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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I used to be a soda and fast food glutton; seems so long ago now. The thought of soda syrup and the smell of icky grease turns my stomach. It was not an overnight thing for me to stop but once I did it was a great change for me. I used to eat burgers, fries, and pastries 2-3 times a week and drink a 2 liter bottle of diet soda every day. Report
Greengeekgirl, I'm with you. These foods are in no way pretending to be healthy (with possibly the exception of the salad), and no one is forcing anyone to eat them, so I'd say no harm done. Eating this stuff is a decision, and it's our job to be informed about what we're putting in our bodies. Besides, anyone who assumes shakes and cheese fries aren't loaded with a ridiculous amount of calories is living in a (delicious) dream. :) Report
The tone of this article is so off-putting. "Who came up with this? Why do we even have this?" Dude, sometimes, I want cheese on my fries. It's a delicious combination. The trick has been learning that I shouldn't eat it *frequently*. Also, restaurants and fast food chains are not exactly paragons of health in the first place, so why are we super-shocked that the food isn't healthy? Report
OMG I am so glad I found this article. I don't want to ever go to a restaurant again Report
Although I am sure your main objective is to inform the reader about nutritional content, I am not sure shaming Wendy into keeping her girlish figure is the appropriate way to do so.
Maybe I should lighten up??? Report
While these are jaw-dropping, why did it pop up on my main page? This article is from 2008! Isn't there a more recent list? Report
This was shocking, thanks for the WARNING. Report
Ah, the joy of a uniquely American Cuisine! Report
Holy crap. This is nuts! Report
My mouth started watering when I read the eggnog shake entry. It then stopped when I saw that that one drink had more calories than I am allowed in a day! It's just not worth it. Report
No wonder American has a really high percentage of overweight people. But then I suppose that all countries have their high fat offerings.
Back in the day me and my mom had those fries from Chili's. Yea I am slowly moving away from the whole idea of eating out. Wow!! What a mess Report
I think the rest of the world should vito U.S junkfood! Whom else coins super sizes stuff? Which franchaise has 1400 stores around the world? Enough is enough, I don't even have to name the name..
Some food institutions are too big for their own good.. They won't stop until we say stop! But nothing surprises me anymore- however damand and supply hang together! Thats the bottom line- they give lazy people what they want- fast and easy solutions..

These food chains have shrinks analysis our habits and nature.. They are not dumbies.. Report
None of these surprised me. Report
that's horrible Report
soome times it feels like were better of not knowing Report
Wow, talk about a flashback. I actually remember trying Wendy's Gourmet Mushroom Swiss Burger in 2008. It was the last hamburger I had from Wendy's. Now I check their posted calorie sheet before ordering, and usually stick to salads, chili, and baked potatoes. Report
OMG, this info is really disturbing. I knew some of these couldn't be healthy but you've confirmed it. Report
Wow...very informative and lucky for me..I live on an island with only few choices on the more temptation. Report
There are only two fast-food items I eat: McDonald's McSkillet Burrito (about 400 cal) without meat for breakfast, and Subway Veggie Delite Flatbread (about 300 cal) for lunch. It is so much healthier (and cheaper!) to batch-cook and bring in your lunch every day. Whenever I make eggplant parmesan (only 110 cal per 1 piece) all of my coworkers come over and sniff it, so you can actually eat better all around this way. Report
Fortunately for me none of the top 11 appeals to me. My downfall is and always has been McDonalds french fries. Report
The only one I can say I have eaten is the nacho's at Taco Bell. I only eat maybe half of it though and took the rest home. I stopped going out to fast food places unless I had to while on the run. Then I stop at Subway and get the veggie sandwich, eat half and take the rest home. Report
WOW! That's really all I can say! WOW! I'm preparing to go on the road for a month across country and this really reminds me of WHAT NOT to eat! Report
It's amazing to me how many calories can be in a dish, especially a salad in general. Will definitely check nutrition facts when eating out. Report
Some of these sound like they would be nutricious but the calories are wild. Report
i can't believe how many calories are in that scallop salad! i would never guess that judging from the description on the menu. Report
no no no noooooo
i never knew that about starbuck's hot chocolate! how could they do that to us!!! Report
Scary! I just had the Olive Garden Shrimp and Chicken Carbonara.... YIKES! Good thing I didn't eat all of it at one sitting! NOT ORDERING THAT AGAIN! Report
Most of these places, thankfully, I've never even been inside their store. Taco Bell is the only business I've been recently, and that was 8 months ago. I saw the inside of a KFC about 5 years ago. And have never seen any of the others so do not know the food. But I'm truly lucky, my body does not tolerate fast food, I even have a hard time shopping in stores that allow a McDonald's to be an open air "restaurant", the smell of the grease turns me Report
I smiled all the way through this. After reading these numbers avoiding these foods will be a pleasure. Report
It really doesn't surprise me a bit to see these numbers, but like one of the other posters noted, the sodium content is enough to preserve you for eternity. I know we are all products of our own choices, but surely these places can do better than this!!! Report
Yikes! 2000+ calories in ONE meal?!? Whew, I think I gain a pound just reading about it.

