The Unhealthiest Restaurant Appetizers You Shouldn’t Eat
Staring at a dinner menu on an empty stomach is just as dangerous as grocery shopping while hungry. For some reason, everything looks good — especially the appetizers. Restaurant appetizers are meant to hold you over until your meal comes, but this isn’t always a good thing. Most appetizers are extremely unhealthy, even if you share them. Here are some of the worst ones, courtesy of your favorite places to eat.
Nutritional values are listed for the entire appetizer order. So if you were to eat a whole Italian Five-Cheese Skillet, you’d have 1,250 calories of flatbread and cheese all to yourself. If you share, you’ll obviously get less than that, divided among your party. But still consider what this might add to your meal before you place your order.
1. Ruby Tuesday: Italian Five-Cheese Skillet
Cheese, in the wonderful world of appetizers, is a red flag. The Italian Five-Cheese Skillet includes a blend of melted cheeses topped with tomato basil sauce and Parmesan crumbs. This is all served on garlic Parmesan flatbread — adding even more cheese (and salt) to the mix. All that cheese adds up quick, too. Altogether, just one serving is 1,250 calories. You’ll take in 25 total grams of saturated fat, 96 grams of carbs, and 2,377 milligrams of sodium. If you’re in the mood for something cheesy, they do offer a garden salad with shredded cheese on top as a dinner option.
Next: It’s mac and cheese, but bite-size.
2. Outback Steakhouse: Steakhouse Mac & Cheese Bites
Think of Outback Steakhouse’s Steakhouse Mac & Cheese Bites as tater tots filled with macaroni and three different types of cheese. They’re 770 calories, and have 54 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbohydrates, and 1,250 milligrams of sodium. This doesn’t include the ranch dipping sauce, which adds more salt, sugar, and fat to every bite. If you only ate one or two bites, you’d probably be fine. But everyone knows bite-size foods only exist because of how impossible they are to resist in large quantities.
Next: Beware the word “loaded.”
3. Cheddar’s: Loaded Russet Potato Skins
Any menu item that’s “loaded” with extras probably isn’t adding anything good to its base ingredients. Cheddar’s Loaded Russet Potato Skins are no exception. They start out fairly healthy — potato skins by themselves are packed with fiber and vitamins B and C. Add cheese, bacon, and sour cream on top, however, and your nutrient total adds up to 896 calories, 22 grams of saturated fat, 92 grams of carbohydrates, and 1,696 milligrams of sodium. Even if you ordered this as your entrée, that’s a lot of carbs and salt — almost a day’s worth — in just one meal.
Next: “Crispy” is restaurant speak for very fried.
4. Red Lobster: Crispy Calamari and Vegetables
On their own, fish and vegetables are excellent selections. But most appetizers start out healthy and arrive at your table fried (and way less healthy). The Crispy Calamari and Vegetables, for example, is 1,770 total calories. You’ll add 122 grams of total fat, 138 grams of carbohydrates, and 4,570 milligrams of sodium to your daily total as well. Dipping sauces really don’t help, especially in this case. Of all the starters on the list, this one is the least healthy — and probably the most dangerous. You can order seafood and veggies as an entrée, but try to steer clear of this appetizer if you can.
Next: Green bean fries are still fries.
5. TGI Fridays: Green Bean Fries
TGI Fridays’ Green Bean Fries are just what they sound like — green beans, but breaded and deep-fried to give you the crunch you’ve always wanted your vegetables to have. At 900 calories, they don’t sound so bad, at least compared to the rest of this list. But their 21 grams of saturated fat, 69 grams of carbs, and 1,720 milligrams of sodium should prove they’re far from healthy, even though green beans are technically vegetables.
Next: It’s not the lasagna you’re expecting.
6. Olive Garden: Lasagna Fritta
What’s better than classic lasagna? Lasagna, but fried. Olive Garden’s twist on your favorite pasta takes the form of an appetizer you won’t even want to share. Lasagna Fritta isn’t just fried Parmesan-breaded lasagna noodles. It’s topped with even more Parmesan cheese, plus marinara sauce. But that’s not all — there’s Alfredo sauce somewhere in there, too, and it all adds up to 1,070 calories, 71 grams of fat, and 1,650 milligrams of sodium. You could skip the Tour of Italy and just eat this instead.
Next: Are waffle fries your favorite? Not anymore.
7. Friendly’s: Loaded Waffle Fries
Friendly’s is your happy place — until you take a closer look at their selections. These aren’t just waffle fries — they’re loaded! Except you know better than to believe that’s a good thing by now. What makes Loaded Waffle Fries sound so good? Mainly melted cheese — with some sour cream on top, of course. What’s not so friendly about these fries is their nutrition facts. After 1,300 calories, 100 grams of saturated fat, 90 grams of carbs, and 4,410 milligrams of sodium, honestly, you might as well just pay the check and go home.
Next: Denny’s has upgraded its tater tots to something a lot cheesier.
