10 Unhealthiest Restaurants

By Healthy Theory on 29 July 2009 (Updated 24 March 2011) 56 comments
Photo: iStockphoto

Eat This, Not That! analyzed and graded 66 different chain restaurants, and came up with a list of America's Unhealthiest Restaurants. It goes to show how easy it is to underestimate the amount of calories in a seemingly simple meal. Consider your portion sizes (you'll live longer, too) and the types of ingredients before accepting a plate at face value.

Here are the restaurants that topped the charts with calories and fat content per serving. [America's Unhealthiest Restaurants, (Yahoo! Health/Men's Health)]

Denny's

Their Double Cheeseburger is one of the worst in the country with 116 grams of fat and made it to the list of worst bugers in America.

 

Chili's

From burgers to baby back ribs, Chili's serves up some of the saltiest and fattiest fare. Also on the list of worst bugers in America, their Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger has 3,810 mg of sodium and 122 grams of fat.

 

 

Baskin-Robbins

Their Heath Shake was named the Worst Drink on the Planet. It's got 2310 calories and 108 grams of fat. Enough said.

 

 

Carl's Jr.

Instead of paring down and offering healthier choices, Carl's Jr. pushes on with their bigger is better motto when developing new burgers. Their Double Guacamole Bacon Burger has over 1,000 calories and 74 grams of fat (27 of it is saturated fat).

 

 

Dairy Queen

Combines the two evils with greasy, heavy foods followed by heavy ice cream concoctions. Eaters can easily spend their entire day's calories in one sitting here.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

 

Ruby Tuesday

Their appetizers hover at around 1,000 calories each, and even their veggie and turkey burgers have more than 850 calories!

 

Chevy's

Their massive portions push many of their meals over 1,000 calories. Consistently high in fat and sodium, it's no wonder there is no nutritional information to be found

 

 

Romano's Macaroni Grill

Their Seared Sea Scallops Salad made it on the Worst Salads list with over 1,300 calories and 2,860 mg of sodium, and is considered an Italian grease spot when it comes to their appetizers.

 

 

On the border

Owned by the same parent company of Chili's and Romano's Macacroni Grill (both here on this list). Their appetizers have 120 grams of fat and salads have a full day's worth of sodium. Even their taco entrees have 960 calories (tacos only, rice and beans not included in that calculation).

 

Baja Fresh

Their Shrimp Burrito Dos Manos Enchilada-Style contains over 5,100 mg sodium -- more than two days' worth!

This is a post from our sister blog, Healthy Theory. Visit Healthy Theory for more tips on how to take control of your own health.

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Guest's picture

But let's be honest...sometimes you just gotta have it!

How did McD's not make it???

Guest's picture
Tim

From Yahoo Health...

F

Applebee’s, IHOP, Outback, T.G.I. Friday’s

These titans of the restaurant industry are among the last national chains that don’t offer nutritional information on their dishes. Even after years of badgering their representatives, we still hear the same old excuses: it’s too pricey, it’s too time-consuming, it’s impossible to do accurately because their food is so fresh, or we have too much variety. Our response is simple: If nearly every other chain restaurant in the country can do it, then why can’t they?

Guest's picture
Chris

I can't believe I am reading "Most Unhealthiest" in the title of this post. That's terrible. It's just "Unhealthiest."

Will Chen's picture

Hmmm.... That Carl's Jr. burger is one of my favorite burgers of all time!

Lynn Truong's picture

You are totally right! Awful grammar error fixed.

Guest's picture
Peter T

In judging restaurants, I would rather like to know which restaurant allows me to choose something wholesome, not what their worst food is - I wouldn't buy it anyhow. Are Wendy's salads better or McDonald's? Do they offer low sodium food, etc.?

Guest's picture

Wow great post, a few of these restuarants I have never heard of, and I know Denny's is very unhealthy, but I didn't know about a few of them Thanks for keeping us informed!

