From a pastrami sandwich at Subway to a Caramel Pecanbon at Cinnabon, the offerings at the great American food court can be some of the unhealthiest you’ll find, anywhere. We’ve gathered 12 common food court standbys and tracked down the unhealthiest items on their menus, and it’s something you should check out before you ever head down to your local shopping mall again.
The Unhealthiest Food in the Food Court (Slideshow)
The food court is as American a concept as there is. It’s convenient, has a number of diverse choices, and is at the epicenter of that enduring monument to capitalism: the shopping mall. It also displays the melting pot nature of America; in any city across the nation you can go to its mall food court and find some combination of sushi, pizza, Cajun, pretzels, sandwiches, smoothies and more.
As our country went into consumer overdrive, the shopping mall became the focal point of all things in culture: fashion, music, food, socializing and more. The 80s was like, totally the mall culture’s heyday as people shopped ‘til they dropped and afterward could watch a pop sensation perform a concert. All this excitement naturally works up an appetite, and the food court’s role in the mall experience cannot be underestimated.
More than a conglomeration of culinary choice, the food court is the nexus for the mall’s social activity. A number of us have ailed the pain of a breakup over an Orange Julius, celebrated a victory with an oversized slice of pizza or simply enjoyed conversation, company and the absurdity of eating a massive, gooey cinnamon roll in the middle of the afternoon. The food court has been there during life’s ups and downs, and that, through no fault of its own, can make it easy to succumb to the pitfall of unhealthy eating in the name of retail therapy.
Navigating the food court, and eating tiny pieces of meat on a toothpick while doing so, and making a selection that is both in line with your palate and health goals can be difficult. Do your research ahead of time; know what menu items are available, find the healthiest option and stick to your decision once the melange of smells makes your senses go haywire. After all, you can always return a questionable clothing purchase but you can’t take back your verdict in the food court.
To make your selection process a little easier, we’ve rounded up 12 of the most popular food court staples, like Cinnabon and Panda Express, and tracked down the unhealthiest items on their menus. So check out our handy guide to the unhealthiest items in the food court, and next time maybe you’ll think twice before digging into those loaded fries from Steak Escape.
15 Unhealthiest Costco Foods
Its sheer size alone can intimidate Costco regulars and newbies alike. Whichever pool you fall in, you probably already know that the savings are worth pushing your cart down endless aisles. But if you're health-conscious about the groceries you buy for your family, sifting the wholesome products from the unhealthy food items is no easy feat at Costco.
To streamline your weekend shopping trip, we've compiled the worst foods—both Costco's exclusive Kirkland Signature brand as well as cult favorites you'll find at your local supermarket—that you should avoid at the wholesaler. From frozen party appetizers to pounds of meat that can keep in the freezer for months, find out which picks are not worth seeking coupons for. And while you're learning which foods to avoid during your next grocery trip, check out The 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet!
Campbell's Homestyle Light New England Clam Chowder
Per 1 cup: 100 calories, 1.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 5 g protein
Don't be fooled into thinking this soup is good for you just because it plasters the words "Light" and "100 Calories Per Serving" on the label. Lurking beneath the aura of natural foods is one nasty additive: titanium dioxide. A recent review found this whitening agent has numerous negative health implications in humans, including hindering the functioning of digestive cells and reducing absorption of nutrients such as iron and zinc. Because it has no nutritional value as an additive other than keeping artificial foods white, there's no reason TD should be in your soup.
Instead, we recommend going with a condensed version from Bar Harbor so you can control how much cream and butter you'd like to add and you'll avoid more preservatives that are among the 23 Worst Food Additives in America.
Eat This! Instead:
Bar Harbor Condensed New England Clam Chowder
Per ⅔ cup serving: 150 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 550 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
WORST SLICE OF PIZZA
Sbarro Stuffed Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza (1 slice)
810 calories, 40 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 2,180 mg sodium, 73 g carbohydrate, 36 g protein
The architecture of this thing makes it less like a slice of pizza and more like a pizza inspired Chipotle Burrito. It relies on an oversize shell of oily bread to hold together a gooey wad of cheese, sausage and pepperoni. The net result is a pizza pocket with two-thirds of your day's fat and more than a day's worth of sodium. And the traditional pizza slices aren't much better few fall below 600 calories. If you want to do well at Sbarro, think thin crust with nothing but produce on top. (And go from thin crust to a thinner you: Slim down in time for Summer with these essential 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days!)
Eat This Instead!
Sbarro New York Style Fresh Tomato Pizza (1 slice)
410 calories, 14 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 53 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein
Eat This, Not That!
The Other Food Court
Sangria Legalized in Virginia!
Bar owners in Virginia can once again serve sangria without risking fines or jail time: Officials recently repealed a Prohibition-era law that forbade serving wine or beer mixed with liquor. Alas, it was too late for an Alexandria tapas bar slapped with a $2,000 fine for serving sangria made with brandy.
