8 Scariest Restaurant Meals

Ever go to a scary movie and find yourself yelling at a perky starlet, “Don’t open the door! Don’t open the door!” Ever notice how she always opens the door anyway? Why doesn’t she see the danger lurking on the other side? Well, next time you go to a chain restaurant, you might want to ask yourself the same question. Because American restaurant-goers are sort of like those horror-movie heroines: We have a terrible instinct for sensing danger.

Research has shown that the cute trick-or-treaters on the menu are really dietary ax murderers in disguise. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that unhealthy restaurant foods contain an average of 642 calories more than people estimate. If you're like the average American who eats out five times a week, that's 47 pounds a year you didn't know you were consuming—and will have to work off, or learn to live with.

Now look at what our ignorance has wrought: The Freddie, Jason, and Michael Meyers of American health are heart disease, cancer, and stroke—all three of which are strongly rooted in lifestyle. It's time for us to put an end to the horror show. This exclusive list (compliments of the brand-new Eat This, Not That 2012: The No-Diet Weight-Loss Solution) presents the 8 most cunning villains in a world filled with shadowy characters. So be wise. The next time one of these nutrition nightmares comes knocking on your door, run away and don't look back.

North Atlantic Cod Filet Meal (3 pieces)
2,156 calories
140 g fat (21 g saturated, 2 g trans)
2,378 mg sodium

Frying anything is a bad idea, but frying fish is a debasement of one of nature's purest foods. Why ruin what could be a protein-packed, muscle-building meal by sticking it in a vat of bubbling oil? But Culver's doesn't stop with its battered and oiled cod filets; it ups the risk to your waistline and overall well-being by adding heaping helpings of the default sides of cole slaw, fries, tartar sauce, and a dinner roll. We challenge more restaurants to do what's right with fish: Buy it fresh, cook it with minimal flourishes, and let diners enjoy the simple beauty of a lean, well-cooked meal. Until Culver's takes up the challenge, order the roasted chicken sandwich and tomato soup instead—or go to a different restaurant.

Eat This Instead!
Flame Roasted Chicken Sandwich with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
449 calories
10 g fat (2 g saturated)
1,374 mg sodium  

BOO TUBE: Researchers in Australia recently discovered that every hour in front of the television trims 22 minutes from your life. For instant health, nutrition, and fitness secrets that help you eat great and still lose weight, follow me right here on Twitter.

Chili's Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Burger with Ranch

2,210 calories
144 g fat (46 g saturated)
6,600 mg sodium

The average burger-and-fry combo at Chili's packs 1,786 calories—about 85 percent of your daily allotment if you're an active female and more than two-thirds an active male's allowance. That's a heavy price to pay for a staple the average American consumes up to 150 times a year. Of course, this tricked-out number takes the havoc to a new high. Laced with more bells and whistles than a Michael Bay blockbuster (tortilla strips, bacon, Cheddar, mayo, and jalapeno-ranch dressing), this burger punishes partakers with more than 2 days' worth of saturated fat and as much sodium as you'd find in 6 pounds of McDonald's french fries.

Eat This Instead!
Margarita Grilled Chicken
550 calories
14 g fat (4 g saturated)
1,870 mg sodium

AVOID THESE FAT TRAPS: Research has shown that skinny people maintain lean bellies by developing healthy routines and avoiding bad habits. Harness the flab-fighting power of science to get thin by recognizing The 20 Habits That Make You Fat!

Uno Chicago Grill Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (individual)
2,310 calories
165 g fat (54 g saturated)
4,650 mg sodium   

Chicagoans beam with pride when claiming rights to the deep dish pizza, as if the invention of one of the world's most dangerous foods is a source of civic satisfaction. The problem starts, of course, with the crust, which is bathed in oil, rich in refined carbohydrates, and about three times thicker than a normal pizza so it can support the onslaught of toppings it invariably houses. Tack on oozing layers of mozzarella, Romano, and sausage (the "classic" topping of choice), and you have an individual pizza with more calories than you'd cosume if you took down an entire extra-large Domino's Thin Crust chorizo pie. If it's pizza you seek at Uno's, turn to the admirable new thin five-grain crust to avoid total catastrophe.

Eat This Instead!
Thin Five-Grain Crust Roasted Eggplant, Spinach & Feta Pizza (1/2 pie)
435 calories
17 g fat (5 g saturated)
600 mg sodium  

STEALTH HEALTH FOODS: Power up your diet by expanding your menu. Here are The 7 Healthiest Foods You're Not Eating.

