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Be wary of hot-button words on food labels. “Reduced-fat” products usually have less fat and “all-natural” foods often do come from ingredients actually found in nature. But not all health-related words on food packaging are defined by the Food and Drug Administration, leaving certain gray areas for manufacturers to exploit. So while those phrases, and others like them, would seem to indicate that the products inside the packages are somehow “healthy,” the reality is often something very different. As likely as not, “reduced fat” means “increased sugar.” As for products that are “all natural”? Well, so are hurricanes and tidal waves.

The kicker: The most deceptive word of all might be “healthy.” Because there is no way to really define it, the FDA has no way to regulate it. What’s more, just about anything out there can be healthy—or unhealthy—in the right amounts. In this slideshow, we dig deep, below the surface labels, and expose the real truth behind some of the food industry’s most specious health claims. Just click the “Next” button to see the first offender.

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30. Worst Canned Fruit

Dole Tropical Mixed Fruit in Passion Fruit Nectar (1/2 cup)

90 calories
0 g fat
20 g sugars

If there’s one thing we love about fruit, it’s that nature prepackages it with the perfect amount of sugar. That’s why fruit packed in syrup bothers us so much. Apparently the folks who can these fruits don’t trust nature’s recipe, so they augment it with a gob of extra sugar, which downgrades nature’s wonder food into canned candy. Stick with nature’s recipe instead and buy only fruits packed in 100 percent juice.

Eat This Instead!

Del Monte 100% Juice Tropical Fruit Salad (1/2 cup)
60 calories
0 g fat
14 g sugars


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29. Worst “Healthy” Snack

Pop-Secret Kettle Corn (4 cups popped)

180 calories
13 g fat (3 g saturated, 6 g trans)
150 mg sodium

The only “secret” here is that the popcorn purveyor uses partially hydrogenated oil to pop their kernels, turning a reasonable snack into a nutritional nightmare of heart-wrenching proportions. This box has 3 bags of popcorn, which means every time you buy it, you’re bringing 54 grams of dangerous trans fat into your house. There’s not an easier—or more important—swap to make.

Eat This Instead!

Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop! Kettle Korn
130 calories
2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated)
370 mg sodium

28. Worst Herbal Beverage

Arizona RX Energy Herbal Tonic (20-ounce can)

300 calories
0 g fat
73 g sugars

The most egregious part of this beverage is the inference that this is somehow healthy for you. The name is at least half-true: by the time you finish with RX, you may need a prescription for insulin just to regulate your blood sugar. Any of tea’s proven health benefits are drowned out by the sea of sugar awaiting inside this can. Save more than 250 calories by switching to Honest Tea.

Drink This Instead!

Honest Tea Community Green Tea
34 calories
0 g fat
10 g sugar

27. Worst Cold Cut Sandwich

Subway Cold Cut Combo (6″, on 9-grain wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pickles, olives, and mayo)

530 calories
29 g fat (8 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
1,670 mg sodium

Just because the bologna, ham, and salami used to make this sandwich are all made with turkey doesn’t mean they’re lean. They pack more calories and sodium than pork ham. Want a better sandwich with a variety of meats? Look no further. For just 290 calories, you get 19 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and a heap of crisp, fresh produce that lends the Turkey Breast and Black Forest Ham sandwich some real substance.

Eat This Instead!

Turkey Breast & Black Forest Ham Sandwich (6″, on 9-grain wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pickles, olives, and mustard)
305 calories
4.5 g fat (1 g saturated)
1,395 mg sodium


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26. Worst “Ideal” Meal

Jamba Juice Ideal Meal Chunky Strawberry

590 calories
18 g fat (3 g saturated)
55 g sugars

These two items take similar approaches to breakfast with very different results. Replacing an oatmeal base with sugars and granola is never a good swap. Jamba has been making a big push into the food space, and the oatmeal represents one of the best new additions to their menu.

Eat This Instead!

