12 of the Worst Restaurant Foods

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

thanks for sharing Report
Firstly given that this article is a few months shy of FOUR YEARS old and given that restaurant menus change often (I work in this field), I cannot help but wonder how many of the items referenced are even in existence at this time...Secondly, when people go out to eat, they dont go out to eat healthy, if they did, they wouldnt go out to eat...MY suggestion would be to know your food, eat in moderation, remember your portion control and as such go as a pair or group buy 1-3 dishes and share Share SHARE...go out to be entertained by the people youre with, not by the food youre eating. Report
Good advice for every week eating out . u feel at time we need to enjoy some high calorie foods with friends and i the time i have had the blooming onion we shared it at a group and even took some home sharing it i believe we can enjoy these foods. but not all the time . Report
I’m on vacation right now and expect to go home slightly slimmer because of careful eating out and lots of walking. Just reading about those foods make me feel sick. Report
Oh my... the U of T is right on, as usual. I have had bits of the blooming onion but maybe 5 years ago. They are being proactive here in Toronto. I have eaten at Red Robin ...they have good options. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Interesting but I'm not surprised. Report
Yikes! Theses are all so bad! I've only ever had the blooming onion and that was shared with the table. Report
I've never eaten at any of these restaurant chains; in fact, I haven't even heard of several of them. That said, I consider going out to eat as a rare, special occasion rather than a weekly (or even monthly) treat. So IF I were to eat at any of these, I'd pick what I like. ONE meal isn't going to kill me, especially if I "budget" for it by eating much less before and after. It's a problem ONLY if it becomes a regular part of one's diet. Report
I don’t swear on posts but holy guackamole people! What the fudge are you putting in your body? So glad I’ve never eaten these meals. The closest is the blooming onion, which we shared with 3+ people, and wasted 1/2. Yikes! I didn’t know calories could go so high lol. Report
Fortunately, the only one of these I have even tried is the Bloomin' Onion. It was Go-o-o-o-o-o-od Report
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. Report
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. Report
Thanks for this! Report
I used to love the 'bloomin onion' - who knew how bad it was for you!! Report


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.