Guest's picture
Nicole

Talk about a post guaranteed to make you hungry!

Guest's picture
Hanna

::stomach growls::

But really no Hardees on the list?

Guest's picture
So long

I agree with a previous comment... a good list would be of healthy places. I can pretty much figure out the ones that aren't health.

Just as a side note -- and unrelated to this post or the writer -- but between posts about how to save money at Starbucks (which if I don't go there to begin with, I would really save more), buying old fashion razor blades (just to save me a few bucks in my lifetime, and may I add with fuzzy math), how to use my car alarm to chase home intruders away (what?), silly posts about cinco de mayo, and some of the writers dominating and controlling the comment sections (threatening to delete them!), Wise Bread it's becoming a huge waste of time. I have been a reader for the longest time... I would like to see more quality... there's more quantity now... anyways, feel free to call me crazy now.

Out.

Guest's picture
Kristina

I am an all-whole-wheat-lots-of-fruits-and-veggies-slender-exercisin' kinda gal, but I find this sort of nannying irritating. I really don't think it matters whether restaurants post this information. People will eat what they want. We need to be responsible for ourselves.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Hardees is the same as Carl's Jr I believe.  Man I eat at Chevy's all the time and get super super stuffed.  My baby is built out of junk food.

Guest's picture
Charlie

"Their Double Cheeseburger is one of the worst in the country with 116 grams of fat and made it to the list of worst bugers in America."

Really? Bugers? Let's use a spell checker.

Guest's picture
Charlie, Jr.

"From burgers to baby back ribs, Chili's serves up some of the saltiest and fattiest fare. Also on the list of worst bugers in America, their Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger has 3,810 mg of sodium and 122 grams of fat."

Chili's also seems to be serving "bugers." It isn't the fat nor the calories that makes these places unhealthy, it's the "bugers!"

Guest's picture
guest

Thanks for the information, thankfully i dont eat at any of those places... but im sure other fast food is right up there with those...

Guest's picture
dhanson

Sigh. This is the kind of frothing at the mouth attack on food that turns people off to good nutritional information. Many of these restaurants also offer better alternatives. It isn't necessary to scream about "worst" when it may be more helpful to offer helpful suggestions and recognize that occasionally people want to splurge.

As for portion size, when my wife and I eat at Chevy's we split an order of fajitas. We also visit some of the other restaurants listed here, but I don't think either of us has ever had any of the "worst" items listed. When we order hamburgers, we tend to get something relatively plain, without cheese or sauce.

This article assumes people gravitate to the highest calorie and fat items on the menu. I don't believe this is necessarily the case, and even if it was, the tone of the article will not likely win many people over to healthier options.

Guest's picture
Jim

Knowing which restaurants have high calories, fat & salt content is useful information. We should all decide for ourselves where to eat and what to eat but having the nutritional information available if we want it is a useful part of that decision. Frankly I'm a little surprised that Macaroni Grill & Baja Fresh are on the list and KFC, McDonalds, Wendys', Burger King and various other fast food joints are not on the list.

But one thing I'd point out is if you're looking at total calorie and fat content of a meal then also look at PORTION SIZE. When we go to Macaroni Grill we usually eat about 1/2 of the entree because they have fairly large portion sizes. Larger portions will give you higher calories per meal. Its hard for me to fault a restaurant for giving me more food. And of course more food = more caloires. But I don't have to eat it all..

Is it only me or does having Baskins & Robbins on this list make no sense? Since when are they a restaurant? Don't they just serve ice cream or do they actually serve food now too?

Guest's picture
craig

Where's Chipotle on that list?

