Top 10 Terrible Side Dishes

Side dishes exist to make entreés look more appealing. Picture a skinless baked chicken breast sitting alone on a plate. Boring, right? Now bring in its favorite wingman—a big scoop of barbecue baked beans, cornbread stuffing, or roasted red potatoes. Suddenly, that chicken dinner becomes a perfect meal.

But here’s the problem: Often, your wingman completely overdoes it. In nutritional terms, that’s precisely what’s happening at many of America’s favorite chain restaurants. As sides swell to more than 1,400 calories—yup, you read that right—they’ve begun to calorically upstage the entreés they're supposed to be supporting. That 350-calorie roast beef sandwich is a nutritional charmer until you tack on the 600-calorie side of fries—and that's before drinks and dessert join the party.

Your goal: Choose a side that complements your meal, not one that adds another meal's worth of calories to your waistline. To this end, here are the top 10 side dishes to avoid, from the pages of the new Eat This, Not That! No-Diet Diet!

Boston Market Sweet Potato Casserole
460 calories
16 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
270 mg sodium

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, and they’re loaded with fiber, carotenoids, and potassium. That said, restaurants rarely serve them without adding gluttonous loads of fat and sugar. This casserole is a perfect example—you could eat four sweet potatoes before matching the calories in just one serving. That's a pretty hefty portion of spuds for a side dish.

Eat This Instead!
Garlic Dill New Potatoes
140 calories
3 g fat (1 g saturated)
120 mg sodium

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Ruby Tuesday’s Loaded Baked Potato
591 calories
29 g fat 
545 mg sodium

This potato delivers nearly half the fat you should eat in an entire day, and much of that comes from the load of animal fats perched on top. Ruby Tuesday refuses to release a breakdown of its fat content, but we have to assume that a substantial portion of these 29 grams is saturated.

Eat This Instead!
Fresh Grilled Green Beans
45 calories
2 g fat
385 mg sodium

TERRIBLE SALADS: Even foods that sound perfectly healthy can be secretly laced with dangerous amounts of fat and sodium. To prove it, we've collected the absolutely shocking list of 20 Salads Worse Than a Whopper. Prepare to be blown away!

IHOP Onion Rings
620 calories
34 g fat (6 g saturated; 0.5 g trans)
550 mg sodium

No, this does not count as a vegetable. Think of the onion as a mere seasoning for the crispy ring of oil-saturated breading wrapped around it. Eat one order of these rings a week, and you’ll add more than nine extra pounds of body fat a year! (Instead, pick up your copy of Eat This, Not That! 2011 and Cook This, Not That! Easy 350-Calorie Meals and watch the pounds melt away fast!)

Eat This Instead!
Seasoned Fries
300 calories
12 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
490 mg sodium

Arby’s Mozzarella Sticks (Large)
660 calories
34 g fat (13 g saturated; 1 g trans)
1,780 mg sodium

These mozzarella sticks have 230 more calories than an Arby’s Bacon Cheddar Roastburger, not to mention more than half your day’s saturated fat and 80 percent of your sodium. Unfortunately, Arby’s doesn’t sell a single non-fried side, so you’ll have to either order a couple small sandwiches or downsize to a small order of Potato Cakes.

Eat This Instead!
Potato Cakes (small)
260 calories
15 g fat (2 g saturated)
400 mg sodium

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TGI Friday’s Loaded Mashed Potatoes
960 calories

Friday’s refuses to release its full nutritional content, and by looking at these potatoes, we can guess why. This thing is supposed to be a side dish, yet it contains more calories than an entire stick of butter. Unless Friday's decides to prove otherwise, you’d be smart to assume that the sodium and saturated fat counts are equally atrocious.   

Eat This Instead!
Cole Slaw
100 calories

Dairy Queen Chili Cheese Fries
1,020 calories
71 g fat (28 g saturated; 0.5 g trans)
2,360 mg sodium

These numbers on this side dish are unacceptable even by dinner standards. A 170-pound person would have to jog for nearly 2 hours to burn off all 1,020 calories.

Eat This Instead!
Side Salad w/ Fat-Free Italian
40 calories
0 g fat
380 mg sodium 

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A&W Cheese Curds (Large)
1,140 calories
80 g fat (42 g saturated; 2.5 g trans)
2,440 mg sodium

This odious Midwestern creation takes the cheese-stick formula and makes it even more fattening. By trading sticks for curds, there's even more surface area on which to spackle oily breading. And therein lies the true nature of the beloved cheese curd—just one order is the saturated fat equivalent of seven McDonald’s cheeseburgers!

Eat This Instead!
Chili (bowl)
190 calories
6 g fat (2 g saturated)
640 mg sodium

Cheesecake Factory Macaroni & Cheese (side serving)
1,230 calories
46 g saturated fat
1,439 mg sodium

No matter what food category we explore, Cheesecake Factory consistently finds itself in the running for worst in America. The chain's Mac and Cheese is far and away the worst pasta side dish in the country. To put it into perspective, this dish packs nearly as many calories as two full boxes of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese. Order it alongside a sandwich and you can be looking at upward of 3,000 calories—for lunch!

Eat This Instead!
Asparagus (side serving)
45 calories
0 g saturated fat
0 mg sodium

Baja Fresh Chips and Guacamole
1,340 calories
83 g fat (8 g saturated; 2.5 g trans)
950 mg sodium

Guacamole is loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and phytonutrients, so it should be part of your diet. That said, it's a calorie-dense food in America's restaurants, and eating it by the bucket alongside a mountain of oil-soaked chips is a quick way to pack on flab. A smarter move would be to order a 110-calorie side of guacamole with your meal, and then choose beans for your side.

Eat This Instead!
Pinto Beans
320 calories
1 g fat
840 mg sodium

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Five Guys Fries (Large)
1,474 calories
71 g fat (14 g saturated)
213 mg sodium

If you ate one large order of these things every week for a year, you would take in more than 8 pounds of pure fat, all of it straight out of Five Guys’ deep fryer. What makes these fries so monumentally unhealthy? The portion—one order clocks in at a staggering 1.25 pounds. (And that doesn't include the extra fries they throw in the bag!) Your best bet is to downsize to a "regular" size and split them with a friend, or order the large and split it with five guys. 

Eat This Instead!
Fries (1/2 of a Regular order)
310 calories
15 g fat (3 g saturated)
45 mg sodium

20 NEW TERRIBLE FOODS! Avoid these diet disasters at all costs: The Worst Foods in America!


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