That said, McDonalds has jumped on the mushroom burger bandwagon and, I'm afraid, it is delicious -- as good as I've had at any gourmet burger place. But at over 700 calories that is more than half my daily range (low end). I'm not willing to give it up entirely but it will definitely be only on a special occasion. Report
I think my heart hurt just reading the fat and the SODIUM content, OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH my gosh. BLAH BLAH BLAH !!!! Report
Oh...My...Gawd... Report
Holy Cow, and I love the eggnog shake :0( figures though. Report
Very well written article. It wasn't until I started making a concerted effort to lose weight and tracking what I eat that I realized that most dining establishments don't publish their nutritional info. Now wandering into these places is at best only as a very special treat and done with some form of restraint. But to exclude them altogether is deprivation and only makes you want to go more. My suggestion is visit their website first and look for the nutritional info. If it's not there, where else can you go? If they do, pick what you think your body will not hate you for and stick to that before you go. Remember, you're walking into hostile territory on an empty stomach. Temptation abounds. Report
Back before I cared about what I was eating, I used to eat the Baconator... Ugh, I owe my body an apology! Report
I just ate lunch at Chili's the other day. I remember thinking how delicious the cheese fries looked in the pictures (but I refrained...). EW! I also used to work at Outback Steakhouse and I have to say their cheese fries are delicious (must be all that fat!). I expected no less from them to win the worst cheese fries in America! So glad I know better now... Report
The Lemon Passion dessert at Macaroni Grill has 1,370 calories in a single, rather small, serving. And, to be honest, I found it to be rather bland and not nearly as tasteful as I had expected. At least add some shaven lemon peel to the frosting if you're going kill people with calories! Make it a delectable death, for crying out loud. Report
I wouldn't order any of these items anyway, but you'd think it should be illegal for restaurants to offer them! Report
This is exactly why I have to avoid eating out at all costs if I want to lose this weight! HOLY CRAP Report
Like others, I too have partaken in the fully loaded nachos at taco bell... I never ever would have thought that they were that full of fat!!!! No wonder I couldn't fit into any of my clothes. (thankfully, I haven't done that in months, but jeez, i have before) Report
Yikes! Once upon a time in a far away place from where I am now, I did partake of the Taco Bell Fully Loaded Nachos twice. I had NO idea the amount of fat/sodium/cholesterol that I was ingesting. No wonder I had no energy. I must confess tho, they tasted divine. I've been Taco Bell abstinent for over 4 months now. Report
Before I go out to dinner, I look up the menu online first. It gives me plenty of time to read the menu and make the best choices and look for vegetarian options. Report
I think the only thing that I have had on that list was the starbucks hot chocolate. That really makes me sick seeing how many calories are in that! Report
Ick. Never have and never will... Report
I cant believe I ate out at taco bell like 2x a week! No wonder I was gaining weight! No more taco bell EVER Report
You really do not know what you are eating until you see it in writing. Those nachos from Taco Bell were one time my snack for the day. Do you hear me SNACK. OMG I feel so ashame. Help me SP!!!! Report
I've had that seared scallop salad and chose it over pasta thinking it was a healthier choice. What an eye opener! Report
I can't belive tat, yea I can I have started eating more at home or I eat something before I go out so I am not so hungry and drink a lot of water before going out. Report