Oh America - a place where there are no limits on how far the human imagination can take you and the daily caloric intake presented by The American Heart Association, is merely a suggestion- nay! a challenge. Most other cultures around the world marvel at the concoctions that come out of the USA for their famously junky nature -some of which have existed for decades like spray cheese. While spray cheese hasn't made our list this time around, we have compiled a list of 25 dauntingly unhealthy foods that are in some parts of the country truly considered tradition.
All jokes aside, the reason that many of us find these foods more than a little shocking is that they are totally void of nutritional value and many even contain potentially harmful ingredients if consumed on a regular basis! And yet, it doesn't stop sales. Documentaries like Supersize Me, Fed up, and What the Health haven't stopped adult obesity rates from exceeding 35% in seven states, 30% in 29 states and 25% in 48 states in 2018 alone (stateofobesity.org). A serious epidemic, we wonder which one of (if any) of the below foods will ever become obsolete:
25 Because They Can't Legally Call It Cheese - Cheez Whiz
It's not a clever marketing ploy - it's actually because Cheez Whiz is not cheese. Invented in the early 1950s by a man named Dean Southworth, his original intent was to come up with an efficient alternative to the Welsh cheese sauce used to make rarebit which is a fancy type of cheese toast (National Post).
This sauce has been an instant success ever since despite its shocking nutritional stats that state two level tablespoons (one serving) equals a third of a daily recommended saturated fat AND sodium for American adults. A far cry from its inception in 1953, Cheez Whiz no longer contains any cheese at all. Despite this Americans now eat as much as 33 pounds or more of cheese and 'cheez' products a year which is triple the amount consumed in the early 1970s (National Post).
24 The 'Proceed with Caution' Cinnabon Caramel Pecanbomb
Harshly placed in areas of maximum ventilation (and temptation) Cinnabon is anything but diet food. Whether you're on the way to work or feeling your blood sugar levels drop as you pass the food court at the shopping mall, these little buns can lure you in with their doughy deliciousness.
A regular bun, of course, is already tipping the scale at 880 calories but the Caramel Pecanbon is the heavyweight champ at a whopping 1,080 calories, 51 grams of fat and 146 grams of carbs (healthline.com). If you are planning to drop in and grab the Caramel Pecanbon just be sure to integrate some intermittent fasting because one Bon contains more than twice the amount of recommended sugar intake for an entire day!
23 Outback Steakhouses Bloomin' Full of Fat Onion
This dish tends to be a crowd-pleaser and teaser as one of the main staple 'appetizers' at Outback Steakhouse. It's essentially a giant onion that's been cut like a flower, battered, and deep-fried. Don't forget the signature dipping sauce which is mostly comprised of mayonnaise, ketchup, and horseradish mmm yummy...
One onion contains 154 grams of fat - that's the equivalent of 10 big macs! It certainly didn't help matters this past year when Outback sponsored race car driver Kevin Harvick came within the top 10 ranks would mean free Bloomin' Onions at all Outback locations for everyone (delish.com). The only thing more tempting than a deep-fried onion slopped in mayonnaise sauce is a free deep-fried onion indeed!
22 Olive Garden Meatball Pizza Bowl of Sadness
This dish should come with the hashtag #foodblasphemy. This sad bowl that is halfway between a pasta and pizza purgatory - has no true identity. The meatballs look like they are drowning in a sauce that can only be described as 'a little bit of everything'. For the whopping 860 calories (52% of which come from fat), you would think your average person would rather opt for a normal pizza (fastfoodnutrition.org). It's unclear who the target demographic is for as the meatball pizza bowl is only available before 3 pm across all Olive Garden locations- a weird rule for an unruly dish.
21 Wendy’s Bacon Maple Call The Doctor Sandwich
It's not the breaded and fried chicken, it's not even the numerous strips of bacon, swiss cheese, or maple syrup drizzle that tips this sandwich over the edge on the 'holy shnikes' scale: it's the less than stellar croissant bun in combination with all of the above ingredients. Branded as a breakfast sandwich by Wendy's (because of course, it is), with 14 grams of saturated fat, we hope your "breakfast" is followed by a swift but long jog to the doctor where he can tell you to look at your life and look at your choices.
