make all of our burgers to order with only the freshest ingredients. Prime Burgers are the best of the best, made from fresh, 100% USDA Prime beef. Less than 3% of beef is graded Prime.
Mr. Bad Food says: You would think the “prime” ranking would make the beef lean and the burger less damaging to the waistline. But it’s just another case of fancy marketing lingo tricking us into thinking we are eating healthier. Remember Arby’s “Fresh Market” offerings? (Choose Diet Friendly Dining: Ruby Tuesday)
The damage: A 185-pounder can wheel away the calories with two hours of Rollerblade skating.
Outback Alice Springs Chicken & Aussie Fries
26g saturated fat
They say: “Wood-fire grilled chicken breast topped with sautéed mushrooms, crisp bacon, melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar and finished with our honey mustard sauce. Served with Aussie Fries.”
Mr. Bad Food says: I hate to break this nutritional news to my wife, who adores this dish. But frankly my dear, you’re much better to leave this fatty fare out back.
The damage: You can go ask Alice, but a 125-pound diner can shoosh away the caloric damage with two and a half hours of downhill skiing.
T.G.I. Friday’s Fusion Skewers: Mediterranean Entrée - Black Angus Sirloin
19g saturated fat
They say: “Marinated and fire-grilled with a lemon-garlic sauce. Served with a tasty tzatziki cucumber yogurt sauce, jasmine rice pilaf, vegetable medley and grilled pita.”
Mr. Bad Food says: I think my heart has been skewered! I hate to beef but when I hear of skewers, I tend to think of healthy meats and veggies grilled over an open flame. These numbers were mind-numbing to me. Where do the calories, fat and sodium come from! (Instead try: Diet Friendly Dining – T.G.I. Friday's)
The damage: If you weigh about 155 pounds, you can spike away your caloric damage by spending two and a half hours playing beach volleyball!
Applebee’s Riblets Platter
29g saturated fat
They say: “With fries and cole slaw these babies are something else.”
Mr. Bad Food says: These “babies” are to ribs what Chuckie is to dolls. They may be harmless-looking at a glance but, WOW! These babies really bite back and they’ll surely stick to your ribs… your belly, thighs and butt, too! (Instead try: Diet Friendly Dining: Applebee's)
The damage: A 155-pounder would bust a rib running at 10 miles an hour for 90 minutes to burn away these calories!
Burger King Triple Whopper
32g saturated fat
They say: “Three flame-broiled beef patties with two slices of American cheese, crisp lettuce, creamy mayo, red ripe tomatoes, pickles and onions–all on a toasted sesame seed bun. It’s once, twice, three times the tasty, and it’s waiting for you.
Mr. Bad Food says: Of all the burger joints in the world, this has to be my favorite. But the Home of the Whopper is no home for a healthy heart. Frankly, I don’t even know how anyone can open their mouth wide enough to fit in a TRIPLE Whopper!
The damage: It would take a 185-pound boxer 90 minutes of ring work to punch away the calories from this formidable challenger. (Try Food on the Run: Burger King)
These are the worst food offerings, but the restaurants listed here have plenty of healthier choices on the menu. Be sure to read Tanya's Food on the Run and Diet Friendly Dining series, where she highlights some of the better choices when eating away from home.
See what made our list in past years: