Written by: Wallace Merriman

The 100 Most Unhealthy Foods in the American Diet
Posted on:Sep 2, 2011

Looking for some healthier foods to eat than your usual fare? It may be wise to first figure out what not to eat. Unfortunately, many of the best-tasting foods in America are terrible for us. Whether they are high in calories, fat, sugar, sodium or some other nasty additive, we’ve listed America’s 100 most unhealthy foods below.
Some of the foods on this list are obviously unhealthy, though you may be surprised by a few. (It is the stealthy ones that can really get us at times.) We have also included beverages, as well as the worst dishes from popular American chain restaurants, to round out the list. Since it would be difficult to rank the foods according to health risk, we have categorized and alphabetized each item.
Common Household Foods
Sadly, some of our favorite household foods top the “should not eat” list. Here are some American favorites that should be approached with cautious moderation.

  1. Baked Beans – Many people keep a stock of canned beans in the pantry. Those that are soaking in sugary syrup, like baked beans, are high in refined sugars and contribute to many health problems.
  2. Campbell’s Condensed Soups – Have you seen how much salt is in your classic Campbell’s condensed soup? Do yourself a favor and try the low-sodium version instead.
  3. Chicken Pot Pie – Processed, store-bought pot pies are terribly unhealthy. Pepperidge Farm makes roasted chicken pot pie 1,020 calories and 64 grams of fat.
  4. Hot Dogs – Not only are these a leading cause of choking in children and adults, they contain highly processed meat “byproducts,” whatever that may be. Stay away from foods with such mysterious ingredients.
  5. Luncheon Meats – Commercial cold cuts are highly processed and packed with unhealthy additives.
  6. Ramen Noodles – College students everywhere are scraping by with this inexpensive dish. However, it offers nothing in the way of nutrients and is loaded with sodium.
  7. Saltines – These crackers taste good with your soup, but provide only excessive carbohydrates and sodium.
  8. White Bread – Foods made of mostly white flour are just empty calories and carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled by wheat bread, either. You should be looking for whole wheat bread.
  9. White Pasta – The white flour strikes again. Although tasty, this refined product offers too many carbohydrates and too many calories.
  10. White Potatoes – These are the type of potatoes that are commonly used for junk food like French Fries. They contain solanine, which can have a toxic effect on people. Among other things, solanine can contribute to calcium depletion and arthritic pain.

Everything you consume can have positive or negative health consequences, including drinks. While many people are conscious about the food they eat, they forget about the liquid calories in their diet. Below are some of the unhealthiest drinks in America.

  1. Baskin Robbin’s Large Heath Bar Shake – According to Yahoo! Health, this is the unhealthiest drink in all of America. It contains a whopping 2,310 calories, 266 grams of sugar and 108 grams of fat!
  2. Cocktails – What do you get when you combine high levels of refined sugar and unhealthy amounts of hard liquor? You get a cocktail, which was invented by the British Navy so sailors would get drunk a little slower. Like anything, moderation is key, but you would be better off with a glass of red wine than with a cocktail.
  3. Coffee – Need a pick-me-up in the morning? Studies show that a fresh apple and a glass of water can actually do this in a more healthy, natural way. Let your poor adrenal glands get some rest by laying off the coffee.
  4. Diet Soda – Don’t assume diet soda is better for you than the regular kind. Sugar substitutes are known to have long-term, unpleasant side effects. Plus, caffeine of any kind is bad for your health.
  5. Eggnog – This creamy drink is a favorite around the holidays. Even without the liquor, it is quite fatty and unhealthy.
  6. Fruit Juice – Most commercial fruit juices are loaded with sugar. In fact, some fruit juices offer more sugar in one serving than a candy bar. Think about that the next time you go for some Hawaiian Punch.
  7. Fruit Smoothie – Just like fruit juice, most smoothies are delicious, yet contain more sugar and high fructose syrup than actual fruit. Be selective when looking for a healthy fruit-based drink.
  8. Irish Coffee – This combines three unhealthy ingredients: coffee, cream and hard liquor.
  9. Liquor – While studies have shown that moderate consumption of beer or wine can offer heart benefits, there is really no reason to drink hard liquor. It is bad for your kidneys, your liver and even a small amount will dehydrate you.
  10. Red Bull – This drink gives you wings… and extremely high amounts of sugar, caffeine and carbohydrates. This intense energy drink has actually been linked to a few deaths. Listen up, America: France actually banned this potent tonic.
  11. Soda – Soda is bad for you on many levels. It usually offers tons of sugar and caffeine, not to mention it isn’t so great on your teeth. It does, however, work well to remove rust from metals. Think about that, won’t you?
  12. Starbucks’ Java Chip Frappuccino – Frankly, you should avoid any beverage at Starbucks that isn’t green tea or water. However, the Java Chip Frappuccino really stands out for its whopping 650 calories. You could eat a greasy cheeseburger from a fast food restaurant and consume less calories!
  13. Whole Milk – Whole milk is not only high in fat, certain brands contain harmful hormones. Look for a dependable organic, hormone-free brand and try to make the switch to skim.

