By Melissa Breyer for Care2.com
What the fudge is wrong with us? As obesity, diabetes and heart disease are plaguing the country in lethal proportions, restaurants are chirpily churning out caloric combinations of sodium and saturated fat that would make Henry VIII blush. Things are getting so raucous around here that a new study found that gout, yes gout, has increased by 44 percent in the last two decades, courtesy of the obesity epidemic and related health problems (diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol).
Restaurants create and tempt the masses with flashy dishes caloric enough to feed a small family, while the USDA, earnest as a shy sister, issues dietary guidelines which pretty much fall on deaf ears. Although recommended calorie intake varies by person, the range is from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for adult men, depending on age and physical activity level.
As for sodium intake, another daunting piece of the puzzle, the 2021 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day—or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
So with those nuggets in mind, how do these ten contenders for worst foods in America stack up against what is recommended for maintaining nutritional health? Let’s see….
The Aussie cheese fries come topped with melted Monterey Jack, Cheddar, chopped bacon and served with a spicy ranch dressing. This side dish (side dish!) serves up more than the average person’s recommended calories for an entire day, and nearly THREE TIMES the daily recommended sodium allowance–if you’re black, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, make that 4.25 times your daily recommended sodium allowance. How to turn “g’day, mate” into “goodbye, mate.”
- Calories: 2710
- Fat (g): 203
- Saturated Fat (g): 25
- Sodium (mg): 6360
The Cheesecake Factory: Farmhouse Cheeseburger
Maybe, just maybe, if you were working really strenuously on a farm all day, and you were an 18-year old boy, you could handle the nutritional bomb that is the Farmhouse Cheeseburger. This doozy comes topped with grilled smoked pork belly, cheddar cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a fried egg–hey man, kudos for the healthy lettuce and tomato. The burger alone brings in almost enough daily calories for most sedentary women, and way exceeds anyone’s sodium allowance. Factor in the calories and sodium from the fries which tag along just for fun, and you could be feeding the whole flippin’ farm.
- Calories: 1530
- Saturated Fat (g): 36
- Sodium (mg): 3210
- With fries
- Calories: 1990
- Sodium (mg): 4670
Behold the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake. Just please, please don’t follow your Farmhouse Cheeseburger from The Cheesecake Factory with a hunk of this flirty black widow. To do so would be to consume nearly two days’ worth of calories in one meal. Hello, gout! How does one piece of cake rack up such sin? Two layers of red velvet cake, alternated with two layers of cheesecake, plus cream cheese frosting…and white chocolate shavings…and a tower of whipped cream.
- Calories: 1540
- Saturated Fat (g): 59
KFC: Double Down Sandwich
It’s not the calorie count that lands this meaty monster on my list, it’s the sheer audacity. Screw anything grown in the ground, this baby is pure animal–two thick fried chicken filets, two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel’s Sauce. KFC’s Double Down Sandwich marketing exuberantly exclaims that it’s “so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!” Now that’s something to be proud of…
- Calories: 540
- Fat (g): 32
- Sodium (mg): 1380
Denny’s: Fried Cheese Melt
When cheese dipped in batter and deep-fried just isn’t enough–tuck it into more cheese (well, American “cheese”), white bread, and fry the whole shebang in butter! And serve it with fries! Turn an otherwise innocent cheese sandwich into a 1260-calorie catastrophe with more sodium than many people are allowed to have in two days.
- Calories: 1260
- Saturated Fat (g): 21
- Sodium (mg): 3010
Baskin Robbin’s: Large Oreo Chocolate Shake
As many grams of sugar as you would consume eating 56 Oreo cookies, more than most people’s daily caloric allowance, more sodium than you can bat an eye at, and don’t get me started on the saturated fat–all in a snack, not even a meal, that you can absent-mindedly sip through a straw while waiting for the light to change.
- Calories: 2600
- Fat (g): 135
- Saturated Fat (g): 59
- Sugar (g): 263
- Sodium (mg): 1700
California Pizza Kitchen: Waldorf Chicken Salad
You want to be mindful when eating at a pizza and pasta spot, so you order the Waldorf chicken salad–how bad can it be? Somehow, as with some kind of California black magic, field greens, grilled chicken breast, grapes, apples, candied walnuts, celery and Gorgonzola cheese are more detrimental to your health and waistline than most of the items on the menu. The restaurant’s Garlic Cream Fettucine with Chicken has almost 200 calories less, and believe it or not, the Cheeseburger Pizza and the Meat Cravers’ Pizza both have less calories! With salads like that, who needs pizza?
- Calories: 1570
- Sat Fat (g): 30
- Sodium (mg): 2082
Macaroni Grill: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Meat Sauce
Don’t they say to skip the cream sauce and your pasta dish won’t be that bad? Ladies and gentleman, introducing the dish that kicks that advice so far out of the stratosphere it’s orbiting some other sun right now. Just the mere thought of the unhealthful kapow this dish delivers gives me equal parts agita and angina. And look at that sodium!
On the Border: Dos XX Fish Tacos with Chipotle Sauce, Refried Beans and Rice
Fish tacos, healthier than the meat option? Think of it this way, you could eat 8 McDonald’s cheeseburgers for less calories than this dish; while 10 McDonald’s hamburgers have less sodium than this plate of heart disease.
- Calories: 2440
- Fat (g): 159
- Saturated Fat (g): 36
- Sodium (mg): 5390
The Big Texan: Free 72-Ounce Steak
Also known as “The Texas King,” the 72-ounce free steak will have you singing “I’m Henry the Eighth, I am” all the way to the emergency room. Seriously, what kind of obscene crazy crap is this? If you eat a four-and-a half-pound steak, plus shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, roll, and butter within an hour, the $70 dinner is on the house. Over 8,000 people have successfully stepped up to the challenge, including an 11-year old boy and a 69-year old grandmother. What is wrong with us? The steak alone provides more than enough daily calories for two people, reliable nutritional data is not available for the entire dinner, but I’m pretty confidant that the whole disaster would easily support a small family’s caloric needs for a day.
Perhaps most telling is item number 6 in the FREE 72OZ STEAK DINNER RULES: Should you become ill, the contest is over… YOU LOSE! (Please use the container provided as necessary.)
The steak alone:
- Calories: 5, 760
- Fat (g): 480