Guest's picture
Guest

merriam-webster definition of restaurant

: a business establishment where meals or refreshments may be purchased

Refreshments may be purchased at Baskin-Robbins

Guest's picture
Charlie

Guest, you could just as easily read that definition as referring to a a place where you have the ability to get a "meal or a refreshment." That is, I go in and I have that option, not that they offer at least one of the two. By that reading, you really can't get a meal at Baskin-Robbins, so it does not qualify as a restaurant. We could argue that the "or" would need to be an "and", but I work in a building with a coke machine and a candy machine, which both contain refreshments, yet no one (except one arguing your point--or who wants to claim that a snickers is a meal) would call that a restaurant. I doubt that the snickers eater would call it a restaurant either.

I'm still stuck on the places serving "bugers." I guess the author doesn't read these comments.

Guest's picture
valletta

Do a little more research.
The "original" restaurant (from the etymology of the term) served bouillon alone. As in "restore one's health".
So, let's just say it's a flexible term :)

Guest's picture

Has anyone noticed that despite all the claims about how bad this restaurant food is, or how bad fast food is in general, that no one seems to be getting scared off?

People might back off frequenting a restaurant on a list somewhere, but head over to another that isn't any better.

The best advice is to cut down/cut out as much eating out as possible. You'll be thinner, healthier and have more money. None of them are healthy because we can never know exactly what special sauce or how much fat they're using. And typically the more of either that they use, the better the food tastes. It's a cruel irony.

Guest's picture
Guest

Why are you only listing fat content, when that is the least fattening content? Carb content is the one you should be worried about.

Guest's picture
Charlie

Regarding the comment about reporting carbs because they are the most "fattening" part of the meals... Gram for gram, fat has 225% of the calories of a carb or a protein. Fat = 9 calories/gram. Carb = 4 calories/gram. Fats also make you feel "more full" for "longer" than most carbs.

We could also address how much easier it is to store a fat in a fat cell than it is to get a carb into a fat cell (which would lessen the impact of carbs even further).

So, gram for gram, fat is more "fattening" than carbs. She reports the calories, which is really what matters in the end.

Guest's picture
Guest

No. CARBS count in the end. Fat does NOT store in fat cells easier, since carbs trigger the release of insulin which makes you store the carbs as fat. Calories mean NOTHING compared to carb intake. Fat and cholesterol are necessary nutrients, something that carbs are not. There is no minimum carb intake the human body needs. The body only uses carbs as a fuel source because it's easier, NOT because it's better for you. Fat is a better fuel source and does not increase insulin production, something necessary to store body fat. The idea that fat makes you fat is outdated and incorrect.

Guest's picture
Lisa

I do think this information needs to be posted on the menu. IKEA here in Seattle does now, and it does help one who WANTS to make better food choices. Especially drinks, I don't think most people have a clue how many calories they contain, especially a mega large vat of Coke at a movie theater. If it is available, why not put it out there for people who want to know?

Guest's picture
Bagrat

They said Ruby Tuesday's appetizers hover at around 1,000 calories each???? BS. I eat there all the time and my cousin is a GM there. I talked to him and he said it was total BS. Just look for your self on http://www.rubytuesday.com/files/allergen.pdf
You can clearly see thir biggest appetizer is at 354 calories. Where did these people get the 1000 from???? This is why I don't trust anything posted on the net. People just make things up for some odd reason. Do reaserch yourself people...

Guest's picture
Guest

The nutritional listings you linked to for Ruby Tuesdays are "per serving", with no further information provided for how many servings are in each order. Since appetizers are generally intended for more than one person, you can probably double, triple, or possibly quadruple the numbers in the chart.

Guest's picture
valletta

"Just look for your self on http://www.rubytuesday.com/files/allergen.pdf
You can clearly see thir biggest appetizer is at 354 calories. Where did these people get the 1000 from???? This is why I don't trust anything posted on the net.?

Ironic much? :)

Guest's picture
Charlie

From your source on RubyTuesday:

Nutrition information is for one serving and is
based on lab analysis of food products
prepared in our test kitchen or by
our suppliers."

Appetizers are multiple-servings.

