photo of turkey sandwich
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Best: Turkey Sandwich

Start with whole-grain bread instead of white. Whole-grain bread slows down how carbs get into your blood. The meat is high in protein and low in fat. Turkey also has B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Add lettuce, tomato, and mustard to give it some pizzazz, but skip the mayo, which adds fat and calories.

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photo of greasy bacon cheese burger
2 / 14

Worst: Bacon Cheeseburger

No surprise here. The ground beef, bacon, and cheese are all loaded with calories and fat. You can easily eat more than half of your calories for the day and go way over on your saturated fat. And that’s if you don’t add fries.

A typical bun made from white flour adds simple carbs that could spike your blood sugar, too. 

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photo of bowl of popcorn
3 / 14

Best: Popcorn

Its fiber fills you up and keeps you regular. Antioxidants help protect against disease and cell damage, too.

A cup of popcorn has less than a quarter of the calories of the same amount of potato chips, and it satisfies you better. Go easy on the butter, salt, cheese, and other stuff. They can add fat and calories.

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photo of barbeque chips
4 / 14

Worst: Flavored Potato Chips

Potatoes are vegetables, right? So what’s so bad about them? Well nothing, until you fry them up in oil and cover them in chemicals to flavor and preserve them. Then they become a calorie-dense fat and salt bomb. In the case of flavored chips like barbecue and sour cream and onion, sugar is often added, too.

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photo of steak salad
5 / 14

Best: Steak Salad

It’s a way to get your red meat fix while keeping fat, simple carbs, and calories to a minimum. The only big variable is the dressing, which can add a lot of fat and sugar if you’re not careful. But a salad with vegetables and lean filet dressed lightly with a bit of oil and vinegar or lime juice makes for a healthy and satisfying meal.

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photo of cheese steak
6 / 14

Worst: Philly Cheese Steak

So much fat drips from this steak and cheese sandwich that there’s a special stance, the “Philly lean,” that experts say you should use to keep it from dripping onto your shirt.

Add the white bread it’s on and combo it with fries and a soda and you could get close to your calorie limit for the day in a single meal.

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photo of marinara spaghetti
7 / 14

Best: Spaghetti Marinara

Pasta has a low glycemic index, which means your body absorbs it more slowly and it keeps you satisfied longer. As part of a balanced diet, it might even lower your body fat. But keep it chewy. Your body absorbs mushy, overcooked pasta more quickly. That could spike your blood sugar.

Tomatoes in your sauce can protect your heart health and help keep cancer away. Just watch for added salt and sugar in bottled sauces.

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photo of baked mac and cheese
8 / 14

Worst: Mac And Cheese

It’s loaded with calories and fat, including the saturated type. That might have something to do with the fact that it often includes milk, cheese, cream, white flour, and bread crumbs.

It’s not that you can’t ever have it. It’s just not a good idea to eat it regularly.

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caesar salad
9 / 14

Best: Caesar Salad

If the only thing that “romaines” in your fridge is some romaine lettuce and eggs, don’t fret. You have almost everything you need for this satisfying and nutritious feast. Eggs have vitamin D and amino acids. The lettuce is loaded with B vitamins, iron, and potassium. You could also use some grilled chicken, croutons, olive oil, mustard, and, if you’re adventurous, anchovies.

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photo of plate of nachos
10 / 14

Worst: Nachos

The tortilla chips are fried in fat and covered in salt. The meat, often beef, has more fat, as does the cheese and sour cream that can go on top. Sauces and salsas can add more salt. It all adds up to a meal that could meet or exceed your calorie, sodium, and saturated fat recommendations for the day.

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photo of grilled chicken
11 / 14

Best: Grilled Chicken

Skinless chicken breast is low in fat. You can use a spice rub or simple marinade and throw it on the grill. It’s high-protein, low-fat, and low-calorie, especially compared to the burgers or sausages that might share space on your grill.

Any extra fat from leftover skin or oil should be on the outside and will drip away during cooking. If you don’t have a grill, you can broil your chicken in the oven.

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photo of buffalo wings
12 / 14

Worst: Buffalo Wings

Take the fattiest, dark meat of a chicken -- the legs and wings -- leave the skin on so there’s even more fat, dredge them in white flour, deep fry them in oil, and cover them in a sauce with lots of chemical preservatives and lots of salt. Then dip them into blue cheese or ranch sauce with more calories and fat. The result: a big nutritional price.

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photo of berry crisp dessert
13 / 14

Best: Berry Oat Crisp

Look for recipes with more oats, nuts, and fruit, and less white flour, sugar, and butter. Berries are low-calorie and have antioxidants that help keep your veins flexible and your blood pressure low.

Oats have soluble fiber that can lower your cholesterol and boost your immune system. They also have antioxidants to protect your cells. Nuts have “healthy fats” like omega-3s that are good for your heart health, and they fill you up.

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photo of cherry cheesecake
14 / 14

Worst: New York Cheesecake

Cheese, milk, cream, sugar, sour cream, and butter are just some of the ingredients in this sugar, fat, and calorie spectacular. And if that’s not enough, many recipes add a crust made from graham crackers or cookies. It might be best to have a bite of your friend’s slice and leave it at that.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2020 Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 16, 2020


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AllRecipes: “Fried Chicken Wings.”

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “5 Whole Grains to Keep Your Family Healthy.”

American Chemical Society: “Popcorn: The snack with even higher antioxidants levels than fruits and vegetables.”

American Diabetes Association: “Berry Crisp,” “Glycemic Index and Diabetes.”

American Heart Association: “How Meat-eaters Can Reduce Saturated Fat in Their Diet,” “Making the Healthy Cut: Fish, Poultry and Lean Meats,” “Carbohydrates.”

Chili’s: “Chili’s Nutrition.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Recipe: Warm Berry Crisp,” “What You Need to Know About Protein.”

Coca Cola Company.

Harvard Health Publishing: “The Nordic diet: Healthy eating with an eco-friendly bent,” “Is your salad dressing hurting your healthy diet?” “Eggs and your health.”

James Beard Foundation: “Buffalo Wings.”

Mayo Clinic: “Healthy Recipes: Steak salad with roasted corn vinaigrette,” “Healthy-cooking techniques: Boost flavor and cut calories.”

National Foundation for Cancer Research: “Tasty Tomatoes: Anti-Cancer Attributes & A Healthy Recipe.”

Nutrition: “Potato chips and childhood: what does the science say? An unrecognized threat?”

Nutrition and Diabetes: “Association of pasta consumption with body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio: results from Moli-sani and INHES studies.”

Nutrition Journal: “Popcorn is more satiating than potato chips in normal-weight adults.”

PBS Food: “Simple Blueberry Crisp Recipe,” “New York-Style Cheesecake,” “Chicken Caesar Salad.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture: “2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition.”

USDA Mixing Bowl: “Grilled Chicken and Avocado Quinoa Pilaf.” “Philadelphia Cheese Steak History and Recipe,” “Slow Grilled Chicken Breasts Recipe,” “Classic Caesar Salad Recipe.” “How do the healthy fats in nuts and seeds help protect against cardiovascular disease?”

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on November 16, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.