Applebee's Appetizer Sampler
2,430 calories
166 g fat (48 g saturated)
6,070 mg sodium   

Sample platters are the lairs wherein all menu miscreants hang out and nearly every chain offers a criminal version. Applebee's is the undisputed kingpin. Its repository of cheap, fried, monochromatic foods is a lesson in the perils of restaurant eating. It begins with chips and spinach-artichoke dip, a euphemism for a crock of cream and cheese with a few token shards of vegetable matter. From there, it gets worse: fried chicken wings, fried mozzarella sticks, and greasy cheese quesadillas. You could eat the celery on the plate to make yourself feel better, but by that point, the damage is done.

Eat This Instead!
Chicken Wonton Tacos
590 calories
24 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
2,150 mg sodium

IHOP Big Country Breakfast with Country Fried Steak and Country Gravy

2,440 calories
145 g fat (56 g saturated)
5,520 mg sodium

 This smorgasbord is an unabashed siren call to gluttons everywhere. It's a 12-ounce steak breaded, fried, and dripping with gravy; three eggs; hash browns; and three pancakes crowned with an ice cream scoop of butter and a sugary tide of syrup. Heck, this meal wears its pride in its name. You could feed a small nation with the Big Country, though doing so would be grounds for UN intervention.

Eat This Instead!
Simple & Fit Spinach, Mushroom & Tomato Omelette
330 calories
12 g fat (5 g saturated)
690 mg sodium 

TGI Friday's Caribbean Rockin' Reggae Ribs
2,450 calories
52 g saturated fat
3,810 mg sodium   

Of all the foods on this list—burgers, fries, pasta, ice cream—none is more consistently catastrophic than a rack of restaurant ribs. Part of that is due to the fact that ribs comprise a nutritionally flawed cut of meat, redolent as they are with both external and intramuscular fat. But restaurant cooking methods, which invariably involve layer after layer of oily, sugar-dense barbecue sauce, only compound the problem. Want ribs? You're not going to find a decent rack at Friday's. Order the sirloin instead.

Eat This Instead!
Petite Sirloin
460 calories

The Cheesecake Factory Chicken and Biscuits
2,580 calories
N/A g fat (68 g saturated)
2,621 mg sodium   

Weighted down with more 1,000-plus-calorie meals than any other chain in America (26 at last count), the Cheesecake Factory offers diners a Russian roulette of choices. Every time you pick up your fork, you risk absorbing days' worth of unhealthy nutrients. Take the Chicken and Biscuits, for example. It's a classic like Grandma used to make—that is, if your grandma used every form of fat in the pantry and doled it out by the bathtubful. Even worse, the Factory seems to patronize those seeking to go lighter by putting its lower-calorie choices on the Weight Management menu. Anyone order a side of condescension?

Eat This Instead!
Weight Management Spicy Chicken Salad
440 calories
N/A g fat (1 g saturated)
771 mg sodium

DIRTY BIRDS: There's plenty more polluted poultry where this dish came from—check out the Worst Chicken Dishes in America for the most calorically outrageous dishes coming from your favorite restaurant chains. And pick up a copy of Cook This, Not That! 350-Calorie Meals, which can help you save time and money and lose lots of weight fast by cooking up delicious, healthier versions of all your favorite restaurant foods!

The Cheesecake Factory Bistro Shrimp Pasta
2,730 calories
N/A g fat (78 g saturated fat)
919 mg sodium   

We recently named Cheesecake Factory America's Worst Restaurant for the fourth year running. No establishment better represents the confluence of factors that have saddled America with an ever-worsening obesity crisis. First, portion sizes are large enough to feed an NFL offensive line. Second, the use of cheap sources of flavor—oils, butter, cream, salt, and sugar—knows no limit. Finally, the percentage of dishes fit for consumption is absurdly small (we count 8 on a menu of more than 200 dishes). Amidst the carnage, one dish sinks below all the rest: the Bistro Shrimp Pasta. Tangled up in these noodles are more calories than you'd consume if you ate three sticks of butter for dinner.

Eat This Instead!
Fresh Grilled Salmon
490 calories
N/A g fat (6 g saturated fat)
290 mg sodium  

See the complete list of nutritional nightmares right here: our annual Eat This, Not That! 20 Worst Foods in America Report.


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