8 ‘Healthy’ Meals to Avoid at Restaurants

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By George Mangum, M.A.

Fitness Director at Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group

(Victor Valley)– Look at the menu at any popular restaurant. If you’re watching your weight, or trying not to undo your efforts at the gym, you may gravitate to the salad section, or the ‘light’ page. “Maybe a veggie stir fry, or the turkey burger, with water of course.”

But often these options aren’t any healthier than the regular items. Salty, fat laden (not the good kind) dressing, and empty carbs are rampant in salads and sandwiches alike.

Here is a breakdown of many ‘health’ options you may see, and a few obvious NO’s in there for comparison (see deep dish pizza).

Buffalo Chicken Salad

The Count: 1,040 calories, 72 grams fat, 3,470 milligrams sodium

“Salad” is stretching it! Fried meat, oily sauce, and cheese push the calories in this meal through the roof at one popular restaurant. It has about as many as a whole pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The salad also packs nearly 25% more fat. It’ll take 2 hours of a fast run to slow burn this “salad” off.

French Toast and Bacon

The Count: 1,130 calories, 20 grams saturated fat, 1,780 milligrams sodium

Want to use up a good chunk of your day’s calories before noon? Eat this for breakfast. Better make it brunch, or you won’t have many calories left to spare for dinner. This dish also has more than an entire day’s worth of saturated fat and sodium. How about two hours of fast bike riding to make for this, or your waistline is toast.

Chicken Fajitas

The Count: 1,300 calories, 47 grams fat, 4,800 milligrams sodium

Chicken fajitas can be a healthy option. But they’re often served with heaps of sour cream, shredded cheese, refried beans, and fried rice. Pack it all in, and you’ve got plenty of calories to pad your waistline! Instead, load up on grilled peppers, onions, chicken, and fresh salsa. Stick with just one tortilla. That’s 2 hours of “fajita fast” swimming to relieve your guilt and negate your intake.

Vegetarian Fried Rice

The Count: 1,090 calories, 19 grams fat, 2,210 milligrams sodium

Getting Chinese takeout? Don’t assume the veggie options are the healthiest. Vegetarian fried rice can pack an unhealthy wallop. Instead, go for steamed dishes with lots of veggies and brown rice if it’s on the menu. Keep the rice to a half-cup — that’s about half the size of half a baseball. Always ask for sauce on the side. Are you ready for 2 ½ hours of heavy wood chopping to relieve the heavy stomach you’re feeling?

Pasta in Carbonara Sauce

The Count: 1,570 calories, 113 grams fat, 2,460 milligrams sodium

Grilled chicken and shrimp can be good choices. But if they’re drenched in carbonara sauce, not so much. A plate of pasta with shrimp and chicken in carbonara can creep up to unhealthy levels. It also has more fat than you’d get from eating a half-dozen glazed doughnuts. This will take over 3 hours of super competitive basketball to burn this off, but, you might be ready for the NBA by that time.

Deep Dish Pizza With Sausage

The Count: 2,300 calories, 164 grams fat, 4,910 milligrams sodium

Deep dish pizza can be deep trouble. One “individual” sausage pizza serves up more calories than most people should eat in a whole day. It also packs double the daily limit of fat. Want to make it better? Skip the sausage and opt for thin crust. Okay, that’s over 4 hours of heavy weightlifting to get out of this “deep” calorie hole.

Club Sandwich

The Count: 1,520 calories, 20 grams saturated fat, 3,500 milligrams sodium

Club sandwiches are sneaky. Even with lean turkey or chicken, they can serve up a ton of calories and a whole day’s worth of saturated fat. Where is it all hiding? In the bacon, cheese, extra slice of giant bread, and mayo. Opt for a single-decker turkey sandwich instead. Choose plenty of veggies and add a few avocado slices for flavor. This’ll take 3 hours of rapid aerobics at the “club” to make up for this sandwich.


The Count: (4 sliders) 1,560 calories, 83 grams fat, 4,520 milligrams sodium

How bad can those cute little burgers be? If you eat the whole order, pretty bad. A plate of 4 sliders at lunch leaves you just 440 calories to spare for the rest of your day. Solution? Don’t eat the whole order. Pack up one or two in a doggie bag and have them tomorrow. Don’t let this “slide”, or you’ll need hundreds of burpees to make up for these little “slides” in your diet.

George is the Fitness Director at Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group and spends his time helping teens, educators and seniors make fitness a lifestyle. He believes that fitness is the answer, and doesn’t care what the question is.

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