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9 Worst Restaurant Meals Of 2015—And What To Order Instead
We're gonna go out on a limb and guess that you already know that chain restaurant food tends to be loaded with calories, fat, sodium, sketchy-sounding food additives, and not much else. But amazingly, things may be even worse than you think. These greasy, fatty options, compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for the nutrition watchdog group's annual Xtreme Eating awards, are so shockingly bad, you'll wonder how the people who come up with these over-the-top menu items even sleep at night.
Here are 9 crazy unhealthy chain-restaurant menu items to avoid at all costs, plus—on the off chance that you do find yourself at an IHOP, Sonic, or Red Lobster—what to order instead.
1. IHOP's Chorizo Fiesta Omlette
Sure, omelettes can be good for you. But this one? Definitely no bueno. Loaded with chorizo sausage, pepper jack cheese, citrus chili sauce (whatever that is), plus sour cream, this Tex-Mex monstrosity packs 1,300 calories and 106 g (!!!) fat. Scarf down the included side of three buttermilk pancakes with a quarter cup of fake syrup, and you've just hit about 2,000 calories.
What to order instead:Skip the weird meats and refined carb stack in favor of the Simple & Fit Vegetable Omelet with a side of seasonal mixed fruit. At 370 calories and 12 g fat, it's the size a breakfast should be.
2. Dickey's Barbecue Pit 3 Meat Plate
Can't decide between sausage, ribs, and brisket? Just get all three. But really, the meat is just the tip of the culinary iceberg in this case. Add a choice of two sides—how about onion rings plus mac and cheese?—a roll, 32 ounces of sweetened iced tea, plus a modest half cup of ice cream (it's free at Dickey's, so how could you not?), and you just downed 2,500 calories, three days worth of saturated fat, and 29 teaspoons of sugar.
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What to order instead:Try the Quarter Plate. At 517 calories, it's designed for those with "smaller appetites." For your two sides, opt for the Jalapeño Beans and Green Beans with Bacon, which appear to be the only two options that aren't fried and/or loaded with cheese or cream.
3. Outback Steakhouse Herb Roasted Prime Rib
A 4-ounce portion of prime rib isn't a huge deal. But when your steak is four times that size, it tops out at 1,400 fatty calories. Add the dressed baked potato, blue cheese wedge salad, and eat just half of your bread, and you're up to 2,400 calories and 71 g saturated fat. In other words, dinner, tomorrow's breakfast and lunch, and then some.
What to get instead:Skip the monster portions and order the 6-ounce sirloin steak paired with fresh seasonal mixed veggies and the Signature House Salad with Tangy Tomato Vinaigrette, which comes in under 600 calories.
4. The Cheesecake Factory Louisiana Chicken Pasta
The platter of breaded chicken and creamy pasta weighs a pound and a half, so you know it's gotta be bad. How bad? With a side of the buttery New Orleans sauce, 2,400 calories and 80 g of saturated fat.
What to get instead:If it's chicken and carbs you're after, pick the Skinnylicious Chicken Pasta with marinara sauce, fresh tomatoes, and basil instead. The Cheesecake Factory doesn't include nutritional info on its website, but notes that everything on its Skinnylicious menu contains fewer than 590 calories.
5. SONIC Pineapple Upside Down Master Blast
If you're planning to have dessert at SONIC, you better save a ton of room. Thirty-two ounces of vanilla ice cream, pineapple, salted caramel, and piecrust pieces top out at 2,020 calories, 61 g of saturated fat, and 4½ g of heart-stopping trans fat. Your sweet ending is basically an entire day's worth of garbage.
What to get instead:There's no making dessert at Sonic good for you. But if you're in the mood the splurge and are jonesing for caramel, split the Caramel Sundae with a friend for a more reasonable 260 calories, 8.5 g saturated fat, and 0 g trans fat. You won't get any piecrust pieces, but you won't up your risk for having a coronary, either.
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6. Red Lobster's Create Your Own Combination
Combo meals offer unlimited freedom—and at this seafood restaurant, that can be as dangerous as taking the rubber bands off a live lobster's claws. If you go for three shrimp dishes like Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut, Walt's Favorite (basically, fried shrimp), and Linguine Alfredo, then get a side of fries, a Caesar salad, and have just one Cheddar Bay biscuit (irresistible, you know), you're looking at 2,710 calories and two days' worth of saturated fat.
What to get instead:Skip the shrimp, which are all breaded and fried or bathed in cream sauce. Instead, try the Parmesan Crusted Fresh Tilapia with broccoli, which is part of RL's 600-calorie menu. For your side, get the baked potato.
7. Uno Pizzeria & Grill 2 for Pick & Choose
Another combo platter, another opportunity for dietary disaster. The 2 for Pick & Choose lets you pick a salad, a pasta, and a pizza: But the Baked Ziti & Sausage Pasta alone is 720 calories. Add a "small-plate" Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza, and you'll tack on another 1,470 calories. Your grand total? 2,190 calories and 49 g of saturated fat.
What to get instead:Astonishingly, none of Uno Pizzeria's smaller, individual-sized pizzas clock in below 1,400 calories—so probably best to forget those altogether. Instead, stick with an entrée like the Herb Rubbed Chicken, plus Roasted Vegetables and Farro Salad for your sides. Together, these items clock in at a fairly reasonable 750 calories and 7 g saturated fat.
8. The Cheesecake Factory Warm Apple Crisp
You might think that warm apples and a nut-filled topping would be a better choice than cheesecake, but you'd be wrong. At 1,740 calories and 32 teaspoons of sugar (that's 128 g if you're curious!), the mountain of ice cream, caramel, whipped cream, and OK, some fruit, equal more than two slices of the chain's original cheesecake.
What to eat instead:Believe it or not, the Cheesecake Factory offers a "Goblet of Fresh Strawberries" for just 110 calories. But if you're in the mood for something more decadent, split a slice of the Original Cheesecake with a friend for 355 calories.
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9. Steak 'n Shake 7X7 Burger 'n Fries
With seven beef patties and seven slices of cheese, you'd think that this behemoth burger-and-fries platter would pack more than a measly 1,570 calories and 47 g saturated fat. Still, that doesn't mean you should eat it—ever.
What to order instead:If you're craving a burger, get a Single Steakburger. With a slice of cheese and fries, it's only 280 calories and 4.5 g saturated fat. But if it's something semi-nutritious you're after, try the Apple Harvest Grilled Chicken Salad with tomato, almonds, and avocado.
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