Julie Rains's picture

If you share the appetizer with 3 other people, then the calories, fat, etc. is the lesser amount -- the listing on the menu mentions that the counts are a per person serving with 4 total portions per appetizer. So, it seemts that the 4-way sampler at 354 calories is actually 1416 calories if you eat the entire thing.

A couple of years ago, when I was having my kitchen remodeled, I ate out a bunch and tried to eat "healthy" -- I found out that chain restaurants either add fat or salt to flavor. So, while I avoided fat, my blood pressure went up 20-30 points in just a couple of weeks on this diet. It's not that I never eat at such places, but you do have to watch what you're eating and limit such meals out. I scrutinize the menus even more now.

Lynn Truong's picture

Bagrat, as Julie pointed out, the listed calories on Ruby Tuesday's site is per serving, but the entire appetizer plate is over 1000 calories. It assumes that the plate will be eaten by 4 people.

As others have pointed out, people don't have to eat the entire plate of food. But some do, and the calories listed here is in fact for the entire plate.

Listed calories for serving sizes are always tricky. I've seen the serving size listed on a box of ice cream as "1/4 cup." We might look at the calorie count without paying attention to how much of a portion that really is.  In this case, Ruby Tuesday chose to split a plate into four servings and list a per serving calorie count rather than by plate. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that most people won't pay attention and think the entire plate is only 350 calories.

Guest's picture

2310 calories and 108 grams of fat for a drink?? That is well unhealthy! I love their ice-creams, wonder if they contain as much calories.

Guest's picture
Guest

You're all missing the point. There's no problem with high fat foods! It's the high carb foods that are unhealthy. ALL grains are unhealthy.

Guest's picture
Bagrat

Lynn and Julie, Thanks for clarifying this but I think this is something you should be posting in your actual article. I agree there are many places that are just ridicules to eat at, but Ruby Tuesday is not one of them. My posting intended to show that 350 calories is per person. Appetizers are meant to share with other people. I do agree there are some out there that could eat all on their own but let’s be realistic, 90% of us don't. So why smother a good restaurants name when you know the 1,000 calorie remark is not true for most people. Most don't eat the whole thing, and if they do, it's to replace a full meal.

Also, I did not appreciate you playing around with my post. Comments are a public place to post ANY comments that pertain and have a meaning towards the article. I don't appreciate you deleting my first post, then when I posted my second post , you deleted that and reposted my first but completely modified. Please DO NOT MESS WITH MY FREE SPEACH RIGHT!!! And please don't modify my posts to suit your needs.

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

Actually, we hate censoring comments. In fact, we hate censoring comments so much, we want to let the community do the moderation in the future (ie., by allowing readers to vote comments up/down).

But for the record, Wise Bread is more like a party in a private living room, not a public space. Not to put too fine a point on it -- there is no right to free speech here.

There are common sense civility rules we ask guests to follow, and we will moderate comments that are off-topic or inappropriate without hesitation.

From the Wise Bread Commenting Policy:

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This rules aren't meant to stifle anyone's opinion.  We just want to make Wise Bread a  pleasant place to visit for everyone.  Thanks everyone!

Guest's picture
Sandor

I thought the "Heath Shake" was ironic in that it's only one letter away from being a Health Shake. But anyway, coming from someone who has bought things BECAUSE they had more calories per dollar in it, I have to say, what's wrong with bigger portions? Can't you lardos out there restrain yourselves enough to eat half now and half later if you buy a sandwich with 2000 calories in it and that's more than your body can stand without building up your fat reserves? For crying out loud, the only type of calories you should avoid is sugar (especially corn sugar) and hydrogenated oils because half of it is trans fat while fat that is saturated by biological processes is 100% cis fat. Those are the really UNhealthy fats, with regular 100$ cis saturated fat being arguable because of that whole heart disease thing. So avoid trans fat, to a lesser extent, keep saturated fats to less than 30% your total fat intake, preferably 10%, and keep away from high fructose corn syrup, and then it doesn't matter about the particulars of what you eat, just how much you eat and how often you eat it. You can just as well eat too many calories by stuffing yourself with taco bell bean burritos or subway sandwiches as you can by consuming a day worth of food in one sitting. It's just a matter of lack of self control if you feel compelled to eat everything you bought right now and it'll just cost you more money to buy enough subway sandwiches to overfeed yourself (while the bean burritos are pretty cheap). My point is, you are eating for the PURPOSE of absorbing calories. If you want to pay twice as much for half as many calories and get half the energy out of it because you're too fat, well then, you're better off instead just eating the bigger sandwich half as often, and your wallet will thank you for it. Maybe I don't think normally because I am poor and yet my body burns off 10 thousand calories a day though. But it seems to me that if any job worth doing is worth doing well, so if you're going to pay X dollars for Y calories worth of food, making X smaller or Y bigger is an improvement.

