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    Default America's Worst Lunches - And What You Should Eat Instead

    By David Zinczenko, with Matt Goulding - Posted on Wed, Nov 05, 2008, 10:15 am PST

    If you’re like two thirds of working Americans, you pick up lunch from a fast food joint or restaurant at least once a week. Sure, it’s not as healthy as packing your own celery sticks, but eating out every once in a while can’t hurt, right?

    Not so fast: There might be trouble in the drive-thru lane.

    Not only could the window worker pile an entire day’s worth of calories through your car window, but you might also be sapping your energy and productivity: Carb overloads lead to energy spikes and crashes, and studies have shown that the bigger your waistline, the lower your cognitive functioning and the more sick days you take.

    Kind of ironic, considering "convenience" is the most common reason people give for buying lunch during the workday. In this economy, it’s hardly convenient to snore through the 2 o’clock meeting, or miss a few crucial days when the boss is looking for you.

    A healthy lunch can help you maximize your afternoon performance, but if you’re in a hurry to grab and go, you might not take the time to sort through the menu hits and misses. Let the Eat This, Not That! folks be your efficiency experts: DON’T order the following items. Opt instead for less outrageous alternatives (also below), and reap the benefits at bonus time.

    QUIZNO’S
    Large Prime Rib Cheesesteak Sub
    1,770 calories
    116 g fat (25 g saturated, 2.5 g trans)
    2,895 mg sodium

    Fat Equivalent: Like eating 5 Dunkin Donuts cheese danishes!

    It’s hard enough to make the argument for one cheese Danish, but five? And we’re just talking fat, here — with more than 1,000 calories of the stuff in just one sandwich. You’re also be filling up with more than a day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat. While this is one of the worst items you could choose, the rest of the Quizno’s menu has hazards, as well.

    But if your coworkers insist on eating there, order this:

    Regular Turkey Ranch and Swiss Sub with reduced fat Ranch
    590 calories
    18 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
    2,235 mg sodium

    CHILI’S
    Crispy Honey Chipotle Crispers
    1,890 calories
    99 g fat (19 g saturated)
    3,470 mg sodium

    Calorie Equivalent: Like eating an entire medium Pizza Hut 12" pepperoni pizza!

    If you have the time for a sit-down meal, you have the time to think this through. Chicken Crispers are fun, but account for almost a whole day’s worth of calories and almost two days' worth of sodium.

    Your smarter choice is to eat this instead:

    Classic Chicken Fajitas
    330 calories
    11 g fat (2 saturated)
    2,080 mg sodium

    And another hint for a healthy sit-down lunch: forgo the appetizers. Chili’s Texas Cheese Fries with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing made the top of our list when we rounded up the worst appetizers money can buy. Check out the other appetizer land-mines here. You'll be shocked.

    ARBY’S
    Roast Turkey Ranch and Bacon Sandwich
    818 calories
    38 g fat (11 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
    2,146 mg sodium

    Calorie Equivalent: Like eating 23 Thin Mints (one whole sleeve)!

    Just because you could prepare it at home doesn’t mean it’s good for you when you order it away from home — the Roast Turkey Ranch and Bacon Sandwich packs nearly half of your daily allowance of calories and almost an entire day’s dose of sodium. Doesn’t leave much room for anything else, does it?

    Eat this instead:

    Sourdough Roast Beef Melt
    355 calories
    14 g fat (5 g saturated, 1 trans)
    1,047 mg of sodium

    DAIRY QUEEN
    Wild Buffalo Chicken Strip Basket (4 piece)
    1,340 calories
    96 g fat (18 g saturated)
    4,820 mg sodium

    Sodium Equivalent: Like eating 14 large orders of McDonald’s French fries!

    Talk about a value meal: one Chicken Strip Basket gives you two days' payload of sodium! If thinking about it doesn’t elevate your blood pressure, eating it might. Take a peek at this list of the 20 saltiest foods in America to learn about other high-sodium restaurant meals that contribute to our country’s increasing daily salt intake. Don’t become a statistic.

    Eat this instead:

    Crispy Chicken Sandwich
    530 calories
    29 g fat (4.5 g saturated, 3 g trans)
    1,020 mg sodium

    PANERA
    Italian Combo on Ciabatta sandwich
    1,070 calories
    50 g fat (19 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
    3,010 mg of sodium

    Fat Equivalent: Like eating 6 slices of Papa John’s cheese pizza!

    You were on the right track in choosing Panera, but don’t be sidelined by the allure of the Italian Combo. Ciabatta bread may sound sophisticated, but you won’t look so refined when you’re lugging that spare Pirelli around your midsection.

    Eat this instead:

    Smoked Turkey Breast on Sourdough sandwich
    470 calories
    17 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
    1,680 mg sodium

    CHIPOTLE
    13” Tortilla with steak, black beans, rice, cheese, sour cream and lettuce
    1,005 calories
    40 g fat (17 g saturated)
    1,948 mg sodium

    Calorie Equivalent: Like eating 40 Hershey’s Kisses!

    The good news about this tortilla is that it contains 57 grams of protein, but that’s hardly worth the outrageous calorie and carbohydrate load — with 100 grams of carbs, you’ve already covered a third of your recommended daily intake, plus you’re taking in nearly a day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat. Downsize to drop pounds.

    Eat this instead:

    Three hard tacos with steak, pinto beans, sour cream and lettuce
    633 calories
    25 g fat (11 g saturated)
    854 mg sodium

    (Another hint: When it comes to Chipotle chips, just say "no." They add an outrageous 570 calories and 73 extra grams of carbs.)

    HARDEE’S
    2/3-lb Monster Thickburger
    1,420 calories
    108 g fat (43 g saturated)
    2,770 mg sodium

    Saturated Fat Equivalent: Like eating 43 strips of Oscar Mayer bacon!

    It’s called Monster for a reason. It’s a monster load of saturated fat (more than two days’ worth). The good news is that it has a friendlier, healthier cousin in the 1/3-lb Low-Carb Thickburger, with 1,000 fewer calories and a third the amount of fat. Even better, the Low-Carb Thickburger is true to its name — it only has 5 grams of quick-burning carbohydrates, compared to 46 grams in the Monster.

    Eat this instead:

    1/3-lb Low-Carb Thickburger
    420 calories
    32 g fat (12 g saturated)
    1,010 mg sodium

    BURGER KING
    Triple Whopper Sandwich with cheese and mayo
    1,230 calories
    82 g fat (32 g saturated)
    1,590 mg sodium

    Fat Equivalent: Like eating 10 slices of Papa John’s cheese pizza!

    You should know by now not to order a triple anything. In this case you're getting egregious calorie, fat, and sodium overloads. It’s not bad, though, compared to the shockers on our list of the trans-fattiest foods in America and our dishonor role of the fattiest restaurant foods. Choose a regular cheeseburger instead and slash 900 calories, 66 g of fat, and save yourself from the judgmental stares of your coworkers, who are three times as likely to be grossed out!

    Eat this instead:

    Cheeseburger
    330 calories
    16 g fat (7 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
    780 mg sodium

    And once you’ve navigated lunch’s landmines, don’t blow your day with a bad dinner. Check out these 15 fast and easy ways to get more from your microwave dinner or how to build the ultimate entrée salad. For other simple, fast and effective ways to change your body one meal at a time when eating out, learn these 15 smart swaps.

    Have other tips, tactics or tricks? Please share them here.

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