The Worst Sandwiches in America

These waistline-expanding stackers are the absolute worst concoctions you can find between two pieces of bread

By: David Zinczenko 

Is Your Lunch Making You Fat?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

In comic books, it’s easy to tell which masked marauder is the hero (Spiderman, Batman, Aquaman, most everyone else whose name ends in “man”) and which one’s the villain (Green Goblin, The Joker, The Riddler, and most everyone else who wears green). But sometimes, the hero is the villain. Like when you walk into a restaurant, and order one of the hero sandwiches we’ve listed below.

A sandwich is just about the easiest meal in the world to make: You take two pieces of bread, and put something delicious in the middle. Done. With a smart mix of high fiber carbs (like whole-wheat bread), lean protein (like roast beef or turkey), produce (lettuce, tomatoes, or whatever floats your boat), and healthy topping (mustard, relish, or even a modest schmear of mayo), a sandwich is a complete meal you can eat with one hand while dueling Two-Face with the other. Yet America’s chain restaurants seem determined to create a Bizzaro world, where everything good is bad, and a simple, nutritious hero becomes a duplicitous dietary demon.

Fortunately, the world is changing. When we began the Eat This, Not That! movement four years ago, nutritional information was almost impossible to come by. Today, thanks to the book series, most chains post their info for customers to see. Still, it helps to be forewarned and forearmed. Steer clear of the breaded beasts below, and you’ll be eating healthy faster than you can say “Mister Mxyzptlk!”

Bonus Tip: Liquid calories add up fast, and they’re the hardest to burn off! Make sure you’re not sabotaging your diet by drinking any of the caloric offenders that made this list: The 20 Worst Drinks in America.

Panera Full Italian Combo on Ciabatta

1,040 calories
45 g fat (17 g saturated, 1 g trans)
3,080 mg sodium
95 g carbohydrates

Panera is a classic example of a restaurant where it’s crucial to do your homework. Decently healthy options exist, but you’d better know what you’re looking for. Here's a shortcut: Stick to the “Café” category of the menu. If you swap the very reasonable Tuna Salad sandwich for the Italian Combo, you'll cut the calories nearly in half and the sodium by almost two-thirds.

Eat This Instead!
Full Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat
590 calories
28 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans)
1,160 mg sodium
67 g carbohydrates

Bonus Tip: I'm on a mission to find the very best places for you to eat, and the often surprising places where hidden calories lurk. Get instant weight-loss, health and fitness secrets every day signing up for the FREE Eat This, Not That! newsletter.

Blimpie BLT 12” Super Stacked

1,270 calories
82 g fat (18 g saturated fat)
2,870 mg sodium
84 g carbohydrates

BLT, indeed! Eat this and you'll be Bigger, Larger, and Tubbier. You’ll ingest more sodium in one sandwich than you should eat in an entire 24-hour period, not to mention a day's worth of saturated fat—the equivalent of 18 strips of bacon! Swap in the smaller BLT and drop the “Super,” and you’ve got a sandwich your belly will thank you for. There's another lesson here: Don't assume that if you double the size of a meal, you're doubling the nutritional qualities (or lack thereof). In this case, the 12-incher is overstuffed, so you're actually tripling the calorie, fat, and sodium counts! Yikes!

Eat This Instead!
BLT 6”
430 calories
22 g fat (5 g saturated)
960 mg sodium
43 g carbohydrates

Red Robin All-American Patty Melt

1,315 calories
98 g fat
2,064 mg sodium
60 g carbohydrates

Ominously enough, Red Robin doesn’t report saturated fat levels—and this is an extremely fatty concoction, with a full day and a half’s worth of total fat. The only thing American about this sandwich is, sadly, the reality of our nation’s obesity epidemic. Avoid this caloric calamity and try the Natural Burger instead: You’ll cut the calories, fat, and sodium by more than half.