Guest's picture
Guest

Saturated fats are HEALTHY fats and have NEVER been proven to cause heart disease except in flawed, biased studies like Ancel Keys' study. They should be eaten liberally.
PUFA and trans fats are the unhealthy ones. All vegetable oils except coconut, olive and palm oils are unhealthy.
Anything made from grains, refined OR whole, are bad for humans and should be avoided.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

I'm surprised KFC didn't make the top 10. I've read that they are the least regulated from location to location (both within your city and around the world), and that their saturated fat content is through the roof in comparison to other fast food joints.

I think I gained 10 pounds and clogged my arteries just reading this list! Mental note: avoid above mentioned restaurants. Cheers!

Guest's picture
Guest

Saturated fat is NOT bad for you! It's the carbs and transfats.

Guest's picture
Para

Hmm, methinks some people are using the term "worst" a little fast and loose here.

That Carl's Jr. burger sure looks good to me!

Guest's picture
Guest

"But for the record, Wise Bread is more like a party in a private living room, not a public space. Not to put too fine a point on it -- there is no right to free speech here."

Excuse me. But anything on the Web is PUBLIC, with a capital P. WiseBread is on the Web. Posted for the world to see/read, if it so chooses.

WiseBread does not allow free speech? Really.

sad comment. I guess you're too commercial to allow for unedited stuff, which apparently didn't even violate your rules as stated.

pathetic.

Guest's picture
Charlie

'Guest" posted the following (with no source information I might add).

1. "Fat is a better fuel source and does not increase insulin production, something necessary to store body fat."

This is false. Fatty acids stimulate the release of insulin as do amino acids and glucose.

2. "Fat does NOT store in fat cells easier, since carbs trigger the release of insulin which makes you store the carbs as fat."

Fat IS stored more efficiently than carbs. It requires more energy to store carbs than it does to store fat.

From HowStuffWorks article on "Fat Storage"
Source: http://health.howstuffworks.com/fat-cell2.htm

"When you eat a candy bar or a meal, the presence of glucose, amino acids or fatty acids in the intestine stimulates the pancreas to secrete a hormone called insulin."

"The conversion of carbohydrates or protein into fat is 10 times less efficient than simply storing fat in a fat cell, but the body can do it. If you have 100 extra calories in fat (about 11 grams) floating in your bloodstream, fat cells can store it using only 2.5 calories of energy. On the other hand, if you have 100 extra calories in glucose (about 25 grams) floating in your bloodstream, it takes 23 calories of energy to convert the glucose into fat and then store it. Given a choice, a fat cell will grab the fat and store it rather than the carbohydrates because fat is so much easier to store."

By the way saturated fats are bad for you. Proponents of the so-called "caveman diet" make some of the most illogical claims that reflect the "man has been eating saturated fats for millenia and now they have been tagged as being bad for you???" Take a look at the life expectancy of ancient man (30-something years). Perhaps diet (saturated fat consumption or otherwise (i.e., food-borne pathogens) was part of the reason they died so young, but maybe not. Proponents of the caveman diet retort, no, they died for other reasons. OK, fine then...perhaps their short lifespan (due to those other factors) precluded the manifestation of cardiovascular disease--ever notice that not a lot of people younger than 40 have heart attacks? Although people in their 40s and 50s certainly have heart attacks (as do younger people) the mean age for a first heart attack is mid-60s for men and 70 for women!