Let’s face it — most of us don’t want to munch on celery stalks when we feel a small rumble in our tummy. However, the following snacks could make that tummy a lot bigger, so don’t overindulge.

  1. Chocolate – It isn’t just the calories that make chocolate a big no-no. It is also a source of caffeine and some people are quite sensitive to the effects.
  2. Coffee Cake – This sugary baked good definitely tastes great, but it is full of refined sugars, artificial additives and fat.
  3. Cookies – Technically, there are healthy cookie recipes out there. However, the typical cookies are full of refined flour, refined sugars and more calories than you should ever consume in one nibble.
  4. Corn Chips – Don’t let the word “corn” fool you. This snack does not count as a vegetable serving and are just as bad for you as any other fried, salted snack.
  5. Doughnuts – Artificial flavors, refined sugar and trans fats abound in these devilishly delicious snacks.
  6. French Fries – French fries are not only fatty, they contain acrylamide, which is a known carcinogen.
  7. Ice Cream – Ice cream can be fatty with the whole milk and sugar alone. However, it becomes even worse when you start adding things like chocolate pieces or cookie dough. Opt for low-fat frozen yogurt if you must indulge.
  8. Lunchables – This Oscar Mayer product is convenient for lunch or a quick snack, but contains highly processed meats, non-enriched bread and a lot of sodium.
  9. Potato Chips – Most of us realize how bad these are for us, yet they are hard to resist. Potato chips are high in trans fats, calories, salt and the carcinogen acrylamide.

“Health Foods”
Some foods are marketed as being healthy and many of us assume they are great additions to our diet. However, the following items should be eaten in moderation or not at all.

