6 Fish That Make You Fat

Imagine a tall glass of pure spring water. Could anything in the world taste better? You decide to find out: You add some high-fructose corn syrup to make it sweeter. Then some carbon dioxide to make it fizzy. You top it off with phosphoric acid for a little tang. Ready to try it?

Before you say no, consider this: Those are the key ingredients in America's most popular soft drinks.

Chain restaurants are performing similar chemistry experiments with seafood. Fish is one of nature's purest, leanest sources of nutrients—protein supplies 70 percent or more of the total calories. And the simplest preparations usually taste the best. But the chemists, er, chefs at America's most popular restaurants can't resist drowning your salmon and tilapia in unnecessary coats of oil, breading, sauces, and cheese. In doing so, the healthy protein, omega-3 fats, minerals, and vitamins are lost beneath a sea of fat and calories—and we're stuck with newly widened waistlines, wondering where we went wrong.

With that in mind, I give you the six worst fish dishes on the scene, compliments of the forthcoming Eat This, Not That! 2013: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution. Skip them and opt for the healthier option instead.

WORST ASIAN SEAFOOD DISH

PF Chang’s Shrimp with Candied Walnuts
1,380 calories
104 g fat (16 g saturated)
1,830 mg sodium

Say hello to the worst meal on Chang’s menu. These brutalized crustaceans are battered, fried, coated in cream sauce, and studded with sugar-encrusted walnuts. That's about 70 percent of the calories the average person should consume in an entire day. A good rule when it comes to Asian cuisine? Go spicy, not sweet. The heat from the Sichuan Shrimp will boost your metabolism and keep you reaching for your water glass, helping to fill you up. Unfortunately, the chain’s high sodium counts will also keep you thirsty, so be sure to cut down on the salty stuff for the rest of the day. And definitely avoid The 8 NEW Saltiest Dishes in America!

Eat This Instead!
PF Chang’s Sichuan Shrimp
360 calories
16 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
1,200 mg sodium

WORST SEAFOOD APPETIZER

Red Lobster Crispy Calamari and Vegetables
1,520 calories
97 g fat (11 g saturated)
3,050 mg sodium

Red Lobster’s menu boasts plenty of belly-flattening fare, but that doesn’t mean it’s without the occasional nutritional landmine. This appetizer is a prime example: It starts strong with lean, protein-rich squid and veggies, but then fumbles with a heavy load of carbs and fryer grease. Skip the unnecessary treatment and keep your seafood simple. Shrimp cocktail is nearly always the lightest option on any starter menu. Make this sort of swap twice a week, and you’ll take off 21 pounds in six months.

Eat This Instead!
Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
120 calories
0.5 g fat (0 g saturated)
580 mg sodium

FLAB? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT! Eight of them, actually. Stop frontloading your meals with The 8 Worst Appetizers in America and watch the pounds fall away

WORST CAJUN SEAFOOD

Cheesecake Factory Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo
1,570 calories
37 g saturated fat
2,249 mg sodium

The Cheesecake Factory cuts this gumbo with an unnecessary dose of cream and tops it with a heaping mound of white rice. Because the chain refuses to provide full nutritional information for its dishes, we can only speculate about the total fat count, but we can tell you with certainty that this one bowl contains nearly twice the amount of saturated fat the government recommends you eat in a full day. Stick with the near-identical Shrimp Creole and you save more than 1,000 calories.

Eat This Instead!
Cheesecake Factory Shrimp Creole
550 calories
1 g saturated fat
1,425 mg sodium

RESTAURANT REDEMPTION: The Cheesecake Factory may offer some seriously regrettable fare, but it—as well as other chains—are slowly taking steps to right their nutritional wrongs. Check out The 10 Best New Restaurant Meals and start ordering guilt-free.

WORST CLASSIC SEAFOOD DINNER

Applebee’s New England Fish and Chips
1,930 calories
138 g fat (24 g saturated, 1.5 g trans)
3,180 mg sodium

This English staple is never healthy, but Applebee’s rendition is far and away the worst. The fries and mayo-based coleslaw are part of the problem, yet they account for just over 25 percent of the total calories. The real issue is the battered fish and tartar sauce, which supply 1,000 calories of pure fat. Applebee’s does, however, offer a decent range of lower-calorie options, and among them is the Blackened Tilapia. These dishes don't evade Applebee's classically high sodium counts though, so exercise caution when ordering.

Eat This Instead!
Applebee’s Blackened Tilapia
410 calories
15 g fat (4 g saturated)
1,880 mg sodium

BAD COMPANY: Believe it or not, some side dishes contain more calories than the entrées they accompany. Don’t allow The 10 Worst Side Dishes in America to derail your dinner order.

WORST FISH TACOS

On the Border Dos XX Fish Tacos with Creamy Red Chile Sauce (with rice and refried beans)
2,170 calories
130 g fat (32 g saturated)
4,200 mg sodium

You could consume three entire Achiote Chicken Taco meals for fewer calories than in one order of these. The problem lies in the triple-fat trifecta: fried fish, cheese, and creamy chile sauce. If it’s seafood you seek, your sole decent option at On the Border is the salmon—the second best pick (after the Chicken Salsa Fresca) on the entire menu. Plus, upgrading from the unidentified whitefish filling these tacos to bona fide salmon imbues your dish with a heavy dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

Eat This Instead!
On the Border Jalapeno-BBQ Salmon (with black beans and grilled vegetables)
590 calories
21 g fat (6 g saturated)
1,220 mg sodium

WORST SEAFOOD PLATTER

Perkins Captain’s Catch
2,400 calories
144 g fat (30 g saturated)
5,030 mg sodium

Not only is this platter the worst seafood dish in America, but it’s a contender for the worst dish, period. This sea of beige is a cardiologist’s nightmare, combining fried cod, shrimp, and clam strips, fries, onion rings, and a side salad. (We’re surprised Perkins didn’t find a way to send the lettuce through the fryer as well!) Compounding the problem is a sodium count that eclipses 5.5 cans of Pringles! Though none of Perkins' seafood dishes are ideal, your best option is the Tilapia Grille. Just be sure to hold the tartar sauce—it’ll tack on nearly 200 extra calories.

Eat This Instead!
Perkins Tilapia Grille (without tartar sauce)
700 calories
25 g fat (8 g saturated)
1,150 mg sodium

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