20 Hungry-Man Selects Classic Fried "Chicken"
With the ever so elegant slogan "eat like a man" we're pretty sure they mean 'eat like a man who doesn't know real food if it bit him in the butt' because this chicken looks truly pitiful. Not only are microwave dinners so last century but the idea of heating food that is engulfed in plastic should make you reconsider this meal on its own. The second red flag comes in when the Hungry Man website is void of any nutritional details on their products. Luckily we can assure you that yes, it is quite a disgraceful dinner option with 940 calories, 56 grams of fat, and 1370 milligrams of sodium (verywellfit.com). You deserve better.
19 Denny’s Dulce de Leche Crunch Pancake Breakfast (Sleep is Overrated Anyways)
For $6.79 you too can come dangerously close to dancing with diabetes or insomnia with Denny's newest addition to their pancake offering. Two buttermilk pancakes entombed in 'cinnamon crunch,' whip cream, and salted caramel sauce are also accompanied by two sunny-side-up eggs, either two strips of bacon or sausages and hash browns. If the 3000 milligrams of sodium doesn't make you thirsty for a gallon of water, maybe the 156 grams of sugar will do the trick. We don't have to tell you that these figures are far beyond the normal daily allotment, something tells us anyone going for this menu item cares very little about it.
18 White Castle Waffle Slider: One A Day Keeps The Doctor... On Speed-dial
Not gunna lie Whitecastle, you have our attention with the words waffle and slider. Allegedly, said waffles are imported directly from a trusted vendor in Brussels, Belgium that started their business in 1932 - 11 years after Whitecastle's first location opened (whitecastle.com). Hard to believe this fast food staple has been around since the early '20s. So even if this sandwich is loading you up with 8 grams of saturated fat and 70% of your daily intake of sodium, it's also loading you up with some warm and fuzzy good ol' fashioned foodie history. Perhaps the latter being a little more palatable.
17 Frito Pie That Will Make Your Doctor Cry
It might be hard to believe but this food item is considered a highly-regarded tradition and badge of honour in the Southern, Midwestern and Southwestern United States. Hardly a pie at all, its contents include corn chips, chilli, cheese and other particular toppings like refried beans, sour cream, onion, rice, and hot peppers. Legend has it that the dish originated at fiestas in Mexico before it made its debut in the USA where it goes by the name chilaquiles. If it's been a while since you've tested your acid reflux or just really like eating your meals directly out of the packaging they came in, this could be worth a try.
16 Disturbingly Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole
An American Thanksgiving treat, the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole is famously integral to this special holiday. Originating in South and Central America the sweet potato was first brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus before eventually landing in the Southern States (delish.com). It wasn't until the early 1900s that the marshmallow accruement was added as part of a recipe booklet put out by Angelus Marshmallows to make clear that marshmallows were no longer an ingredient only for the upper class (imagine that!). If you have a sweet tooth or want to release your inner 'Elf,' this would be a good way to go.
15 If You've Given Up, There's Deep-Fried Butter
Even Americans don't know what to do with this one (aside from eating it, of course). Yes, the day has come where deep-fried butter is a 'dish.' First served at a 2009 state fair in no other than Texas, deep-fried butter is said to be invented by Abel Gonzales Jr. aka "Fried Jesus." Not only was it revealed for the first time but it won a prize for 'creativity' - which is fair enough. Many liken it to the taste of french toast or... hot butter. If you're trying to think of ways to clog up your arteries faster than you can say 'hot diggity Paula Deen!,' then this may be the food item for you.
14 Bowl Of Cream Alternately Titled: Ambrosia Salad
Why this has been named a salad is beyond us. With ingredients like heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, sour cream, marshmallows, WHIPPED cream and sometimes even cream cheese- there is very little evidence to support said salad claim. MAYBE you could get away with calling it a fruit salad, but even then, the fruit falls far below in ranks to the hardcore cream saturation levels. The term ambrosia itself literally means food of the gods (oxforddictionaries.com), but with their chiseled frames, it's hard to believe that any deity was dining out on this cream drenched dessert.