Fresh Banana Oatmeal (oatmeal, bananas, brown sugar crumble)
370 calories
5 g fat (1 g saturated)
41 g sugars

25. Worst Caesar Wrap

Blimpie Chicken Caesar Wrap

607 calories
29 g fat (9 g saturated)
1,586 mg sodium

But wait, wraps are supposed to be healthier than regular sandwiches, right? Wrong. Replacing regular bread with a manhole-size tortilla does not a healthy lunch make. With few exceptions, you’re better off with bread. Treat yourself to a Hot Pastrami Sandwich instead.

Eat This Instead!

Hot Pastrami (6”)
435 calories
16 g fat (7 g saturated)
1,354 mg sodium

24. Worst Fish Sandwich

Burger King Big Fish Sandwich

630 calories
32 g fat (5 g saturated)
1,540 mg sodium

The Big Fish is a whale of a sandwich. Seriously, when BK first released the sandwich, it was under the unfortunate name of the Whaler. Even though the marketing team has corrected the flaws in its original moniker, it still outpaces every other fish sandwich around by a few hundred calories. Part of that is due to its substantial size, the rest due to the thick application of calorie-dense tartar sauce. If you have a soft spot for fried fish sandwiches, you can’t do much better than the Filet-O-Fish, so pull across the street to the Golden Arches if you really need a fix and save a quick 260 calories. If not, switch to chicken and stick with the King.

Eat This Instead!

Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich without Mayo
380 calories
9 g fat (2 g saturated)
1,130 mg sodium

23. Worst “Healthy” Breakfast

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Muffin

650 calories
29 g fat (5 g saturated)
520 mg sodium
91 g carbohydrates

Despite the healthy-sounding names—banana-walnut, blueberry, cran-orange—muffins are little more than glorified cake. Case in point: This one has more sugar than 3 ice cream sandwiches. But with nearly half the calories and total fat and more than double the protein, the bacon-laced breakfast sandwich emerges as the surprising—and resounding—victor.

Eat This Instead!

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on an English Muffin
360 calories
16 g fat (6 g saturated)
920 mg sodium
35 g carbohydrates

22. Worst “Healthy” Chinese Meal

Panda Express Beijing Beef

660 calories
41 g fat (7 g saturated)
860 mg sodium

Just goes to show you how important it is to travel wisely. These meals might look and sound the same, but book a trip to Beijing instead of Mongolia and you’ll have to burn up an extra 460 calories and 32 grams of fat. The Mongolian Beef is exactly what you want for lunch. This bowl mixes lean strips of beef with a colorful array of A-list vegetables.

Eat This Instead!

Mongolian Beef
200 calories
9 g fat (2 g saturated)
830 mg sodium

21. Worst “Market Fresh” Sandwich

Arby’s Market Fresh Roast Turkey and Swiss

710 calories
30 g fat (8 g saturated, 1 g trans)
1,680 mg sodium

Don’t be fooled by vague, healthy-sounding monikers like “market fresh.” More often than not, words like “fresh” and “all natural” are marketing smoke screens. Surprisingly enough, Arby’s line of roast beef products tends to be among the safest bets on the menu. While beef may get a bad rap from fat-phobic consumers, most deli cuts of roast beef are nearly as lean as turkey or chicken.

Eat This Instead!

Arby’s Melt
298 calories
12 g fat (4 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
922 mg sodium


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20. Worst “Healthy” Frozen Dinner

Bertolli Grilled Chicken Alfredo & Fettuccine Skillet Meal for Two (1/2 package)

710 calories
42 g fat (22 g saturated)
1,370 mg sodium

Bertolli makes some of the worst (and a few of the best) meals in the freezer case. This one, which gets 28 percent of its calories from saturated fat, falls decidedly into the worst category. There are plenty of healthy stir-fry options in the freezer. Grab just about anything but this.

Eat This Instead!

Birds Eye Steamfresh Meals for Two Grilled Chicken in Roasted Garlic Sauce (1/2 packaged)
340 calories
13 g fat (5 g saturated)
880 mg sodium

19. Worst Veggie Pizza

Papa John’s Pan Crust Garden Fresh Pizza

740 calories
38 g fat (12 g saturated)
1,320 mg sodium
78 g carbohydrates

Gardens aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. Just because it’s topped with veggies doesn’t make it healthy. The real problem here isn’t the toppings, though; it’s the excessively thick, greasy pan crust that sinks this veggie-strewn ship. Two slices of this garden-fresh pie will set you back the caloric equivalent of more than 8 Rice Krispies Treats. When it comes to having your pizza and eating it too, the first and most important consideration is crust. Thick, deep dish, or pan crust slices will generally pack 40% more calories than regular slices, thin crust 40% less.

Eat This Instead!

Thin Crust Garden Fresh Pizza (2 slices)
420 calories
22 g fat (5 g saturated)
940 mg sodium
46 g carbohydrates

18. Worst “Healthy” Soup

P.F. Chang’s Chicken Noodle Soup

759 calories
24 g fat (4 g saturated)
4,135 mg sodium
92 g carbohydrates

It’s the best part about getting sick: the promise of chicken noodle soup to come. Studies have shown it works, too, but no study could have planned on the torrent of sodium that swirls among Chang’s noodles. Experts recommend capping your daily sodium intake at 2,400 milligrams. Any more than that can put you at an increased risk for heart disease, not to mention swell you up with retained water. Unfortunately, all Chang’s soups suffer a similar fat. Your only choice is to swap out your bowl for a smaller cup.

Eat This Instead!

Egg Drop Soup (cup)
61 calories
2 g fat
1,122 mg sodium


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17. Worst Salad Sandwich

Boston Market Chicken Salad Sandwich

800 calories
41 g fat (7 g saturated, 5 g trans)
1,900 mg sodium

Chicken and tuna salad sandwiches might not be the models of health some purport them to be, but even we were surprised to see how bad this Boston Market sandwich really is. Where do they possibly find the room to cram 2½ days’ worth of trans fat into chicken, mayonnaise, lettuce, and bread? The answer lies somewhere in the murky ingredient list, which, as with too many of their dishes, runs at more than 40 items long. Boston Market has a swath of solid entrees—from rotisserie chicken to slices of sirloin—and healthy sides on their menu. Get a sandwich stacked with lean white meat, minus the trans fat, with Boston Market’s line of open-faced sandwiches.

Eat This Instead!

Rotisserie Turkey Open-Faced Sandwich
330 calories
6 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
1,480 mg sodium

16. Worst Vegetable Pasta

Bob Evans Garden Vegetable Alfredo

809 calories
48 g fat (20 g saturated, 3 g trans)
1,860 mg sodium

Vegetable-based pasta dishes are rarely as healthy as they seem. That’s because cooks take the lack of meat as an open invitation to load on the cream and butter. Choose steak tips instead—they may not sound as virtuous, but they’re a better bet for sure. Low in carbs, high in quality protein and fiber, this is about as well balanced a meal as you’ll find at Bob’s—or any sit-down restaurant, for that matter. Now if only Bob could take it easier on the salt…

Eat This Instead!

Steak Tips with Glazed Carrots and Green Beans
388 calories
20 g fat (6 g saturated)
1,428 mg sodium


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15. Worst Turkey Burger Meal

Ruby Tuesday Turkey Minis and Fries

873 calories
46 g fat
88 g carbohydrates

In a perfect world, ground turkey is leaner than ground beef and turkey burger is a decent thing to eat. But Ruby Tuesday finds a way to confound all expectations, considering that these mini burgers still have more calories than a Wendy’s formidable Baconator. The best solution? Avoid Ruby’s burgers entirely.

Eat This Instead!

Chop Steak & Mashed Potatoes
403 calories
30 g fat
15 g carbohydrates

14. Worst “Healthy” Italian Meal

Olive Garden Grilled Shrimp Caprese

900 calories
41 g fat (17 g saturated)
3,490 mg sodium

Grilled shrimp on its own makes for one of the healthiest sources of protein on the planet, but when corrupted by the imaginations of the corporate cooks at Olive Garden, the result is considerably bleaker. The melted mozzarella and the garlic butter sauce are to blame for the high sodium numbers (there’s as much salt in this dish as in 20 individual canisters of Pringles Originals). Stick with the sea, but choose grilled salmon, instead of a platter that’s soaked in salty sauce.

Eat This Instead!

Herb-Grilled Salmon
510 calories
26 g fat (6 g saturated)
760 mg sodium

13. Worst Cobb Salad

Quizno’s Classic Cobb Flatbread Salad

910 calories
58 g fat (12.5 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
1,890 mg sodium
61 g carbohydrates

Cobb salads are popular because they’re so tasty. And it’s no wonder—they’re packed with bacon, egg, and tomatoes. Together they bring protein and other important nutrients to the table, but in the case of Quiznos’ Cobb, they team up with the pile of flatbread to bring a reckless flood of calories. When 4 Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts have fewer calories than a pile of greens, you know something is wrong. All entrée-size salads from Quiznos are problematic, so stick with the smaller serving or pick up a few Sammies instead.

Eat This Instead!

Side Salad with Raspberry Chipotle Dressing
225 calories
6 g fat (1 g saturated)
515 mg sodium
43 g carbohydrates

12. Worst “Healthy” Sandwich

Atlanta Bread Company California Avocado Sandwich

930 calories
50 g fat (11 g saturated)
25 g protein
1,120 mg sodium

Avocado is supposed to bring a bit of healthy fat to your sandwich, not an unsavory deluge of calories. Try the Turkey on Nine Grain, instead. The only turkey sandwich we’ve seen with fewer calories and fat grams is from Subway.

Eat This Instead!

Turkey on Nine Grain Sandwich
370 calories
6 g fat (2 g saturated)
29 g protein
1,240 mg sodium

11. Worst Asian Salad

P.F. Chang’s Chicken Chopped Salad with Ginger Dressing

940 calories
68 g fat (10 g saturated)
2,225 mg sodium

The ginger dressing gives this salad a tangy Asian-style kick; it also packs in a whole day’s worth of sodium. Order this salad as a starter and you’ll be consuming the caloric equivalent of 3½ Snickers bars before your main meal even hits the table.

Eat This Instead!

Spinach Stir-Fried with Garlic (large)
136 calories
6 g fat (1 g saturated)
895 mg sodium

10. Worst Seafood Meal

Red Lobster Maui Lau Shrimp and Salmon with Rice Pilaf and Broccoli

1,015 calories
19.5 g fat (4 g saturated)
3,000 mg sodium

The shrimp and salmon by themselves have 790 calories and more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium—hardly the type of healthy eating you expect from 2 of the finest sources of protein out there. The healthiest (and, for our dollar, most delicious) route to go at Red Lobster is to order off the rotating Fresh Fish Menu. Just choose your fish (cobia and arctic char are the only losers) and the style of preparation.

Eat This Instead!

Blackened Mahi Mahi with mashed potatoes and asparagus
685 calories
14.5 g fat (5.5 g saturated)
1,570 mg sodium

9. Worst Rollup

Applebee’s Chicken Fajita Rollup

1,050 calories

The name conjures up the same healthy images that “wrap” does, yet this one tortilla-swaddled chicken dish contains as many calories as 7 Taco Bell Fresco Beef Tacos. And that’s before the fries. Switch to the Italian Chicken Portobello Sandwich: Not only one of the best dishes at Applebee’s, this is one of the finest entrées in the country. Lean protein, fresh vegetables, and a side of fresh fruit, to boot.

Eat This Instead!

Italian Chicken Portobello Sandwich
360 calories

8. Worst Seafood Salad

Romano’s Macaroni Grill Seared Sea Scallops Salad

1,170 calories
94 g fat (27 g saturated)
2,680 mg sodium

Macaroni Grill manages to take two normally healthy foods—salad and seafood—and turn them into the caloric equivalent of 26 Chicken McNuggets. Not to mention more than 1 day’s worth of sodium, fat, and saturated fat. The Caprese offers a delicious reprieve from the Mac Grill mayhem.

Eat This Instead!

Mozzarella Alla Caprese (3)
250 calories
21 g fat (7 g saturated)
410 mg sodium

7. Worst Veggie Sandwich

Blimpie Special Vegetarian (12″)

1,186 calories
60 g fat (19 g saturated)
3,532 mg sodium
131 g carbohydrates

“Vegetarian” doesn’t automatically translate to “healthy.” Sure, this sandwich has vegetables, but it also has 3 different kinds of cheese and a deluge of oil tucked into a hulking 12″ roll. No wonder it contains more than half a day’s worth of calories and a cascade of carbs. For a truly healthy pile of vegetables, try the garden salad. If a sandwich is the only thing that will do, you’ll have to settle for the small VeggieMax, still far from a model of meatless eating.

