For some, dining out at your favorite restaurant can be a full experience that only happens on special occasions. If you’re someone who only treats themselves to eating out every once in a while, chances are you like to make sure that you’re taking advantage of everything the restaurant has to offer. This could mean that aside from your main meal, you may be partaking in dessert, drinks, and an appetizer before. Unfortunately though, some people don’t think about the fact that some of the unhealthiest restaurant appetizers can almost double your meal’s calories, fat, and sodium.
This can be especially true at chain restaurants like TGI Friday’s, Chili’s, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden, all places that may be known for having food that is both affordable and delicious, but also loaded with unhealthy ingredients. And since these types of restaurants often serve appetizers like wings, potato skins, creamy dips, fried onion rings, and fried mozzarella sticks, your appetizer choice is likely to be high in things like saturated fat, sodium, and sometimes even trans fat. Over time, consuming foods that are too high in these items can lead to things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or even heart disease.
This isn’t to scare you into completely avoiding a fun appetizer to share with the table. The point is that some chain restaurant appetizers are much worse than others, so knowing your options ahead of time can help you make the best selection for your special night out. Read on to learn about some of the unhealthiest restaurant appetizers out there, and for more healthy tips on dining out, make sure to check out 21 Best Low-Sodium Fast-Food Orders.
“This appetizer contains deep-fried potato skins filled with melted cheese, bacon, and sour cream,” says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD. The amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium makes this an app you may want to skip.
According to Sabat, the Bloomin’ Onion from Outback Steakhouse, although quite famous, may not be the best choice if you want a healthier meal when eating out.
“This popular appetizer features a deep-fried onion that is sliced to resemble a flower and is served with a dipping sauce, and it contains around 1,620 calories and over 120 grams of fat, making it one of the unhealthiest appetizers on any menu,” says Sabat.
Let’s take the calorie count: Although your daily recommended calories vary depending on your health needs and goals, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that women need, on average, between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day, and men need between 2,000 and 3,000. This appetizer has over 1,600 calories, so eating it all in one sitting will come close to your calorie requirements for an entire day.
When you learn that Lasagna Fritta translates to “fried lasagna,” you won’t be surprised that this menu item is among the worst to choose when visiting Olive Garden.
“The Lasagna Fritta features small portions of lasagna that are breaded and deep-fried,” says Sabat. “It contains over 1,100 calories and over 75 grams of fat, making it a very unhealthy choice.”
Anytime you read the words “cheese fries,” it’s probably safe to assume that they aren’t going to be the healthiest option on the menu—and the Texas Cheese Fries from Chili’s are no exception.
While the calories, total fat, and sodium are all shockingly high in this appetizer, it’s the saturated fat content that should really escalate your concerns. At 51 grams per appetizer, it contains almost four times the American Heart Association’s recommended daily maximum of 13 grams. Over time, too much saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels and raise your risk of heart disease.
When you’re diving into Cheesecake Factory’s notoriously enormous menu, Sabat recommends steering clear of the Fried Mac and Cheese Bites.