  1. Bagel and Cream Cheese – This is a favorite breakfast food for many people. It seems healthier than a big, traditional breakfast. However, the average bagel covered in cream cheese offers 40 grams of fat and tons of carbohydrates.
  2. Bran Muffin – Those looking for a healthy start in the morning often reach for a bran muffin. However, refined flour and sugars are not a healthy source of energy first thing in the morning.
  3. Dried Fruit – Fresh fruit is far healthier than dried fruit, as it takes more dried fruit (and calories) to feel full. Also, many dried fruit products are covered with sugar.
  4. Fruit Cocktail – Fruit is an integral part of a healthy diet. However, you should be buying fresh fruit and not fruit that is soaking in thick, sugary syrups. Not only is the added sugar unhealthy, fruit can lose a lot of nutrients when it is processed and canned.
  5. Granola Bars – While the word “granola” is often used to describe health advocates, granola bars are often loaded with fatty oils and sugar.
  6. Low-Fat Salad Dressing – While some salad dressings offer a reduced amount of fat, the taste is often salvaged by adding sugar.
  7. Margarine – At one time, margarine was hailed as the healthy alternative to pure butter. However, margarine is loaded with trans fats and is linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
  8. Microwave Diet Meals – There are many brands, such as Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine, that claim to offer “healthy” microwave meals. However low in fat they may be, however, they are very processed and salty. Also, the portions are so small that you are likely to eat again very soon.
  9. Olive Oil – While real olive oil is good for raising HDL cholesterol levels, it is still just as fatty as vegetable oil and its healthy properties are reduced by heat. Don’t expect to drop many pounds by cooking anything in oil. Olive oil is merely the lesser of the evils.
  10. Pasta Salad – Pasta is loaded with refined flour, which offers you a quick spike in blood sugar and isn’t so great for your waist line. That, along with high-calorie dressing, makes pasta salad a “health food” you should avoid.
  11. Pretzels – While it is true that pretzels are better for you than potato chips, they only offer empty calories. There are no nutritional benefits to pretzels and some are filled with sugar, which only makes you hungrier.
  12. Protein Bars – Why these food items line the shelves of health food stores is a mystery. They offer a convenient source of protein, yes, but they are also packed with calories and fat.
  13. Tuna Fish Sandwich – This isn’t quite the healthy lunch you thought it was, particularly if you order one in a restaurant. Not only is the mayo high in fat, eating large quantities of tuna exposes you to mercury contamination.
  14. Turkey Burger – Turkey burgers are not necessarily low-fat alternatives to regular hamburgers. In fact, they can be just as loaded with fat and grease. When purchasing patties in the grocery store, compare the turkey burgers to beef burgers and you might be surprised.
  15. Yogurt Cups – Yogurt can be quite healthy if prepared properly. However, most yogurt cups found in grocery stores, such as the ones with fruit in the bottom, are loaded with sugary corn syrup.

It isn’t just the main portions of your meals that affect your health. The condiments you use to improve taste can really add up the calories, fat grams and other unhealthy properties. Below are some usual suspects to avoid.

  1. Butter – Most of us know that butter is bad for us, yet the tempting product haunts us every time we eat a baked potato or piece of bread. If you must succumb to butter, try whipped butter instead.
  2. Honey Mustard – While mustard does not offer many unhealthy properties, honey mustard is loaded with sugar and other additives.
  3. Jellies/Jams/Preserves – Most brands are big on taste and on refined sugars, unfortunately. Organic, low sugar is the best alternative to mainstream, processed jellies/jams/preserves.
  4. Ketchup – Sure the bottle boasts about the inclusion of lycopene, but you can also get that from fresh tomatoes. Kethcup is a highly processed food that is packed with sugar.
  5. Mayonnaise – This is one of the easiest ways to turn a healthy sandwich into something very fattening. Substitute mayonnaise with something lighter whenever you can. Mustard is a great alternative in many cases.
  6. Sugar – One could write a book about the unhealthy side effects of a diet high in sugar. It is hidden is many processed foods so the last thing you should do is keep extra sugar on the table. Use it very sparingly, in fact.
  7. Salt – Excess sodium is no good for you, so take a stand and banish salt from your table. There are healthy alternatives to spicing up bland food.
  8. Soy Sauce – Aside from the fact that soy has its negative aspects, there is a terribly high amount of salt in this popular sauce.
  9. Tartar Sauce – Tartar sauce is actually mayonnaise combined with onions, pickled cucumbers and other ingredients. This is why it is even more fattening than mayonnaise, which is saying a lot.

Some foods are unhealthy to us because we are sensitive to them or have a true allergy. A full-blown allergy can in fact be deadly, so it is important that you know how the following foods react with your body.

  1. Dairy Products – Those with lactose intolerance cannot digest dairy products without adversely reacting. A dairy-free diet is encumbering but can be managed by learning how to read labels properly.
  2. Eggs – An egg sensitivity is quite common, particularly in young children. Luckily, this can be outgrown in many cases. A full allergy to eggs, however, can be deadly.
  3. Fish – Some children and adults are allergic to certain types of fish. When one allergy becomes apparent, it is recommended that people consult an allergist to find out if they can eat other kinds of fish.
  4. Gluten – Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye products. Some people only experience a mild sensitivity to gluten. However, those with Celiac Disease suffer from an autoimmune disorder that results in intestinal damage and other health problems when gluten is consumed.
  5. MSG – Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, is a food additive that many people are sensitive to. Symptoms of MSG sensitivity include a headache, nausea, lethargy and more.
  6. Peanuts – Although a severe peanut allergy is rare, it can cause anaphylactic shock almost immediately upon consumption.
  7. Shellfish – Shellfish, such as shrimp, crab and lobster, can cause deadly allergic reactions in some people. This is a rare but serious allergy.
  8. Soy – Soy is regarded as healthy by many, as it can provide protein in a meat-free diet. However, some people have a soy protein allergy. Also, soy has been linked to hormonal shifts in men and women, as well as a higher risk of breast cancer.
  9. Wheat – Wheat allergies, commonly confused with the autoimmune disorder Celiac Disease, manifests when anything containing wheat flour is consumed.

