Most of us know there are risks from eating too often at fast-food chains and some fast-casual restaurants. We also know that there are healthy choices available at most popular restaurants, if you look for them. Occasionally you may want to indulge in something, and if it's an occasional treat, that's okay.
Then there are the meals we're about to talk about.
Each year the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, releases a list of the least healthy meals in America (which they call the Xtreme Eating Awards), and they are quite literally heart stoppers. These menu items are so outrageous that even trying to finish one may make you feel ill for a day or two. Eating one will have you exceeding daily suggested nutritional counts in nearly every area.
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These are all actual restaurant items, which are available at fast-casual chains like Chili's or food-service counters such as at AMC theaters. Some exceed your recommended daily calorie intakes, others pack in more saturated fat or sugar than you should eat in two, three, or even four days.
We know that a typical restaurant entrée has around 1,100 calories, which is depressing enough—and also a big reason why so many adults and children are overweight. But all of these dishes are well beyond the pale.
As a reminder, the recommended nutritional intakes per day for American adults is 2,000 calories, 2,300mg of sodium, 20g of saturated fat, and 50g of added sugar. Here are the meals you should, under no circumstances, ever order:
1) The Cheesecake Factory's Breakfast Burrito
Many diners are aware of the Cheesecake Factory's reputation as being one of the unhealthiest restaurants in America—but that reputation now officially extends to its all-day breakfast menu. This burrito is crammed with eggs, bacon, chicken chorizo, cheese, potatoes, peppers, onions, avocado, sour cream, salsa, black beans, and a spicy ranchero sauce. It's also stuffed with 2,730 calories, 4,630mg of sodium, and 73g of saturated fat—almost four days(!) worth. According to the CSPI this meal equals seven of McDonald's Sausage McMuffins.
2) AMC's Bavarian Pretzel
Who doesn’t love to snack at the movies? We certainly do (here are some of our favorite healthy snacks to sneak in)! The snack counter can put the hurt on your wallet, certainly, but with treats like AMC’s Bavarian-style soft pretzel, the hurt is on your health, too. This “legend” (according to AMC) is one-and-a-half pounds of dough, topped with salt, and served with melted cheese and mustard. It has more white flour than a loaf of bread, and 7,600 mg of sodium.
3) The Cheesecake Factory's Chicken Parmesan Pizza
This “pizza” is really, as The Cheesecake Factory menu states, “Chopped chicken breast coated with breadcrumbs, covered with marinara sauce and lots of melted cheese. Topped with angel hair pasta in an Alfredo cream sauce.” Blargh. This is a 10” round of chicken, topped with breading, cheese, and, because that wasn’t enough, pasta in cream sauce. The calories and fat are bad, yeah, but truth is, this crime against pizza doesn’t even sound good. Neither does the dish’s 3,080 mg of sodium, 55 grams of sat fat, and 1,870 calories.
4) Chili's Honey-Chipotle Crispers and Waffles
Look, we’re no strangers to comfort food. In fact, we even love chicken and waffles. But: “Crispers on top of Belgian waffles, topped with bacon, jalapeños, ancho-chile ranch, served with fries & honey-chipotle sauce” is taking too far. No surprise that this dish has more than 2,500 calories, and 40 grams of saturated fat. According to the CSPI this meal equals five Krispy Kreme doughnuts topped with 30 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, and five packets of (sugary) barbecue sauce.
5) BJ's Peanut Butter S'more Pizookie
This pizza/cookie mash-up is topped with peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, marshmallows, and ice cream. And it’s as big as your face. Eat it and you're ingesting 1,580 calories, 31 grams of saturated fat, and 135 grams of added sugar.
6) Uno Pizzeria's Deep Dish Buffalo Mac n' Cheese
Take a super-cheesy pasta dish, top it with fried chicken in a super-salty sauce, then smother it in some more cheese, and you have this dish, which has a whopping 2,320 calories, 59 grams of sat fat, and more than 4,500 mg of sodium. According to CSPI the meal equals three orders of Olive Garden's Cheese Ravioli. For the record, both buffalo chicken and mac and cheese can be tasty, and just as importantly, healthy.
7) Shake Shack's Double SmokeShack Meal
People are fierce about their love for Shake Shack. But just because you’re eating a burger doesn’t mean you need to eat one that’s 930 calories! (We like these healthier burgers instead.) Add to that the 420-calorie fries and the 890-calorie peanut butter shake, and you’ve got yourself a salt-sugar-fat bomb that adds up to 2,240 calories and 55 grams of saturated fat—equal to three McDonald's Quarter Pounders with Cheese plus three of their Vanilla Cones.