300% Tax Stinks, Say Cheese Lovers
During his last week in office, President George W. Bush tripled the tariff on imported French Roquefort cheese, to take one last jab at the French, critics say. The 300-percent tax would have pushed prices close to $60 a pound this spring if the Obama administration had not issued a hold on the tariff.
Los Angeles City Council Tells Public: Hold the Fries
South Los Angeles, formerly known as South Central, has the highest concentration of fast-food restaurants in the city: about 400 within 32 square miles. Not surprisingly, the area also has the highest number of diabetes cases. The city council unanimously approved a measure to put a one-year hold on the opening of new fast-food joints in the neighborhood the ban is up for extension this summer.
California Sides With Birds on Foie Gras Ban
Despite the repeal of Chicago's unpopular foie gras ban last year, California is set to criminalize the production and sale of fattened duck and goose liver in 2012, citing animal rights. Back in Chicago, chef Didier Durand, who led the protest there, plans to open a foie gras museum.
Energy Drinks Are Losing Steam
Kentucky, Rhode Island and Maine lawmakers have all contemplated bills banning energy drink sales to anyone under 18, citing reasons like “child safety.” However, a serving of many energy drinks contains less caffeine than a cup of joe. Some schools have kept them off campus as part of an effort to cut high-calorie drinks.
Mississippi Restaurants: No Waistline, No Service?
We're not sure how he planned on enforcing it, but last year, Mississippi Representative John Read introduced a bill that would prohibit restaurants from serving obese customers. Read, who is 5-foot-11 and weighs 220 pounds, says he just meant to start a dialogue on health in his state, which has the country's highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The proposal was quickly shot down by legislators.
Hawaii Targets Sugar Impostors
Lawmakers in Hawaii have repeatedly introduced bills banning the artificial sweetener aspartame, citing controversial studies about the additive's link to neurological disorders. If the law ever passes, stores will have to remove 6,000 products containing aspartame. The sticky debate was postponed earlier this year.
Photographs by: Sangria: FoodCollection/StockFood Scale: Gary Vogelmann/Alamy Fries: Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images Sugar Caddy: Dystortia/iStockPhoto.
What makes food unhealthy?
&ldquoThe preparation method and the types of ingredients the food contains make it unhealthy,&rdquo says Andari. &ldquoSodium, sugar and fat (saturated fat and trans-fat) are key ingredients one should always monitor when eating out and shopping at the grocery store. The American Heart Association recommends keeping the consumption of saturated fat to less than 7 percent and the consumption of trans-fat to less than 1 percent of an individual&rsquos daily calories.&rdquo
Avoid sodium, added sugar
According to the American Heart Association&rsquos 2013 heart disease prevention guidelines, women are smart to shy away from eating foods that contain high levels of sodium and added sugar.
For optimal heart health, the American Heart Association recommends you consume:
- No more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
- No more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories of sugar a day for women.
Unfortunately, the average American eats more than double their recommended sodium and sugar intake, consuming 3,600 milligrams of sodium and 22 teaspoons of sugar daily.
College Cafeteria Food: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
One of the major complaints about most college cafeterias is that the food served is plentiful but not particularly nutritious. Traditional college cafeteria menus are usually loaded with items like juice cocktails, soda, diner foods like hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, French fries, and breakfasts that contain large amounts of oils and fat (i.e, bacon, sausages, pancakes and syrup), along with an endless selection of sugary desserts. College and graduate students often gain weight during their first and second year of studies, because of poor eating habits.
However, sometimes healthier foods are offered alongside greasy, unhealthy foods. Even though students usually have some fresh fruits and salad bar options available, the selection of healthy foods is usually less varied and flavorful. Therefore, many students still choose the unhealthy food.
College cafeterias can become problematic for a few other reasons as well. They are conveniently located so students do not always search for other selections that may be more suitable for them. Because students get into frenzies when trying to include all their daily responsibilities all the while attempting to accommodate rigorous and irregular class schedules, it tends to force them into incorporating as many easy choices in their lives as possible. Unfortunately, their diets are likely to be one of the first things that suffer because it becomes difficult to resist some of the unhealthier, more familiar choices of food.
Furthermore, the meals are usually paid for in advance or included in tuition, so it is often the cheapest option. If students are paying for their education, they may not be able to afford other alternatives to the cafeteria and are left with lackluster foods that repeat themselves over and over again. Students new to campus may have had guardians who regulated their meals at home before, but feel a sense of “I can eat whatever I feel like” because of the new freedom of college and therefore eat the chicken nuggets instead of the rice and beans.
College cafeteria services are operated either by the college itself or contracted out to food management companies, like franchise food chains and campus kiosks. These organizations seek to offer a variety of meals appealing to the students. While eating healthy foods is best, it can also become a sterile and boring “activity” when maintained with few or no changes. Fast food has strong smells, and many American students are already pre-conditioned to crave the flavors in fast foods. Therefore, fast foods are likely to always be a part of the college cafeteria food plan because they are easier to sell.
