The Fattiest Foods in America!

Eating fat won't make you fat any more than eating money will make you rich.

Sure, if you stuff enough cold, hard cash down your gullet, your belly will probably stick out like an overfed oil exec. Same with fat. Fat keeps us full, and healthy fats like those found in seafood and many plants help protect against heart disease. But most of us are eating way, way too much of the wrong kinds—and getting fatter in return.

Yeah, I know it's hard to keep it all straight: good fats, bad fats, indifferent fats, fats that just got out of rehab . . . nutrition is confusing. One day we're told to eat margarine, the next we're told to eat butter. Well, let's simplify it: Here are the only three rules of fat you need to know:

1. If it's a trans fat (look for "partially hydrogenated oil" on the label), then don't eat it. Period. This manmade substance has been linked to a variety of health issues, in particular heart disease.

2. If it comes from the ocean or from open fields (fish, game, free-range animals, or plants), it's good for you. From tuna to avocado to nuts to venison, this is unsaturated fat—the heart-healthy stuff.

3. Everything else—dairy fat and most of the meat we encounter—is just about a wash. In other words, in limited amounts these fats (saturated fats) won't hurt you, but there are healthier things to eat. Don't overdo it. (Opt for low-fat and lean varieties when possible.)

The problem comes when food manufacturers start adding copious quantities of corpulence to foods that ought to be relatively good for us. Fat has 9 calories per gram—versus just 4 per gram for protein and carbohydrates. That means fat grams do more than double the dietary damage.

Here, I'm calling out some of the biggest fat offenders in the restaurant industry, compliments of the forthcoming new Eat This, Not That! 2012. Every meal on this page contains more than 100 grams of fat. That's a minimum of 900 calories of fat in one meal. To be clear, there's nothing remotely healthy here. Stay extra vigilant with these fatty offenders and you'll keep yourself on the smart path to a slim belly.

FAT OFFENDER #6: A BURGER
Ruby Tuesday Triple Prime Bacon Cheddar Burger
1,333 calories
101 g fat
1,892 mg sodium

New rule: The more syllables in a menu item's name, the more fat there's likely to be in the dish. Less than 3 percent of the beef produced in this country earns the USDA's "prime" rating, and that's not a bad thing. Prime beef, as it turns out, is the fattiest beef you can sink your teeth into. (Follow me on Twitter for more of the fat-melting secrets I come across every day as the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health and Women's Health magazines—and lose your belly fat without ever dieting again.)

If you really want a burger, you're better off heading elsewhere. Not one of Ruby's has fewer than 700 calories. Go with the Plain Grilled Top Sirloin and earn all the beefy protein without the superfluous calories.

Eat This Instead!
Plain Grilled Top Sirloin
290 calories
12 g fat
420 mg sodium

SNACK SMARTER: A growling stomach precipitates one of two events: 1) You eat a small snack now; or 2) You devour a massive, flab-making meal later. Go with option one and you’ll keep your metabolism primed and your overall calorie intake lower. Stock your desk, purse, or glove box with the 50 Best Snack Foods in America.

FAT OFFENDER #5: A STEAK
Chili’s Flame-Grilled Ribeye with broccoli and mashed potatoes
1,460 calories
106 g fat (44 g saturated)
3,700 mg sodium

For a healthy diet, the USDA recommends you cap your daily saturated fat intake at 20 grams. This meal more than doubles that, and it's only 12 ounces of meat. Sure, ribeye is a notoriously fatty cut, but it's primarily the bath of butter that pushes this steak's fat count to such unhealthy heights. Switch to the Guiltless Grill Classic Sirloin and save an astounding 1,090 calories.

Eat This Instead!
Guiltless Grill Classic Sirloin with steamed veggies
370 calories
9 g fat (4 g saturated)
3,680 mg sodium

GROSS GRUB: Did you know the FDA allows maggots in your food? Sick! And that’s just one of the disturbing things we uncovered in this story: The 20 Scariest Food Facts.

FAT OFFENDER #4: MEXICAN FOOD
Chili’s Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadilla
1,650 calories
107 g fat (39 g saturated)
3,450 mg sodium

Traditional Mexican food is big on seasoning and light on cheese, but with this quesadilla, Chili's takes a different approach. Trying to appease palates primed for indulgence, the restaurant layers on the fat in four ways: cheese, ranch, bacon, and sour cream. Go with the Margarita Grilled Chicken and you'll cut the overall fat content by more than 80 percent.

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

FAT OFFENDER #3: A 'HEALTHY' SALAD
IHOP Chicken and Spinach Salad
1,600 calories
118 g fat (32 g saturated)
2,340 mg sodium

Chicken? Good. Spinach? Good. IHOP’s Chicken and Spinach Salad—downright deplorable. You'll need to i-hop for four hours to burn it off. This salad is exactly what makes restaurant food so questionable and potentially unhealthy. The name makes it sound like a paragon of nutritious eating, yet the numbers reveal it to be just the opposite. The chicken here is actually fried chicken, and the spinach is little more than a small bed for bacon and cheddar cheese. You could snarf down six pancake short stacks and still take in less fat. Save yourself the waistline damage and opt for the Simple & Fit Simply Chicken Sandwich instead.

Eat This Instead!
Simply Chicken Sandwich with fresh fruit, side salad, and reduced-fat Italian dressing
565 calories
12.5 g fat (3.5 g saturated)
1,085 mg sodium

12 AWESOME SALADS: Curb your cravings—and load up on heart-healthy fat—by whipping up any of these 12 Hunger-Fighting Power Salads.

FAT OFFENDER #2: 'HEALTHY' FISH
Applebee’s New England Fish & Chips
1,930 calories
138 g fat (24 g saturated)
3,180 mg sodium

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week. By doing so, you lower your risk of such chronic diseases as heart disease and cancer. But if you prepare fish by deep frying it in a tub of bubbling fat—like Applebee's does with this artery-clogging monstrosity—you reverse all those benefits. Opt for Applebee's Garlic Herb Salmon instead. It offers 109 fewer grams of fat, nearly two-thirds fewer calories, and a heap of flavor that will still leave you satiated.

Eat This Instead!
Applebee’s Garlic Herb Salmon
690 calories
29 g fat (8 g saturated)
1,460 mg sodium

BEVERAGE BLUNDERS: The average American drinks 450 sugar-loaded calories a day. Cut your intake in half and you'll save 23 pounds per year! Start here: Avoid everything on our list of The 20 Worst Drinks in America. 

FAT OFFENDER #1: PASTA
Cheesecake Factory Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken
2,300 calories
103 g saturated fat
1,517 mg sodium

Cheesecake Factory prefers to keep its nutritional stats hidden, but a law in California forced it to reveal saturated fat. Total fat is still a mystery, but this meal breaks through the 100-gram ceiling on saturated fat alone! The culprits here are the oversized portion and the thick, fat-riddled alfredo sauce. The typical restaurant recipe for this sauce relies on some combination of cream, butter, oil, and cheese, and there's no reason to believe that Cheesecake's version strays from the norm. Unfortunately, the chain offers no single pasta dish with fewer than 1,100 calories, so keep yourself safe by sticking to the new Skinnylicious menu.

Eat This Instead!
Skinnylicious Herb-Crusted Salmon
570 calories
9 g saturated fat
687 mg sodium

FLATTEN YOUR BELLY FASTER: When it comes to weight loss, what you eat is only half the equation. How you eat is equally important. Check out the Top 20 Habits That Make You Fat and watch your belly disappear! 

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