Eat This Instead!
Natural Burger
569 calories
24 g fat
989 mg sodium
51 g carbohydrates

Bonus Tip: Want to hear a secret? You'll eat 35 percent less if you keep the serving dishes off your dinner table! Amazing, right? You'll discover more awesome tips just like this one in our must-have list of the 25 Best Nutrition Secrets!

Quizno’s Double Cheese Cheesesteak (Large)

1,450 calories
89 g fat (11 g saturated, 2 g trans)
2,890 mg sodium
93 g carbohydrates

Double Cheese? That’s your first clue that this nutritional nightmare is better fit for two people. Sneakily, Quiznos’s nutritional table lists the cheese and dressing for its sandwiches separately from the rest of the sandwich itself—despite the fact that, when you order, you’ll get all of it squished between the bread. Do the math, though, and this gut-busting cheesesteak will make you want to avoid Philadelphia entirely, with more than a day’s worth of sodium and fat and the caloric equivalent of more than seven Krispie Kreme glazed donuts. Switch to the Honey Bourbon Chicken for a third of the calories and a tenth of the fat. (Make an Eat This, Not That! smart swap like this one every other day to lose nearly a pound of belly fat a week!)

Eat This Instead!
Honey Bourbon Chicken (Regular)
520 calories
8 g fat (3 g saturated)
1,470 mg sodium
76 g carbohydrates

Applebee’s Stuffed Meatball Sandwich

1,490 calories
77 g fat (31 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat)
4,380 mg sodium
141 g carbohydrates

Meatballs can be a simple treat. Applebee’s doesn’t do simple: These meatballs are stuffed with provolone cheese before they're stuffed between the bun. If you think that’s crazy, consider the stats above. With more than a day and a half’s worth of both saturated fat and sodium, these meatball monstrosities should come with a defibrillator. Swap them for the Bacon Cheese Chicken Grill for less than half the calories, fat, sodium, and carbohydrates.

Eat This Instead!
Bacon Cheese Chicken Grill
740 calories
33 g fat (11 g saturated, 0 g trans)
1,830 mg sodium
50 g carbohydrates

Chili’s Jalepeno Smokehouse Burger with Ranch

1,780 calories
125 g fat (40 g saturated)
5,240 mg sodium
71 g carbohydrates

Chili’s burgers are like serial killers: Every one is evil in its own twisted way. This Ranch-drenched rascal will cost you almost two days’ worth of fat and sodium. In fact, this burger alone is the caloric equivalent of a dozen White Castle sliders! Finding a decent sandwich on the Chili’s menu is a needle/haystack affair, and it's hard to recommend a single Chili’s burger. Instead, go with the Grilled Chicken Sandwich for less than half the calories and a tenth of the fat.

Eat This Instead!
Grilled Chicken Sandwich w/ Veggies
610 calories
12 g fat (5 g saturated)
1,270 mg sodium
78 g carbohydrates


Cheesecake Factory Grilled Shrimp & Bacon Club
1,890 calories
24 g saturated fat
2,964 mg sodium
125 g carbohydrates

The last time we checked on the Grilled Shrimp & Bacon Club, it clocked in at 1,930 calories. So the good news—if you can call it that—is that Cheesecake Factor has figured out how to lop off 40 calories. It's a start. Unfortunately, this sandwich is still the caloric equivalent of seven McDonald’s hamburgers. The truth is, this entire list could easily consist of Cheesecake Factory sandwiches. To make matters worse, the chain repeats a mistake of Chili’s—neither reports trans fat levels. But here’s the crazy thing about the Cheesecake Factory: Despite the all-star lineup of the worst foods in America, it's also home to one of the best sit-down burgers in the country. Choose the Factory Burger and cut your calories and sodium by more than half!

(Better yet, whip up a delicious 350-calorie cheeseburger yourself, in minutes, with the new Cook This, Not That! Easy & Awesome 350-Calorie Meals book. You'll save time, cash AND calories!)

Eat This Instead!
Factory Burger
730 calories
15 g saturated fat
1,016 mg sodium
52 g carbohydrates

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