8. Denny’s: Loaded Bacon Cheddar Tots
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Denny’s pretty much has everything you could ever want. This includes a collection of appetizers that are hard, but probably best, to resist. Their Loaded Bacon Cheddar Tots, at 860 calories, have more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per order. That’s in addition to 25 grams of saturated fat, and 62 total carbs. A bite-size bacon, cheese, potato, jalapeño, and sour cream explosion might sound like a good idea at first, but think of all the calories you’ll save if you just order tots as a side dish. (Almost half a day’s worth.)
Next: Do you really want to dip your chips in this?
9. Buffalo Wild Wings: Spinach Artichoke Dip
Buffalo Wild Wings serves more than just spicy finger food. Their slightly less messy sharables include the Spinach Artichoke Dip, which isn’t actually healthy despite the fact that it includes two different vegetables. It’s really just 1,460 calories’ worth of creamy sauce with some pita chips and veggies for dipping. The whole thing has 36 grams of saturated fat, 133 carbs, and 2,620 milligrams of sodium — so make sure all your friends get a few good scoops. Their Spinach Artichoke Flatbread appetizer isn’t much better, but it’s a step in the healthier direction.
Next: Would you eat a deep-fried pickle?
10. Chili’s: Fried Pickles
Chili’s wide variety extends to their appetizers. Your table can opt for a plate full of wings, a spicy flatbread, chips with salsa, or even a bowl loaded with fried pickles. Unlike the pickles on your cheeseburger, though, these starter treats add up to 670 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat, 46 carbs, and 3,500 milligrams of sodium. They’re the perfect combination of crisp and sour. But even without a creamy dipping sauce, they’re not your body’s best friend. You won’t have much luck finding an appetizer on this menu that isn’t breaded and soaked in oil, but there are definitely a few healthier main dishes to choose from — some of them even come with pickles.
Next: The dipping sauce is more tempting than the actual appetizer.
11. Texas Roadhouse: Cactus Blossoms
Texas Roadhouse’s Cactus Blossom starter is a lot like Outback Steakhouse’s infamous Bloomin’ Onion — but much saltier. Without the dipping sauce, these fried onions offer 1,450 calories, 12 grams of saturated fat, 203 carbs, and 5,260 milligrams of sodium. Horseradish sauce adds another 270 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 370 milligrams of sodium, if you dare to dip. Thankfully, healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to ignore your cravings for something crunchy. Order a sandwich with a side of crispy steak fries instead.
Next: This appetizer serves up about 1,000 calories per person.
12. Dave & Buster’s: The Triple Play
Every Dave & Busters menu has something for everyone. That’s why they offer an appetizer like The Triple Play — to give you a taste of a few different restaurant favorites. What’s included in The Triple Play, exactly? Just 2,118 calories’ worth of buffalo wings, queso- and bacon-loaded tots, and mozzarella sticks. Altogether, that’s 37 grams of saturated fat, 115 carbs, and 5,304 milligrams of sodium. Would you really still want more food after that? If so, maybe settle for a salad as your entrée. It’s kind of like having dessert before dinner, except your dessert is covered in buffalo sauce and melted cheese.
Next: There’s more than just cheese in these nachos.
13. Applebee’s: Salsa Verde Beef Nachos
Applebees’ Salsa Verde Beef Nachos aren’t your typical chips and melted cheese on a platter. Several servings of ground beef, jalapeños, two cheeses, and sour cream over fresh tortilla chips might actually be a nacho lover’s spicy dream come true. In reality, all those carbs — all 107 grams of them — don’t add up to anything all that impressive. A plate of these nachos brings a total of 1,750 calories, 50 grams of saturated fat, and 6,050 milligrams of sodium to the table before your main meal even starts. Consider something just as spicy, but a little less over-the-top, like the Sriracha shrimp starter.
Next: Even tiny burgers pack a full meal’s worth of calories.
14. IHOP: Cheeseburger Slider Trio
When you think of IHOP, your brain automatically starts craving pancakes. But this popular breakfast spot also serves a handful of lunch and dinner favorites, including questionable appetizers like the Slider Trio. Together, these sliders will add 1,060 calories, 30 grams of saturated fat, 72 grams of carbs, and 1,920 milligrams of sodium to your meal. A much healthier selection of sandwiches and burgers awaits you. With the right toppings and sides — mixed fruit is a sensible option — you can build a much better meal, appetizer not included.
Next: Buffalo sauce adds more salt to food than you’re expecting.
15. The Cheesecake Factory: Buffalo Wings
The Cheesecake Factory’s Buffalo Wings are juicy, spicy, and crispy — just what you’re looking for in an appetizer. But there are consequences. These fried chicken wings, at 930 calories, will cost you 14 grams of saturated fat, and 32 grams of carbs. They also contain double the amount of salt you’re supposed to have every day. Once you start dipping your wings in buffalo sauce, there’s no turning back. You’d be much better off ordering wings as part of a full meal than trying to enjoy wings on top of a full entrée.