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Healthy Living

The Best of the Worst Foods You Don't Want to Eat

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 03/11/2011
Last Updated: 08/13/2012

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I've held onto this information I found on menshealth.com for a long time, at first because I found it amusing, and then, because I realized that it's worth sharing. Because, face it: though we all might strive to eat healthy foods and think we can estimate their caloric/healthy value, we underestimate the counts many times.

And even though many restaurants and fast-food joints might attempt to cut down on the dangerous stuff like trans fats and salt, they're still in the business of selling food—and catering to the palates of many Americans. (And here's my personal wish to my sons and everyone else I love: If there's anything I urge you to read, it's this post. Please. I know you're old enough to make your own decisions…but please consider this a gift from me. A gift that I hope you'll use.)

Last March, a health law was signed in New York requiring most chain restaurants to print calorie information on the foods they serve. You'd think that would stop some people from ordering certain foods, no? But a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity says there was little difference. Granted, they studied low-income, mostly minority parents and adolescents who regularly eat out at fast-food restaurants in New York City. That is a bit skewed, since it eliminates the people who may be avoiding the fast-food restaurants because of the new labeling law. But it's interesting to note that knowing how unhealthful the food was had little or no bearing on dining choices. Perhaps there needs to be more work on teaching the public just what this nutritional information actually means in terms of health.

Here are five of the unhealthiest foods from chain restaurants, according to menshealth.com. Beware. And don't say I didn't warn you.

Pizza: Worst Slice – Sbarro Stuffed Pepperoni
One slice comes in at 960 calories, with 42 grams (g) of fat and 3,200 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Horrific, no? If you're craving pizza, go for a slice of fresh tomato pizza. You'll be much better off, to say the least.

Vegetarian Sandwich – Blimpies 12-inch Special Vegetarian
A vegetarian sandwich conjures up images of health, doesn't it? Not this one. At 1,180 calories, 59 g of fat and over 3,000 mg of sodium (the equivalent to 2.5 bags of Fritos), this one is scary. It's topped with crushed Doritos, melted cheese and various sauces. To me, its name is an oxymoron and should be outlawed!

Fries – Five Guys Fries (Large)
You may think all fries are bad, but these really win the prize. Sure, the best thing is to skip the fries, but if you can't, at least share the order. It's loaded with calories (over 1,400), fat (71 g) and sodium (213 mg). And it comprises more than 75 percent of your day's calories.

Worst Chinese Entrée – P.F. Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo
This dish contains beef, pork, chicken and shrimp, so it sounds kind of OK, right? But when you look at the sodium count, which is almost 8,000 mg (yikes!) and realize that is as much salt as is in TWO full boxes of Ritz crackers, it gets kinda scary, especially when you consider all we should get is 1,500 mg of salt per day.

Worst Sandwich – Cheesecake Factory Grilled Shrimp & Bacon Club
Grilled shrimp can't be bad, right? Well, not if you eat it as grilled shrimp. But when it's topped with bacon and adorned with the "special sauce," that's where the trouble starts. It packs in 24 g of saturated fat and almost 2,000 calories. It's like going to Wendy's and eating seven junior cheeseburgers.

You might want to read:

Curious to know what the other 15 worst chain restaurant foods are? (at your own risk!)


Had a stomach bug for a couple of days and am just now tentatively trying apple sauce. This list almost set me back to the queasy side. Funny how unappealing all that fat is when you're under the weather.

I had a slice of Sparro pizza when I was up in the city last week, and it did taste extravagant, although it was not Stuffed Pepperoni. What I have given up is more simple: potato chips. I could eat a whole bag at a sitting. No more. When I simply can't resist, I buy 40% less fat Cape Cod potato chips, pocket-size bag.

At least you know your weakness and you're trying, Alexandra. That's one step in the right direction!

Well, since we don't eat out much at all, I think I'm relatively safe from these items ... but I'm sure there are others.

Yikes! Those are pretty bad!

I can feel my arteries clamping shut as I read that list. Thanks for the tips on what NOT to eat. And probably good to stay away from any food item with the words "stuffed," "double" or "loaded" in the title, huh...

I feel as if I gained 15 pounds just reading this list.

Vegetarian meals often go heavy on the cheese for flavor, but crushed Doritos? Really? I won't be eating that anytime soon. However, I'm sure you could order it with mustard instead of the salty sauces, no cheese, and no Doritos, and it probably wouldn't be so bad for you.

Sounds like a sensible way to order, or RE-order that sandwich, Susan!

OMG! I hate to say this but...dang it!...why do calories have to be hidden (or, for that matter, in plain sight) in the most amazing places??!!

Yikes! Luckily, none of those foods sound too appealing with one exception--the Five Guys Fries. I can't imagine being able to finish a whole order of their fries, though. It's huge. We split one small order with our whole family.

It's been eye-opening seeing the calorie counts on menus. It definitely makes it tougher to order knowing how much of a caloric wallop most take-out and restaurant foods contain. But knowledge is power, right?!

Hopefully with most of us knowledge will be power. But there are so many who blissfully ignore those calorie counts, keeping places like these in business. Yikes.

Wowza! We rarely eat out, but even still, this is incredibly eye opening. Thanks for the heads up about the frightening state of food.

It's scary, isn't it? What's scarier is to see all the people who flock to these places!

Yuck yuck and yuck. This was fun to read. It reaffirmed my belief that it's BEST TO AVOID PROCESSED FOODS, even pizza, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

That vegetarian sandwich is mind-boggling. This is why we rarely eat out!


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