Corndogs are an American treasure. They are also deep-fried mystery meat. With a single corndog garnished with ketchup and mustard soaking up 37% of your daily sodium intake, you would need to complete 41 minutes of jogging to burn one just off (calorieking.com). And unless you are procuring a state fair-sized jumbo corndog, you're probably going in for two at minimum. The processed meat in the corndog or frankfurter as they've been affectionately named has been linked to increased risk of colon cancer and heart disease (heartline.com). Their cooking process includes deep-frying them in processed (and often reused) vegetable oil which has been linked to causing cancer. Maybe it's time our (corn) dog days are over.
12 The Russian Doll Of Meat: The Turducken
This is really a thing, really! A bird, within a bird, within a bird, the turducken is when you bake a boneless chicken, into a boneless duck, into a boneless turkey. This method of cooking's name is as glamorous sounding as you would think: engastration. The art of stuffing an animal within the gastric passage of another animal, said to have originated in the Middle Ages which is probably why the word sounds so violent. The chicken is often stuffed with a mix of breadcrumbs, sausage, and spices. We think it's safe to say that this dish is every vegetarian's living nightmare.
11 The Luther Burger (It's Made of Donuts)
Go big or go home Is what the creator of this burger was likely whispering to himself as he brazenly selected TWO plain glazed donuts as the buns for this burger monstrosity. It was either that or YOLO!!!
Named the Luther Burger based on a legend that says that these burgers were a favourite of none other than American singer /songwriter/producer Luther Vandross, its origin is still vastly unproven. This could be the most American burger ever with its streaky bacon, American cheese, American donut cradle /bun that's beloved by an American singer. We think it's only appropriate that you serenade it with The Star-Spangled Banner before you spangle yourself with Luther Burger grease.
10 Taco Bell's Cheeto Quesadilla - Enough Said
We know they're bad for us- they stain our fingers with an abnormally orange tinge, are full of empty calories and are scientifically designed to be addicted and yet, they are beloved not just by Americans but the world at large. In fact, Cheetos are produced in 22 countries and come in 50 flavours worldwide (Thrillist.com). It's not a coincidence that Taco bell has scattered them within their latest quesadilla in an attempt to make their food more desirable (addictive). The only two ingredients here are Jalapeño flavoured Cheetos and piles of cheese. If it's good enough for Chester, it's good enough for 'Murica, right?
9 Pizza Hut's Triple Treat/ Threat Box
Trick or treat is a thing of the past if Pizza Hut can help it! At Pizza Hut it's all treats in this three-layer box known as The Triple Treat Box. It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Included are 2 Medium Pizzas, 8 Boneless Bites, Regular Breadsticks, 2 Dipping Sauces & an Ultimate Hershey's Chipits Cookie! What more do you need for a nutritionally complete dinner? Well, another three layers of vegetables would be a good start. We all love a pizza night but at some point, you have to stop and wonder, how far are we willing to go with the treats? Maybe just a double treat box today...
8 McDonald's Crown Jewel: The Deep Fried Big Mac
If you're going to deep fry anything, it may as well be a McDonald's Big Mac. What is typically reserved for state fairs and festivals where they love to deep-fry just about anything was rather in this instance a result of a Big Mac Fan PeepMyEats.com. This famed food blogger wanted to take the Big Mac up a notch. Captured on Instagram for all the internet to see, he dredged the burger in egg and Panko breadcrumbs before plonking it into the deep fryer and dressing it with Mac sauce. This creative devotion adds another mere 1000 calories onto the already fatty 563 calorie burger but this labour of love instantly became a viral sensation with foodie followers everywhere.
7 Just When You've Run Out of Ways to Consume Oreos: Oreo Churros
Oreos were first introduced as early as 1912 by The National Biscuit Association, more commonly known as Nabisco in Manhattan, New York. Since then it has become 'America's best-selling cookie' according to Wikipedia and has prompted a number of special edition flavours and spin-offs.
