From a pie with 1,372 calories per slice at Red Robin to a brownie sundae at Outback Steakhouse that contains 108 grams of fat, desserts at chain restaurants might be delicious, but they oftentimes contain far more fat and calories than you might realize.
By this point, we all know which foods aren't good for us: fried foods, excessive carbohydrates, fatty meats, sodium-heavy foods, sugar-laden desserts. Yet most of our national casual dining chains specialize in exactly those things, often all in one meal. These are the restaurants we go to in droves. Once we indulge in the huge portions, often totaling between 1,000 and 2,000 calories — a goodly portion of the Food and Drug Administration's recommendation of a daily intake of 2,000 calories and 65 grams of fat— we then pile on the desserts, which are often equal or greater than the meal in calories and fat. Just to show you exactly how unhealthy these desserts are, we’ve rounded up the unhealthiest desserts from 12 leading national chains.
Interestingly enough, when we look at the nutritional values (or lack thereof) of the menu items of these restaurants, they often skirt true calorie and fat counts by listing sauces and dressings separately. They also, if one reads the fine print, sometimes try to claim that a dessert that appears to be an individual portion is actually two servings (or more). Granted, if you're at a chain restaurant, you're probably not there to indulge your health food kick. The upside of casual dining at a chain restaurant, for many, is familiarity. Whether you're in Dubuque or Albuquerque, you get what you expect, and you expect what you get. For that comfort factor, we are often willing to overlook the dubious menu choices, and hey, enjoy indulging in them every so often. Mountain High Mudd Pie with an Oreo cookie crust, fudge, and caramel? Sure. And really, a Great Wall of Chocolate, with six layers of cake and berries? Sometimes it's just bound to happen.
We can’t overlook the fact that some of these eateries have introduced healthier meal options, such as gluten-free and vegetarian entrées. But all that healthy eating is quickly undone if you top it off with a dessert that is equal to nearly all of your recommended daily caloric intake, without any nutritional benefits. The above-mentioned desserts are 1,372 calories and 1,540 calories, respectively. So when we go for the sweets, it's ideal not to go overboard by choosing an excessively unhealthy dessert on top of an unhealthy, over-proportioned meal (and if you choose it anyway, please share to avoid temptation to eat the whole thing).
We’ve looked at the menus of 12 leading casual dining chains and tracked down the most gut-busting desserts on their menus, plus a runner-up, and ranked them according to calorie count. We also included fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and sugar, when available. Eaters beware!