There is a trend, however, occurring on some campuses that strays from butter-drenched vegetables and processed meats served in assembly-lines, which opts for meals served in intimate restaurant settings and elaborate dining halls. Meals in some schools are cooked by gourmet chefs who have been well trained in national and international cuisines. According to the Wall Street Journal, some colleges have realized that the students of today require lots of variety to satisfy their finicky taste buds. Enter roasted Portobello or chicken, grilled flank steak, risotto tossed with salmon, pasta stations, espresso coffee, and sushi bars! Yale University had the top four-star rating, and the University of Texas was given the worse rating (one star) for some of the most badly cooked and worst-tasting food ever encountered.
Unfortunately, this new trend of incorporating exciting and well-balanced meals seems to be hitting only the top-tier schools, where wealthier students are prominent and can afford to have the best food available. However, many colleges are at attempting to please their students and offer healthy options. According to The Daily Beast, the top three college cafeterias known for their irresistible cuisine, diverse dining and restaurant setups, economical meal plans, and fulfilling their patrons’ requests are as follows:
1. Oregon State University
3. St. Olaf College (Minnesota)
College cafeterias are responsible for supplying a large amount of food to a diverse group of diners under sanitary conditions. Ultimately, however, in college the responsibility for setting up a reliably healthy diet rests with the students. When students have grown up with cafeterias that serve nachos and processed foods from their K-12 experience, they may choose to continue to eat those types of foods when offered in their college cafeterias. Information is available to college students so that they can better inform their choices when in the cafeteria, and perhaps go for a salad instead of a cheeseburger. Despite overwhelming evidence about the dangers of college cafeterias to student health, it’s up to the students to become knowledgeable about proper eating habits and to remain diligent about maintaining a healthy diet, no matter where they choose to eat.
There are thousands of books about the U.S. Supreme Court, each trying to offer a different take on the country’s highest court. “Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes” is one of the few books that actually succeeds at doing so.
In her new book, Clare Cushman of the Supreme Court Historical Society combines recipes and history to create a new and compelling look at the justices of the Supreme Court. “Food in good company has sustained Supreme Court Justices through the ages,” writes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the forward to the book.
Cushman relies on a variety of sources, including letters, pictures, and more than 40 recipes, to describe the food traditions of the Supreme Court. As described by the publisher, it includes stories of the justices eating at tables hidden behind the bench in the Courtroom lunching together in their private dining room hosting welcome and farewell dinners for each other in their homes, at the Court or on the yacht Sequoia sharing breakfast with law clerks in the cafeteria and being invited by the president to the White House.
For instance, Justice Joseph Story wrote in a letter to a friend:
We dine once a year with the President, and that is all. On other days we take our dinner together, and discuss at table the questions which are argued before us. We are great ascetics, and even deny ourselves wine, except in wet weather [when it is medicinally advisable].
What I say about wine, sir, gives you our rule but it does sometimes happen that the Chief Justice will say to me, when the cloth is removed, “Brother Story, step to the window and see if it does not look like rain.” And if I tell him that the sun is shining brightly, Judge Marshall will sometimes reply, “All the better for our jurisdiction extends over so large a territory that the doctrine of changes makes it certain that it must be raining somewhere.” You know that the Chief was brought up upon Federalism and Madeira, and he is not the man to outgrow his early prejudices.
While food may seem like a trivial topic, getting together informally is one of the ways the justices have built relationships with one another. As Cushman writes, “[t]o foster harmonious working relations, they have traditionally sought opportunities to enhance cordiality and cooperation by breaking bread together.”
“Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes” is available via the Supreme Court Historical Society Gift Shop. It costs $22.95.
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Most Unhealthy Ingredients: 10 Of The Worst Ingredients Found In Food
We all know reading food labels is important, but there are some ingredients that might need that second look.
How many times have you read an ingredient that looked like something out of a science textbook? According to holistic nutritionist Danielle Felip, some of these ingredients — and even everyday ones like sugars — can be dangerous for our bodies in the long-run.
"The average Canadian consumes about 26 grams of sugar a day and 35 per cent of this comes from soft drinks and candy," she tells The Huffington Post Canada.
Felip adds that the three biggest offenders include foods with excessive sugar, MSG and trans-fat. MSG, for example, is often found at most fast food joints and in many guilty pleasure comfort foods.
"Some people may experience an allergic-type reaction with the consumption of MSG and it has been linked to migraines, diarrhea and heart palpitations," she says.
In Canada, nutrition labelling is mandatory for all packaged foods and companies must provide all ingredients added in their products. When you are reading ingredient lists, always make sure you research any unfamiliar ingredient. Some ingredients like saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugar can appear on an ingredient lists as several different names, according to Health Canada.
Some experts suggest sticking to foods with only five ingredients, adding that foods with over five or 10 ingredients are often packed with preservatives, sugars and other additives that are hard to digest. Felip recommends looking at the first few ingredients — those at the top are the most used ingredients in a product. She also suggests not buying foods with unfamiliar ingredients, being cautious of "organic" and "natural" claims and always checking labels for sugar content.
LOOK: 10 of the unhealthiest ingredients found in common (tasty) foods: