14 Menu Items You Should Never Order At Cracker Barrel

Since the first Cracker Barrel Old Country Store opened on September 19, 1969, in Lebanon, Tennessee, it has become a beloved national restaurant. As of early 2023, there are 665 U.S. locations in 45 states, per ScrapeHero, and Cracker Barrel estimates it serves 230 million guests every year. In a 2022 report, Nation's Restaurant News and Dataessential ranked Cracker Barrel as the #30 chain restaurant in the U.S., ahead of popular brands such as Five Guys, Outback Steakhouse, Jimmy John's, and Golden Corral.

Cracker Barrel is known for Southern homestyle cooking and hospitality. Nevertheless, like every eatery, some menu items are better than others. And in recent years, the health risks associated with eating out have become more well-known. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found a significant link between eating out frequently and early mortality. Insider adds that dining out leaves a person more prone to overeating and increases the likelihood of weight gain, heart disease, stroke, and other problems.

With that in mind, we've put together 14 menu items to avoid at Cracker Barrel the next time you visit. By making healthier choices when you eat out, you can enjoy a treat with less worry.

1. Grandpa's Country Fried Breakfast

Obviously, we don't know your grandpa personally. Still, if he served this breakfast to you — or you served it to him — we'd have some concerns. On the surface, this combination of two eggs, a choice of chicken-fried chicken or country-fried steak, and biscuits and gravy sounds pretty tasty. But per Cracker Barrel's Nutritional Facts N' Figures, that trio totals up to 1,320 calories. You're also looking at up to 72 grams of fat and 510 milligrams of cholesterol — the latter being almost two days' worth, per FDA recommendations. And that's before adding the breakfast side it comes with.

There are multiple factors. As detailed by MasterClass, both chicken-fried and country-fried cuisine include breading, gravy, and sometimes eggs, all of which pile on calories. Fried foods also are overrun with saturated fats that raise heart disease risk (via GoodRx Health). As for the biscuits and gravy, the USDA indicates the ingredients typically include margarine, pork sausage, whole milk, and flour.

2. Country Boy Breakfast

This trademarked Cracker Barrel feast includes three eggs; biscuits and gravy; and a choice of sirloin steak, sugar-cured ham, or country ham. Depending on the meat you choose, you're looking at anywhere from 1,120 to 1,310 calories. And have we mentioned the two breakfast sides on top of what we just listed? Options such as hashbrown casserole, fried apples, and grits add 150 to 190 calories each.

Ironically, the sirloin steak appears to be the healthiest choice, coming in at 350 calories by itself. Conversely, the 8-ounce country ham portion carries 540 calories, 26 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 3,360 milligrams of sodium, and 66 grams of protein. The latter two numbers are more than a day's worth of the FDA-recommended amounts. According to a study in CHIMIA, as a cured meat, ham also has higher levels of harmful carcinogens and nitrites — and the carcinogens rise even more when the ham is reheated. Either way, this breakfast is a menu item to avoid unless you plan to feed at least two country boys or gals.

3. Stuffed Cheesecake Pancake Breakfast

We hate to keep picking on the breakfast menu, but the stuffed cheesecake pancakes have our attention for all the wrong reasons. This meal comes with two of the aforementioned pancakes, two eggs, and a choice of smoked sausage or bacon. It doesn't sound like much, but the official Nutritional Facts N' Figures say you're staring at a plate filled with 1,460 to 1,490 calories.

It's easy to blame the sausage or bacon for this number, as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reminds us that processed meats in general are considered generally unhealthy. However, it appears the main factor is the pancakes. Per the company's nutritional info, the two stuffed cheesecake pancakes alone have 1,100 calories.

Where does it all come from? Part of it is the cheesecake filling — Nutrition Value says a 1-cup cheesecake portion has 581 calories. And part of it is the avalanche of toppings that include strawberry syrup and powdered sugar. This gives your breakfast 73 grams of sugar, or about 1.5 days' worth, according to the FDA. Even if you ignore the high fat and sodium levels, a study in the European Journal of Nutrition has linked excessive sugar to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

4. Sunday Homestyle Chicken

In 2019, Cracker Barrel announced it would offer Sunday Homestyle Chicken every day instead of just Sundays (via PR Newswire). But if you're trying to watch your health, that means more days to avoid this menu item.

To be fair, the description sounds delicious — it's two deep-fried chicken breasts with a buttermilk batter and breading. But as an analysis in the journal Heart shows, even one additional serving of fried food a week raises your chances of a stroke or major heart disease. In the case of the Sunday Homestyle Chicken, one portion has 1,060 calories, 58 grams of fat, and 2,740 milligrams of sodium (via Cracker Barrel's Nutritional Facts N' Figures). Plus it comes with two country sides and either biscuits or corn muffins.

But homestyle chicken isn't just a standalone item at Cracker Barrel — it's everywhere. There's the Homestyle Chicken n' French Toast, which has 1,500 calories and 96 grams of fat. You also have the Homestyle Chicken BLT sandwich with 1,180 calories, a day-plus of sodium per the FDA guidelines, and a side. There's even a Homestyle Chicken Salad. As for us, we're still trying to wrap our heads around how a chicken BLT can have 29 grams of sugar.

5. Southern Fried Chicken

It's not a shock that a restaurant of Southern origin would have multiple forms of fried chicken — the BBC writes that it's been a Southern staple since the 17th century. But the Southern Fried Chicken at Cracker Barrel makes the Sunday Homestyle Chicken look like a health-conscious choice in comparison. The four pieces of chicken with honey are packing 1,640 total calories, 100 grams of fat, 4,730 milligrams of sodium, and 108 grams of protein, per the company's nutritional info. A glance at the FDA daily values shows that to be two days' worth of sodium and protein and more than a day of fat.

Many people are aware eating fried chicken has some downsides — but they may not realize just how much. In a 2019 study published in The BMJ, researchers associated regularly eating fried chicken or fish with up to a 13% higher risk of death. Furthermore, when you add the two sides and either biscuits or corn muffins, you could be devouring a full day's worth of calories in one sitting. Healthline points out that overeating like this has many ill effects, including added body fat, problems with hunger regulation, nausea, and bloating. In other words, this Southern favorite is rich in more than just love.

6. Pecan Pancakes

A plate of pecan pancakes certainly sounds tasty — it blends sweet and salty, a combo that a study written up in PNAS found activates more taste receptors when eaten together. (In other words, it's really good.) But Cracker Barrel's Pecan Pancakes are brimming with more than just flavor. The Nutritional Facts N' Figures say a plate of three pancakes with butter have 1,130 calories. Based on FDA recommendations, pecan pancakes also contain roughly a day's worth of fat and salt. The blueberry syrup adds another 200 calories and 39 grams of sugar.

How do three pancakes end up so calorie-dense? After all, WebMD notes buttermilk is considered a healthy liquid, and Verywell Fit adds that pecans are a good source of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Well, the regular buttermilk pancakes at Cracker Barrel aren't exactly a low-calorie food, with 740 calories in three pancakes and syrup. Then you're adding a very calorie-dense nut to the equation — just 1 ounce of pecans has 196 calories. So if you're craving pancakes, go with an option like regular or blueberry pancakes — they aren't perfect, but they won't leave you feeling stuffed.

7. Loaded Baked Potato or Sweet Potato

It's not just the entrées you have to watch out for a Cracker Barrel — the sides can be a deceptive calorie source. The Loaded Baked Potato from the Premium Sides menu is covered with toppings that include cheese, bacon, sour cream, and whipped butter, adding up to 520 calories. CalorieKing estimates it would take 145 minutes of walking or 60 minutes of jogging for the average person to burn that off. A Loaded Baked Sweet Potato has even more calories, clocking in at 620 total thanks to toppings such as brown sugar cinnamon butter, candied pecans, and marshmallows.

As for which is the "winner," it may be a toss-up. Insider says that sweet potatoes are healthier overall in part because they have more Vitamin A and Vitamin C. And per the Nutritional Facts N' Figures, despite 100 fewer calories than the sweet potato version, the regular baked potato has far more fat, saturated fat, and sodium. But the baked sweet potato isn't entirely healthy, either — it has less than half the protein and a whopping 40 grams of sugar. Who would have thought the 340-calorie steak fries would be the lower-calorie alternative to a baked potato?

8. French Toast

The debate between pancakes and French toast has raged for years. But if French toast wins, at Cracker Barrel, you might call this a hollow victory. A full order of eight halves with butter racks up 990 calories by itself. Delving a little deeper, the Nutritional Facts N' Figures list 55 grams of fat, 18 grams of saturated fat, 34 grams of sugar, and 370 milligrams of cholesterol.

But wait, there's more — you also get your choice of sweet topping, with eight options that can run up to 390 calories. If you add the Cinnamon Spiced Apple or Country Peach toppings, the combined totals come to more than a day's worth of saturated fat, sugar, and cholesterol, based on the FDA values.

How is it that an order of French toast has 34% more calories than an order of regular pancakes? Prevention says a big reason is that French toast is usually soaked in an egg and dairy mixture, which adds a lot of fat and sugar. The silver lining is that this also increases the protein and fiber content — and French toast also has much less sodium. Even so, that calorie count is hard for us to get past.

9. Peach Tea and Lemonade

If you need a refreshing beverage to wash down your meal and are looking for an alternative to soda, tea or lemonade is a tempting choice. But some of the drinks on the Cracker Barrel menu aren't exactly calorie-conscious. The Peach Tea, which is a peach fruit puree mixed with the chain's regular tea, comes in at 240 calories — and the Nutrition Facts N' Figures say it has 51 grams of sugar. That's about as much as the FDA says you should limit yourself to during an entire day. The Old-Fashioned Lemonade is even more calorie heavy, with a whopping 490 per glass.

Moreover, there isn't much going to offset the avalanche of sugar. WebMD says that although home-brewed peach tea has good health benefits, commercial peach tea is pretty much worthless. Tea can have caffeine, too, so those who are sensitive to caffeine could be in trouble. Though Cracker Barrel caffeine figures aren't available, Snapple Peach Tea has 37 milligrams per bottle. As for lemonade, Livestrong says regular consumption may cause tooth decay, mouth irritation, weight gain, and heartburn. If you're watching your caloric intake, Sweet Iced Tea (130 calories) or Southern Half n' Half (200 calories) are both safer bets.