Eat This Instead!

VeggieMax on Wheat (6″)
499 calories
21 g fat (6 g saturated)
1,212 mg sodium
50 g carbohydrates

6. Worst Sliders

Ruby Tuesday Bacon Cheddar Minis (4 burgers)

1,358 calories
86 g fat
75 g carbohydrates

Diminutive dishes are one of the hottest trends in the restaurant world right now (probably since most are looking for ways to stretch a buck), and you’d think that would serve health-conscious eaters well. But not under the reckless watch of the burger barons at Ruby Tuesday, who manage to turn 4 “mini” burgers into the caloric equivalent of 7 Dunkin’ Donuts Sugar Donuts.

Eat This Instead!

Turkey Minis (2)
529 calories
29 g fat
40 g carbohydrates

5. Worst Chicken Salad

T.G.I. Friday’s Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad

1,360 calories

Health-imposter salads like this one are part of a nutritional scourge on the loose in this country’s chain restaurants. Turns out Friday’s monster salads aren’t much better than their burgers. Six out of the 7 we analyzed topped out with more than 900 calories, which means that lunchtime can be the start of something big—namely, your belly.

Eat This Instead!

Cobb Salad
590 calories

4. Worst Mexican Salad

Chevy’s Fresh Mex Tostada Salad with Chicken

1,551 calories
94 g fat (37 g saturated)
2,480 mg sodium

Containing nearly a day’s worth of calories and as much fat as 19 Twinkies, this bowl of leaves qualifies as one of the worst salads in America. You’re better off ordering tacos—although you should know, they don’t count as healthy food, either. On a menu dominated by nutritional black holes, these tacos are the lesser of many evils. Drop the cheese and the chipotle aioli, and you’ll skim off another 130 calories and 13 grams of fat

Eat This Instead!

Grilled Chicken Tacos (no tamalito or rice)
779 calories
26 g fat (7 g saturated)
2,101 mg sodium

3. Worst Tuna Sandwich

Quiznos Tuna Melt (large)

1,760 calories
133 g fat  (25 g saturated, 1.5 g trans)
2,120 mg sodium

In almost all other forms, tuna is a nutritional superstar, so how did it end up as the headliner for America’s Worst Sandwich? Blame an absurdly heavy hand with the mayo the tuna is mixed with, along with Quiznos’ larger-than-life portion sizes. Even though they’ve managed to trim this melt down from the original 2,000-plus calorie mark when we first tested it, it still sits squarely at the bottom of the sandwich ladder.

Eat This Instead!

Sonoma Turkey Flatbread Sammie
280 calories
14 g fat (4 g saturated)
760 mg sodium

2. Worst Salad, Period

California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad

2,115 calories

This CPK Thai Crunch Salad is the worst we’ve ever seen, with more calories than you’d absorb from 4 Big Macs. Speaking of crunches, you’d need to do nearly 5,000 of them to work off this one plate of greens. You may feel virtuous ordering a salad over “heavy” pizza, but in this case you’re much better off ordering three whole slices of the Original BBQ Chicken—altogether, they’re about a quarter the calories as this one salad.

Eat This Instead!

Original BBQ Chicken Pizza (3 slices)
525 calories

1. Worst “Healthy” Food in America

Romano’s Macaroni Grill Parmesan Crusted Sole

2,190 calories
141 g fat (58 g saturated)
2,980 mg sodium
145 g carbohydrates

Lean sole served with capers and spinach-strewn orzo sounds like the safest bet on the Mac Grill menu, but it turns out to be not just one of the worst dishes in this restaurant, but one of the worst entrées we’ve found in any restaurant in America. From a nutritional standpoint, “Parmesan crusting” is akin to coating one of the healthiest proteins in the world with a blanket of fried cheese. Fish should make for healthy eating, but restaurants like Macaroni Grill are doing their best to challenge that age-old adage.

Eat This Instead!

Simple Salmon
590 calories
34 g fat (6 g saturated)
1,980 mg sodium


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