Applebee’s touts itself as a friendly neighborhood eatery. However, there is nothing friendly about the calories and fat in the following menu items.

  1. Grilled Steak Caesar Salad – Perhaps you see the words “grilled” and “salad” in this meal’s name and you think it must be somewhat healthy. Think again. This is far from a healthy garden salad – it contains 1,951 milligrams of sodium, 1,190 calories and 75.4 grams of fat!
  2. Riblets With Beans, Coleslaw and Fries – This is a commonly ordered meal at Applebee’s, yet many customers might be shocked to hear the actual nutritional stats. With this hearty meal, you are consuming 2,228 milligrams of sodium, 2,027 calories and 130 grams of fat.
  3. Southwest Philly Roll-Up With Salsa – This one is deceptively healthy looking when compared to a big cheeseburger. However, it contains 2,338 milligrams of sodium, 1,605 calories and 121 grams of fat.

Burger King
To be fair, most of us are aware of how fattening Burger King is when we enter the drive-thru. However, the following figures may keep you from caving to temptation again.

    Double Whopper – Ah, this flame-broiled burger tastes even better with two patties. However, it only increases the unhealthiness. Try 920 calories and 57 fat grams on for size!

  1. Double Whopper With Cheese – What happens when you put cheese on the worst sandwich at Burger King? You are now looking at 1,020 calories and 65 grams of fat.
  2. King Size French Fries – Most people always round out a meal at Burger King with fries. With the largest size, you will also be adding 540 calories and 25 grams of fat to the meal.

Chili’s Grill & Bar
Chili’s is similar to Applebee’s in its fare. Sadly, it also offers some of the worst meals and side orders. Below are the worst offenders.

  1. Awesome Blossom – Some consider this to be the worst menu item at any American restaurant. Mind you, this is only considered an “appetizer” and yet it contains 6,360 milligrams of sodium, 2,710 calories and 203 grams of fat!
  2. Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad – Oh dear, another deceptively unhealthy “salad.” This one offers 4,040 milligrams of sodium, 910 calories and 58 grams of fat.
  3. Chicken Crispers – If this list has taught us anything, it’s that the word “chicken” is not synonymous with “lean.” Take this lovely fried dish for example. It has 1,870 calories and 129 grams of fat in it!
  4. Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie – You aren’t going to leave without dessert are you? This one will satisfy your sweet tooth and fill you with 78 more grams of fat.

Kentucky Fried Chicken
You will be hard-pressed to find anything low-fat and healthy on the KFC menu. Even the corn is soaked in butter, after all! While fried chicken is an obvious choice for this list, below are the biggest offenders.

  1. Chicken and Biscuit Bowl – Which genius decided to mix the worst fried foods with white flour breads in one bowl? Well, it is yummy, but it offers 44 grams of fat in one tiny serving.
  2. KFC Original Recipe Chicken – Before you purchase a whole bucket, keep in mind that one thigh piece of the KFC original recipe chicken has 25 grams of fat.
  3. Popcorn Chicken – Who doesn’t love these little things? While tasty and convenient, the Family Size is packed with 1,210 calories and 66 grams of fat.
  4. Poutine – This French Canadian side order isn’t available at all KFC locations. That’s probably a good thing because it has 54 grams of fat in it.

While McDonald’s is clearly not regarded as a healthy source for food, some of these facts and figures will make you realize just how unhealthy it can be.