Enter the Oreo Churro. These are not made by Nabisco but real Oreo fans could care less. There are multiple options for preparing them including baking, frying or toasting. When they are done baking you are instructed to sprinkle Oreo flavoured sugar powder over them as the finishing touch, ya know, in case Oreo Churros weren't providing you enough sugar alone.
6 The Root Beer That Will Float You Into The Walk-In Clinic
What do you get when you mix root beer soda (as they call it in 'Murica) with ice cream? Heart palpitations probably...but also a root beer float! Also known as a brown cow the float is said to be invented in Philadelphia in 1874 by Robert McCay Green.
Legend has it that this innovation was a result of a humid day, a lack of ice, and eager customers to please. Using ice cream was said to be more utilitarian than a treat. However, in his own account, he says it was an invention to beat out the competition and soon enough all the soda shops in town were adding vanilla ice cream, soda water, and syrup to their drinks. We don't recommend you try this at home.
5 Spaghetti-O Jello Cake: Alternately Titled "Why, O, Why"
Retro traditions sure can be puzzling. This particular recipe calls for two cans of tomato soup, unflavoured gelatine, and spaghetti-Os. Dump into a mold and chill before topping with Vienna sausage (hot dogs) and serve. If you're not into jiggly canned pasta, you're not alone! That said, there was a time when Jello salad dishes were a symbol of wealth. Sure, it was the Medieval times but it still counts!
Back then eliminating the collagen from animal bones was highly time-consuming and it signaled to the guests that you had a large kitchen staff and thereby the wealth to go with it (seriouseats.com). So what appears as a common plate of SpagettiOs decorated with tin-sausages is really a linkage to a time where it would be a feast fit for a king.
4 Unicorn Milkshakes, (Only) Your Inner Child's Medicine
A feast for the eyes should not necessarily always be a feast for the belly. Unicorn milkshakes (made popular by social sites like Pinterest and Instagram) are colourful, playful, and seemingly more than a little magical. Yet, a 16-ounce unicorn milkshake (depending on the type and amount of toppings) can pack as many as 410 calories and a whopping 59 grams of sugar. That's 7 grams more than a can of Coke! If it's your birthday or something, by all means, treat yourself but maybe think twice before making this part of your routine unless you have your dentist on speed-dial or lots of pairs of stretchy pants.
3 Lucky Charms All Marshmallow (Not) Cereal
These are designed for those of us whose parents often said 'no' to sugary cereals, not for parents who are still saying no to sugar today. Released as part of a promotion for die-hard fans looking for an extra magically delicious start to their day. The first round of the contest only involved 10 boxes and the second round involved a significant increase to 10,000 all-marshmallow boxes being released to various winners who scanned serial/cereal codes on their regular boxes. What ensued was a frenzy! Some people have sought the boxes online for as much as $12 dollars a box. Not so great for your guts or your glory, guys.
2 When You Can't Choose: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza
I guess you could consider it fusion? *insert shoulder shrug emoji* Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should. This item gets honourable mention solely for including another ingredient included on our list- Cheez Whiz! We all know it's a valuable part of the ever-famous Philly cheesesteak sandwich which is actually a delightfully unhealthy option all on its own. Why the need to combine two equally good things together? Well, it won't be for everyone, especially those who suffer from heartburn or high blood pressure yet we can award points to this piece for its unabashedly crazy creativity.
1 Fried Pickle With Ranch Potato Chips: Weirdly A Healthier Option Than Eating What They Represent
The flavour evolution in the chip family has come a long way from Salt and Vinegar and Barbecue and these chips are living proof. Lays has been slowly upping the ante since they launched their 'do us a flavour' contests that originated in 2014 and urge fans to request 'out there flavours' for them to experiment with making.
Over the years these flavours have ranged from Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese to Cappuccino. However, these chips were not part of that contest but are part of a bigger conversation around, when do we just let the potatoes be potatoes? We're not sure if they'll satiate your craving for deep-fried pickles with ranch sauce but it's worth a shot since that combo has artery-clogger written all over it.
References: Healthline.com, wikipedia