Finally, advocates of the caveman diet make the "natural as good" fallacy. They rely on the notion that saturated fats are good because they are natural (and ergo transfats are bad because they are artificial). This fallacy ignores the fact that nature really wants to kill you. There are naturally occurring poisons/toxins throughout our environments. To simply say that "natural is good" is fallacious logic. Some nature is good, some is not. Simply "being natural" is not a sufficient condition for "being good."

Guest's picture
Guest

Everything you posted in your anti fat rant is false or outdated info.
Fat does NOT stimulate insulin. Your source is faulty and incorrect.
Saturated fat and cholesterol are VERY good for you as grains are NOT. If you eat no grains, sugar or refined carbs, your body uses fat as a fuel source. It also uses saturated fat and cholesterol to repair cells and as basis for ALL hormone production.
Maybe you should do some ACTUAL research before you spout the faerie tales the government has brainwashed people with.
Primitive man did NOT die because of diet and they only died young from trauma or infections. MANY lived to old age. In fact, they lived as long as they did, despite no antibiotics or medical care BECAUSE of what they ate. They had NO heart disease or diabetes.

Guest's picture
Guest

They had no heart disease or diabetes BECAUSE they ate a healthy high fat diet with no grains or sugars. Heart disease is NOT normal nor is diabetes and should never be considered 'normal' for any age. The only reason it is, considered unavoidable is that the SAD is so poor in nutrients and healthy fats and high in unhealthy grains. A low fat / high carb diet is equivalent to building a skyscraper out of styrofoam and wondering why it falls down over and over.

Guest's picture
Charlie

My source is incorrect yet you give no source. Sorry, you are out of gas. Then you spew your anti-government rhetoric. The conspiracy theorists at work among us. I wish we had a bury button. Come out of your basement and remove your saturated fat lined tin foil hat.

Guest's picture
Guest

I DID give a source. A source with references to MANY medical journals supporting it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I think it's perhaps unfair to judge Ruby Tuesdays by their most caloric and fat items. They have a wonderful salad bar that includes MANY fresh veggies, and that's what I eat there. I love it because of the salad bar. So keep that in mind when you make these judgments, okay?

Guest's picture
Guest

Just looking at some of these "meals" makes me want to hurl.

Guest's picture
Charlie

Primitive man died long before heart disease would have killed him, but you glossed over that.

Guest's picture
Charlie

Horton et al. in the American Journal of Nutrition

"Results of this study demonstrate that diet composition can
have important effects on energy expenditure and body energy
storage when subjects are in positive energy balance. Greater
than 75% of the excess energy consumed by our subjects was
stored in the body, not expended, regardless of the composition
of the excess. Other recent overfeeding studies have reached
the same conclusion (9-11). However, our results demonstrate
that excess carbohydrate affects energy and nutrient balances
differently than does excess fat. We found that for equivalent
amounts of excess energy, fat leads to more body fat accumu-
lation than does carbohydrate."

From yet another source. By the way I saw no sources posted by "Guest"

Guest's picture
orangetiki

My jaw hit the floor when I found out when a milkshake could have all the calories for the entire day. That and the burrito that has two days worth of salt in it? Mind you I wear a 46 inch waist pants and it STILL floors me.

Guest's picture
Justin

Good list. Definitely surprised on a few of them though. Some of them really claim to be very healthy.

Guest's picture
Charlie

I guess "bugers" will remain in this article until the Internets are no more.

Guest's picture
Guest

bugers

Guest's picture
ella

I would much rather read a list of the resturants serving the best and most healthy foods. A real 'go to' list would be helpful.