Restaurant Dishes That Aren't As Healthy As They Sound

If you're looking for healthy choices, think twice before you order these common menu items.

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Menu Mistakes

Navigating restaurant menus in search of healthy options can be harder than you might realize. Dishes may include healthy ingredients, but can easily mislead you into ordering more calories than you'd think. Learn how to identify these calorie bombs for the next time you go out to eat.

Soup of the Day

Soup seems like a sensible way to start a meal, or a safe accompaniment to a light lunch. But the fatty truth is that chowders and other creamy soup can pack a lot of calories. A bowl of New England Chowder at TGI Friday's stacks up to 500 calories, 30 grams of fat and 65 percent of the daily recommended amount of sodium. Dunk in a bunch of bread and crackers and you’ll only add to the calorie overload.

Crunchy Sushi Roll

A tightly packed cylinder of rice, seaweed, seafood and vegetables can certainly make for a figure-friendly meal. But sushi rolls dubbed "crunchy" or "tempura" contain deep-fried ingredients that wrap a ton of extra calories into your roll. A shrimp tempura roll tips the scales at nearly 500 calories. In addition, be on the lookout for creamy, mayo-based sauces that are also high in calories and fat.


Think there’s no need to check menus at your favorite breakfast joint? Think again! A stack of 3 plain buttermilk pancakes at IHOP contains 430 calories, 17 grams of fat and a shocking 1390 milligrams of sodium... and that’s before you slather on the butter and syrup.


Many menus are becoming more friendly to people with dietary restrictions, offering gluten-free breads, pastas and baked goods. Don’t be fooled in to thinking these gluten-free or celiac-friendly versions are automatically better for you, they can be just high (or higher) in calories than their gluten-filled counterparts.

Side Salad

Ordering a side of fresh veggies can help curb hunger before a meal, but drenching those greens in tablespoons of high calorie dressings and nutrient-void croutons does not make for a healthy side dish. Instead, toss your veg with lemon juice and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to avoid added calories and sodium.

Small Plates

Tapas restaurants and others focused on small plates serve up a wide variety of dishes. But the variety they offer may hinder our sense of portion control, espeically since many apps and tapas are deep-fried. Try not to consume a meals worth of calories before the main course is served.


Many health-conscious folks choose a wrap over a sandwich thinking it will cut back on carbs and calories. Little do they know their favorite fillings are being tucked into a tortilla that’s the size of an 18-wheeler hub cap. Large flour tortillas can contain the same number of calories as 4 slices of bread, so opt for a small whole grain roll or open-faced sammie instead.

Skinny Cocktails

Mixologists are shaking up signature cocktails featuring fresh squeezed juices and other low-calorie mixers. But these blends of juice and alcohol can still pour on the calories. Most alcohols contain 100 calories per serving all by themselves, so opt for calorie-free mixers like sparkling water or seltzer instead.

Endless Salad and Breadsticks

Chain restaurants like Olive Garden have managed to monetize flat-rate orders of endless servings of soup, salad and bread. One round of this trifecta contains 520 calories, making additional servings more than what most people should be having for lunch, plus more than a day's worth of sodium.