10. Cracker Barrel Samplers

Can't decide what you want at Cracker Barrel? Several sampler plates are available that offer multiple entrées, but they'll add up, based on the nutrition info. The Classics Sampler, for example, lets you get Sunday Homestyle Chicken, meatloaf, and Chicken n' Dumplins all at once. That's 1,390 calories plus two sides and biscuits/corn muffins on top of that. As for Grandma's Sampler at breakfast time, you're likely looking at more than 1,000 calories when you add a breakfast side to the two pancakes, two eggs, and partial portions of three separate cured meats.

Exactly what happens when you eat that much food at once? The University of Texas MD Anderson Center explains that, among other things, overeating forces your stomach to expand so it can fit everything — in doing so, it puts pressure on other organs, causing sluggishness, tiredness, pain, and other discomforts. You might also get heartburn, sweatiness, and problems sleeping. Keep eating a lot at once and you could mess up your body's entire digestive process. If none of that sounds appealing to you, we suggest either sticking to one entrée or bringing some of your sampler home for later.

11. Country Fried Pickles

An appetizer is supposed to get you ready for the meal, not ruin your appetite. But ordering Cracker Barrel's Country Fried Pickles could leave you feeling full before the main course arrives. Between the pickles and the buttermilk ranch for dipping, the Nutritional Facts N' Figures are officially 1,070 calories, 76 grams of fat, and 3,860 milligrams of sodium. That's essentially a full day of fat for the average adult, according to the FDA, and about five meals' worth of salt.

The irony is that pickles are generally a healthy choice. Pickles are made from cucumbers, so although the salt content is a little high, they're low in calories and a good source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin K (via Cleveland Clinic). Unfortunately, deep-frying sends the fat and carbs soaring. Livestrong points out that while an ordinary pickle spear contains five calories, the deep-fried version has 174 — a 3,380% jump. They also acquire the same dangers as other commercially fried foods, which include a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer (via Healthline). The only reason to get this appetizer is if you plan to split it with friends.

12. Momma's Pancake or French Toast Breakfast

We know your momma loves you, but even she might not feed you this much food. This two-fer gives you a choice of Momma's Pancake Breakfast with three buttermilk pancakes or Momma's French Toast Breakfast with eight French toast halves. Both are topped with butter and served with two eggs, a choice of two sausage patties or three strips of bacon, and your choice of syrup or sweet topping.

All that sounds amazing if you don't think too much about it. But there's a good reason these meals leave you feeling full. Per the Nutritional Facts N' Figures, the lowest-calorie option in this smorgasbord is 1,100 calories — and that's if you're getting sugar-free syrup. In the highest-calorie scenario, you're looking at 1,760 calories plus a day or more of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar if you're following FDA advice.

We haven't even discussed yet that you're getting a sizeable dose of processed meat, which the World Health Organization has classified as a carcinogen and a study in the journal Circulation has connected to diabetes and coronary heart disease.

13. Chocolate Milk

You might look back fondly on drinking chocolate milk as a kid, so please know we're not telling you to avoid this menu item at Cracker Barrel because you're an adult — we are because it's almost like drinking a meal. A single 16-ounce glass of the chain's chocolate milk has an astonishing 460 calories. Cracker Barrel also says it boasts 57 grams of sugar — more than the FDA guideline for a whole day — plus 17 grams of fat and 11 grams of saturated fat.

Granted, because it's made using milk, it also has the positives milk is known for. Nourish by WebMD mentions that chocolate milk is a fine source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients. A study published in the Human Kinetics Journal also found that chocolate milk helps athletes recover after workouts as well as a sports drink. But unless you exercised for an hour or two before going to Cracker Barrel, we're guessing it's not going to have the same effect. Consider going with regular whole milk (300 calories), reduced-fat milk (260 calories), or skim milk (180 calories) if you want the advantages of milk without all the extra stuff.

14. Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake

Even if you make health-conscious choices with your meal and appetizer, this dessert will lay those choices to waste. The Double Fudge Coca-Cola Cake also comes with a scoop of ice cream — and while cake and ice cream are a natural pairing, the Nutritional Facts N' Figures put this particular tandem at 790 calories. That's more than some of the entrées. Those calories primarily come from 33 grams of fat and 96 grams of sugar, which the FDA says is almost twice as much sugar as you should eat on any given day.

The Baton Rouge Clinic notes that consuming so much sugar in one sitting might send your blood sugar levels haywire. It also makes you more susceptible to conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol. Finally, Cracker Barrel touts that the dessert is made with real Coca-Cola, which has 34 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can. It's not clear how much Coca-Cola is in each cake slice, but an unintended pick-me-up is certainly on the table. A Mini Strawberry Cheesecake (290 calories), Peach Cobbler (490 calories), or even the shareable Biscuit Beignets (690 calories) will satisfy your sweet tooth without the same calorie-fest.