Worst foods you can eat in chain restaurants

WASHINGTON — Looking for healthy options in a chain restaurant can be a challenge. Large portion sizes, dishes with enticing names and some of the best comfort food is often found outside your home’s kitchen.

Dietary advice always seems to be telling us what we should eat, but what about the things you shouldn’t eat if you are visiting a chain? Men’s Health Editor Paul Kita told WTOP about some of the worst things you can dig into when you are eating out.


Most of us would think when it comes to healthy eating, you can’t really go wrong choosing a salad. Or can you?

Well, one salad at The Cheescake Factory means by the end of it, you’ll have consumed more sugar than drinking nearly 2 cans of soda.

The most unhealthy salad at The Cheescake Factory, according to Kita, will give you 62 g of sugar and 1,700 calories. To put that in perspective: An average 12-ounce can of soda contains 39 g of sugar.


When it comes to sit-down chains as opposed to grab-and-go, you may not find a greater array of healthier options and it seems a “simple” pasta might be anything but.

“Portions are huge at sit down restaurants,” Kita said.

At Applebee’s, the Firecracker Shrimp Cavatappi is packed with crispy sriracha shrimp, cavatappi pasta, sauteed zucchini, red bell pepper, red onion and Parmesan sriracha cream sauce — and 1,800 calories.

Total carbohydrates are listed as 150 g. While carbohydrates are not inherently bad and they contain fiber, essential for a healthy diet, this dish contains 9 g fiber and the rest is “empty and not doing you any good,” according to Kita.


How about if you are vegetarian or go for the veggie option? Again, you might be consuming a lot more calories than you bargained for.

Quiznos Sub Sandwich Restaurants offer a 12-inch Veggie Guacamole sub, with 121 g total carbohydrates, but just 10 g of fiber. However, the nutritional content is boosted by the avocado content, an excellent supply of good fats, Kita said.


How about eating at a chain restaurant for breakfast?

When it comes to arguably the most important meal in the day, Burger King’s BK Ultimate Breakfast Platter looks like it will keep you full until lunch time with its combination of scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, baked biscuit and three pancakes covered in sweet syrup. But it will also provide you with 1,170 calories, 22 g saturated fat and 33 g sugar.

Lunch and dinner

While larger portions for lunch can mean good value when split into two meals, they could soon lead to you shopping for pants in a bigger size.

Hardee’s range of “thickburgers” includes the 2/3 lb. Monster Thickburger. It contains 1,300 calories, 76 g of protein, 33 g of saturated fat and, perhaps surprisingly for a burger, 13 g of sugar.

“You may be asking yourself: sugar in a burger? But actually it comes in the bun,” Kita said. “This is something you want to watch out for in all chain restaurants. Their buns do contain a fair amount of sugar in them and that’s simply to make them taste better.”

If you want to know exactly what’s going into your body and are often tempted by the attractive photographs and the desire to fill a grumbling stomach, then you should go online before going to the restaurant. Most chain restaurants list exactly what’s in their food products on their websites — so you can know before you go.

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