  1. Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips – This is touted as one of the more high-end items on the menu, yet it is one of the worst chicken dishes available in fast food. These chicken strips offer 830 calories and 55 grams of fat. Hey, you might as well have a hamburger instead!
  2. Chicken McNuggets (20 Piece) – Not many people try to conquer a 20-piece but if you do, you will have consumed 1,030 calories and 65 grams of fat.
  3. Crispy Chicken Club Meal – Who would have thought that some of the worst offenders at McDonald’s would be chicken items? This one is stuffed with 1,250 calories and 48 grams of fat.
  4. Deluxe Breakfast With Syrup and Margarine – The worst way to start out your day is with 1,330 calories and 64 grams of fat.
  5. Premium Grilled Chicken Meal – Yes, you read that correctly. This grilled chicken meal has 1,130 calories and 41 grams of fat.

On the Border
If you are a fan of Tex-Mex, then you may be familiar with this popular restaurant. The salsa may be the only healthy thing on the menu, unfortunately.

  1. Beef and Chicken Quesadillas – This combo platter has an amazing 1,130 calories and 93 grams of fat.
  2. Border Sampler – You sample a little too much with this meal, as you end up consuming 1,940 calories and 120 grams of fat.
  3. Corona Extra Dinner – “Extra” is the operative word here, as there is an excessive amount of calories and fat. Try 2,040 and 126 grams, respectively.
  4. Dos XX Fish Tacos – Fish tacos sure sound healthier than beef or even chicken, right? Amazingly, this might be one of the worst Mexican dishes around, offering 2,100 calories and 130 grams of fat.
  5. Grande Taco Salad With Taco Beef – Again, this doesn’t sound like it could be the worst thing on the menu. Still, it is loaded with 1,450 calories and 102 grams of fat.
  6. Stacked Border Nachos – Well, at least these warn you by looking unhealthy. These nachos pull no punches with 2,740 calories and 166 grams of fat.

Outback Steakhouse
Don’t be fooled by this theme restaurant. Most Australians will tell you they don’t eat “bloomin’ onions” back home. Still, this place is a guilty pleasure for many Americans.

  1. Aussie Cheese Fries – This one is infamous and can be found on many “worst foods” lists. This side dish contains 2,900 calories and 182 grams of fat!
  2. Bloomin’ Onion – Chili’s commits the same crime with this fried delight. However, the Bloomin’ Onion clocks in at 2,310 calories and 134 grams of fat.
  3. Chocolate Thunder From Down Under – If you have already tried the cheese fries, why not do yourself in with this dessert? It will only add another 78 grams of fat to the meal, after all.
  4. Melbourne Porterhouse – This monster steak has 1,230 calories and 99 grams of fat to offer a hungry patron.

These toasted subs sure are delicious. However, they are dangerous to your health. Think of Quiznos as Subway’s evil twin.

  1. Classic Italian Sub – Would you believe a sub sandwich could pack 85 grams of fat in? Yep, this one certainly does.
  2. Tuna Melt – This sandwich may sound harmless enough, but has 118 grams of fat in it. Yikes!

Romano’s Macaroni Grill
This restaurant offers delicious and unique Italian meals. However, its meals contain some of the highest amounts of salt and fat in America.

  1. Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo – You will be hard-pressed to find a fettuccine alfredo dish that isn’t packed with fat and calories. However, Macoroni Grill is in a league of its own here with 1370 calories and 97 grams of fat.
  2. Chicken Portobello – This is one of the saltiest dishes you can order in a restaurant, boasting 7,300 milligrams of sodium. If that doesn’t deter you, perhaps the 1,020 calories and 66 grams of fat will.
  3. Double Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese – Shockingly, this is actually a kids’ meal and yet it offers 3,450 milligrams of sodium, 1,210 calories and 62 grams of fat!
  4. Spaghetti & Meatballs (With Meat Sauce) – This is a classic Italian dish and probably sounds a little healthier than some of the creamier items on the menu. However, this Macaroni Grill favorite offers 5290 milligrams of sodium, 2430 calories and 128 grams of fat.