Unhealthiest Chicken Dishes in America

Back when The Price is Right first aired, Americans were eating fewer than 20 pounds of chicken per year. Flash forward 54 years and our annual chicken poundage has jumped closer to 60. That’s an increase of more than 300 percent.
So what accounts for the hike? Obesity, heart disease, diabetes—you name it. As studies began linking fatty diets to a litany of maladies, meat eaters started looking for an alternative to beef, and chicken farmers began cranking out the birds. Not long after, pork was relegated to its inferior position as “the other white meat.”
But as chicken sales took flight, there was another trend dominating American eating habits. That was the growth of a monolithic restaurant industry that now pulls in about half of our total food dollars. And the battle to get the biggest share of those dollars led to some unsettling practices. Innovative restaurateurs began adding flavor by injecting salt and monosodium glutamate. They rolled chicken in breading, dropped it in hot grease, marinated it in oil, and smothered it with cream and butter—all the while still promoting the idea of a “healthy” alternative to beef.
Looks like we should have listened to Alfred Hitchcock. When he filmed The Birds in 1963, just as chicken sales were starting to climb, he must have been trying to warn us about what we were up against: killer birds. Don’t believe it? Take a look at the sorry state of chicken today, compliments of Eat This, Not That! and the new New York Times bestseller Cook This, Not That!

Chili’s Buffalo Chicken Ranch Sandwich
1,560 calories
86 g fat (14 g saturated)
4,010 mg sodium

Take a minute to free associate. What comes to mind when you hear “chicken sandwich”? A light-and-healthy dinner? A good post-workout lunch? Both of those sound about right. But here’s where this sandwich veers from expectations: It sucks up three-fourths of your day’s calorie allotment. Plus it exceeds your daily recommendation for both fat and sodium. That’s what you call a dirty bird.

Bonus tip: Think this sandwich is bad? Click here to see the shocking list of the 30 worst sandwiches in America. (Swapping these for smarter choices will help you keep the weight off when you’re on the go.)

Eat This Instead!
Guiltless Grill Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Veggies
610 calories
12 g fat (5 g saturated)
1,310 mg sodium

California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
1,570 calories
30 g saturated fat
2,082 mg sodium

Salads are healthy, right? Well, CPK’s got some gnarly greens. Fully half the restaurant’s salads top a thousand calories, but this one is hands-down the worst. To be fair, part of the day-and-a-half’s worth of saturated fat comes from the blue cheese dressing. The trouble is, even if you switch to the restaurant’s lighter Dijon vinaigrette, you’re still facing 1,485 calories. Not a massive savings.

Bonus tip: For full nutrition information for all of your favorite chain restaurants and thousands of foods, download the bestselling Eat This, Not That! iPhone app. It’s like having your own personal nutritionist in your pocket at all times, and will help you avoid the caloric calamities and guide you to the best ways to lose your belly fast.

Eat This Instead!
Moroccan Chicken Salad, Half
412 calories
4 g saturated fat
309 mg sodium

Applebee’s Crispy Orange Chicken Bowl
1,880 calories
13 g saturated fat
4,250 mg sodium

Applebee’s is making strides toward a healthier menu, but as of yet the chain still has a lot of ground to cover. To its credit, it recently launched a sub-menu featuring entrees that all fall below 550 calories. Unfortunately the regular menu still carries caloric catastrophes like this tortured bird. For starters, the Crispy Orange Chicken Bowl delivers nearly a day’s worth of calories, but to top that, it throws in more sodium than you’d find in a dozen large orders of McDonald’s French Fries—a whopping two days’ worth! That might be good for thawing your driveway in a snowstorm, but it’s not so great for fueling your body.

Bonus tip: Save calories, time, and money with our FREE Eat This, Not That! newsletter. Sign up today and you’ll get the free Eat This, Not That! guide to shopping once and eating for a week!

Eat This Instead!
Margherita Chicken
700 calories
8 g saturated fat
2,420 mg sodium

Baja Fresh Charbroiled Chicken Nachos
2,020 calories
110 g fat (41 g saturated)
2,980 mg sodium
Okay, so you already knew nachos were trouble, but could you have ever predicted anything like this? This one plate has more fat than an entire package of Chewy Chips Ahoy! cookies. (Yes, an ENTIRE package.) In fact, you could snarf down the whole 32-cookie set, then move on to a twin-wrapped package of Twinkies, and still come out ahead on fat.
Eat This Instead!
Original Chicken Tacos (3)
630 calories
15 g fat (3 g saturated)
690 mg sodium

Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken Quesadilla
2,141 calories
133 g fat (61 g saturated fat)
3,477 mg sodium
Since 2008 we’ve been harping on Outback to clean up its act, but so far the chain has refused. In fact, the only reason we were able to track down this nutrition information is that New York and California laws forced restaurant franchises to disclose their numbers. And only after we made it public did Outback start offering the numbers to all its customers. A victory for nutrition? Not yet—not with numbers like these.
Bonus tip: Battle the liquid bulge: Avoid all drinks on this shocking list of The Worst Drinks in the Supermarket. Otherwise the excess liquid calories can cost you an extra 10 or 20 pounds of fat a year, easily.
Eat This Instead!
Walkabout Soup of the Day – Cup
281 calories
21 g fat (13 g saturated)
1,175 mg sodium

The Cheesecake Factory Chicken and Biscuits
2,511 calories
66 g saturated fat
2,725 mg sodium
Doesn’t it seem like there’s something un-patriotic about transforming a traditional American meal into a caloric saboteur? It’s as if The Cheesecake Factory has declared nutritional warfare on the waistlines of this country. Or maybe they’re in cahoots with the denim companies—the more your gut bulges, the more new pants you’re forced to buy. (Okay, doubtful.) But whatever the guiding principal, you can guarantee it has nothing to do with your welfare.
Eat This Instead!
One-Half Chicken Salad Sandwich
548 calories
8 g saturated fat
850 mg sodium

The Cheesecake Factory Crispy Chicken Costoletta
2,556 calories
85 g saturated fat
2,755 mg sodium
This entrée comes served with mashed potatoes and asparagus, and it’s described on the menu as being “lightly breaded.” Sounds relatively healthy, right? Therein lies the Curse of The Chicken Entree: It always sounds relatively healthy. You’d never guess the damage this dish was capable of unless The Cheesecake Factory decided to be completely forthright and disclose on the menu that it carries so much butter that it could exceed the saturated fat limit for an entire family of four!
Bonus tip: Preserve your waistline by knowing the other Cheesecake Factory items that made our list of The 20 Worst Restaurant Foods in America. Then learn the simple swaps on the Eat This, Not That! list that will help you lose weight while still eating your favorite foods—and without ever dieting again.
Eat This Instead!
One-Half Chicken Salad Sandwich
548 calories
8 g saturated fat
850 mg sodium

The Cheesecake Factory Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic
2,579 calories
62 g saturated fat
1,983 mg sodium
Healthy it may sound, but chicken-in-pasta is the culinary equivalent of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In fact, The Cheesecake Factory’s menu features fully half a dozen chicken-pasta entrees in excess of 2,000 calories apiece. That’s a full day’s energy needs in one meal. Level that with the rest of the oversized entrees and The Factory emerges as the absolute worst restaurant in the country. (You’d be better off going on a Haagen-Dazs binge.)
Eat This Instead!
One-Half Chicken Salad Sandwich
548 calories
8 g saturated fat
850 mg sodium
Have your own unhealthy dishes to add to the list? Please share your choices with the rest of us here.
Posted in Cooking / Foods, Education, Health & Beauty.


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