Fast food menus can be a minefield for your waistline. Luckily the folks at The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) are here to help you choose wisely while getting meals on the go. These nutrition experts recently published a review of the unhealthiest menu items at American fast-food chains. Based on their findings, we've put together a list of the top 5 worst things you can order when you've got the munchies, organized into a 5-part meal beginning with apps and ending with desert.
But before we start, let's put some figures in perspective. According to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average American should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Adult males should limit themselves to around 2,000-2,600 calories per day (depending on age). And females should aim for between 1,600 to 2,000 daily calories.
Now that we've set the benchmarks, watch these fast food chains blow them away.
1. The Apps at Applebee's
If you're worried about your weight, stick to ordering entrees at Applebee's. Or at the very least, steer clear of the menu's "build your own sampler" option. By putting together a platter including cheeseburger egg rolls, boneless wings and other favorites, your pre-meal meal can pack a whopping 3,390 calories, 65 grams of saturated fat and 11,650 milligrams of sodium. Be sure to tap out before the dessert menu comes.
2. Dave & Buster's Big Mac Hat Trick
Ever eat three Big Macs and a medium fries from McDonald's in one sitting? That'd be disgusting, right? Well, you've pretty much done just that if you've ever eaten Dave & Buster's "short ribs & cheesy mac stack" sandwich. The greasy meal has 1,910 calories and 3,390 mg of sodium. And it actually contains more saturated fat than the trio of Big Macs.
3. Sonic the Slush-hog
Not all unhealthy meals come on plates or in bowls. At Sonic Drive-In, you can get about half a day's calories in a cup. The "RT 44 Grape Slush with Rainbow Candy" contains 970 calories thanks to its high sugar content. How much sugar? The CSPI says you might as well be sipping 1 1/4 cups out of a styrofoam cup. Or if you want some flavor, drinking three extra-large Fanta Wild Cherry Slurpees is what it'll take to hit the same calorie marker as the rainbow candy monstrosity.
4. Wee, wee, wee all the way to the ER
If you're looking to nuke your diet, your best bet is the "whole hog burger" from Uno's. The sandwich boasts over a pound of meat in the forms of hamburger, bacon, prosciutto and pepperoni. It's like a Noah's Ark for processed meats. On top of all that, you get cheese, garlic mayo and pickles. And it comes with fries as well as onion rings.
Altogether, the meal weighs in at 2,850 calories and 9,790 mg of sodium. CSPI says you'd need to eat four quarter-pounders with cheese from McDonald's and two medium fries sprinkled with 18 packets of salt to match the whole hog.
5. Just Desserts
If you manage to pack all of this down and still find yourself craving something sweet, check out the "Dessert Nachos" from Buffalo Wild Wings. The tortilla dish is dusted with cinnamon and sugar and topped with ice cream, breaded cheesecake bites, chocolate syrup and caramel sauce. But the real killer is the tortilla itself, which is fried in beef tallow. All in all, the dessert contains 2,100 calories and 64 grams of saturated fat. CSPI says that's like eating four crunchy tacos from Taco Bell with a container of Häagen-Dazs ice cream and two melted Hershey bars on top.