Our nutritionists pick 10 of the worst foods from American restaurants and grocery aisles
Nutritionists here at the Center for Science in the Public Interest decided to identify 10 foods that represent the worst America’s food manufacturers and restaurants have to offer.
Are there 10 that are probably worse than these? Sure. (In fact you could probably find 10 things at The Cheesecake Factory that are worse than all of these.) But these are the types of foods—high in some combination of calories, saturated fat, sodium, white flour, and added sugar—that are contributing to America’s obesity, diabetes, and heart disease problems.
1. Pot Belly Pie
Judging by the label, Stouffer’s Satisfying Servings (16 oz.) White Meat Chicken Pot Pie has “only” 570 calories, 12 grams of saturated fat, and 810 mg of sodium. But those numbers are for only half a pie. Eat the entire pie, as many people do, and you’re talking 1,100 calories, 23 grams of saturated fat (more than a day’s worth), and 1,560 mg of sodium (a day’s worth).
2. Five Fleshy Guys
Think Five Guys is better than fast food burger joints? The Hamburger (with no toppings) has 700 calories and a day’s worth of saturated fat (20 grams) and makes a McDonald’s Big Mac (540 calories) look wimpy. The Bacon Cheeseburger (with no optional toppings) hits 920 calories and 1½ days’ worth of saturated fat (30 grams). Add 950 calories for the regular fries. A large McDonald’s Fries has “only” 510 calories.
3. Liquid Salt
An average cup of Campbell’s regular Condensed Soup has 800 mg of sodium. But many people eat the whole can of soup, which contains around 2,000 mg of sodium—more than most adults should consume in an entire day! Look for Campbell’s Healthy Request soups with 410 mg of sodium per cup (still too much if you eat the whole can). Better yet, choose lower sodium soups by Amy’s, Dr. McDougall’s, Imagine, Pacific, and Trader Joe’s.
4. Tortilla Terror
Interested in a Chipotle Chicken Burrito (tortilla, rice, pinto beans, cheese, chicken, sour cream, and salsa)? Think of its 1,050 calories, 17 grams of saturated fat, and 2,400 mg of sodium as six Taco Bell Chicken Soft Tacos! Lose the flour tortilla and cheese and order a salad instead to drop the calories to around 600.
5. Warm Crapple
Who gets a dessert other than cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory? Maybe someone who’s trying to avoid overdoing it. But between the Warm Apple Crisp’s “crispy nutty topping,” two scoops of ice cream, small mountain of whipped cream, caramel sauce, and apples, you’re looking at 1,680 calories—more than any cheesecake on the menu. And don’t forget the bonus 43 grams (2 days’ worth) of saturated fat and 38 teaspoons of sugar (much of it added).
6. Pizza Padding
Uno Pizzeria & Grill is known for its signature Deep Dish Pizzas. The Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza piles crumbled sausage, mozzarella, and romano cheese on a thick white-flour crust. The “individual” size packs 2,300 calories—more than a day’s worth—plus 53 grams of saturated fat (2½ days’ worth) and 4,910 mg of sodium (3 days’ worth). You might as well eat three Pizza Hut Pepperoni Lover’s Personal Pan Pizzas.
7. Triple Bypass
Can’t decide what to pick from a restaurant menu? No worries. You can order not just one entrée, but two… or three…all at once. Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy—lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and fettuccine alfredo—comes with 1,520 calories, 48 grams of saturated fat, and 3,250 mg of sodium. Add a breadstick (140 calories and 460 mg of sodium) and a serving of house salad with dressing (140 calories and 740 mg of sodium) and you’ll swallow 1,800 calories (nearly a day’s worth) and 4,450 mg of sodium (3 days’ worth) in a single meal!
8. Starbucks on Steroids
The Starbucks Venti (20 oz.) White Chocolate Mocha with 2% milk and whipped cream is more than a mere cup of coffee. It has as many calories as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Few people have room in their diets for the 580 calories, 14 grams of saturated fat, and an estimated 12 teaspoons of added sugar that this hefty beverage supplies. Can’t say no? Drop the calories to 270 and saturated fat to 3½ grams by ordering a Tall (12 oz.) made with nonfat milk and no whipped cream.
9. Extreme Ice Cream
A half-cup serving of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream squeezes roughly 300 calories with an estimated 4½ teaspoons of added sugar into your fat cells—and half a day’s saturated fat into your artery walls—if you can stop at a petite half-cup! What about Häagen-Dazs ice cream? It’s no better.
McDonald’s McCafé Chocolate Shake (soft serve ice cream, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream) starts at 540 calories for the small (12 oz.). Few people buy an ice cream shake expecting it to shrink their waist, but who would think that a “small” delivers the calories of a Big Mac? The large reaches 850 calories, 15 grams of saturated fat (3/4 of a day’s worth), and an estimated 22 teaspoons of added sugar, all blended into a handy 22 oz. cup.