Forum Statistics

Latest Member
What's New?

The Worst "Free" Restaurant Food

Lizard King

Lizard King

Staff Member
Sep 9, 2010
No more soup and salad for me from Olive Garden!

Remember the story of Hansel and Gretel? How the witch of the woods lured them into her edible candy hut and gave them piles and piles of free food—just so she could fatten them up and turn them into stew?

Well, think about that old fairy tale the next time a waiter drops a plate of “free” food on your table. For years I've been recommending the best foods to buy, and warning about menu items that might make you fat. But our newest Eat This, Not That! research reveals that some of the worst dietary sins aren’t ordered at all. They just come to your table for free!

Plenty of mischievous food peddlers are happy to give you free food—food that’s certain to fatten you up plenty, if not land you in a big black cauldron. Whether it’s “bottomless” buckets or “endless” entrees or the breadsticks and salad at Olive Garden, freebies almost always consist of high-fat, high-carbohydrate munchies that won’t fill you up—after all, the restaurant wants you to buy more food!—but will fill you out.

Of course, I wouldn’t recommend shoving the waiter into an oven; restaurants do sort of frown on that kind of thing. But I would recommend shoving these free plates to the other side of the table, before you create a dietary fairy tale of your own: “Hansel and Regrettal.”

BreadsticksWORST "FREE" RESTAURANT FOOD #6: Fazoli’s Garlic Breadsticks
1 breadstick
150 calories
7 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
290 mg sodium
20 g carbohydrates

These free, unlimited breadsticks are a signature part of the Fazoli’s dining experience. Folks seem to love ’em: Googling “Fazoli’s breadsticks recipe” returns more than 3,000 results. And at only 150 calories each, how bad could they be? Well, each breadstick is the caloric equivalent of more than 7 Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Kisses. Eating one is a sensible indulgence—but try to eat just one! Appetizers are often the downfall of a diet: To see my point, check out this eye-popping Eat This, Not That! list of the 10 Worst Starters in America.

BiscuitsWORST "FREE" RESTAURANT FOOD #5: Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits
1 biscuit
150 calories
8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat)
350 mg sodium
16 g carbohydrates

These Red Lobster staples come free with any entrée—and you can have as many as you want. Red Lobster’s website boasts of serving “almost 1.1 million” Cheddar Bay Biscuits every day. Add two of them to your Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp and your already-sizeable meal (880 calories) balloons to the caloric equivalent of more than a half-dozen Krispie Kreme glazed donuts! That said, keep far from Cheddar Bay, and Red Lobster is actually a nutritional safe harbor: Its menu is consistently one of the best in the country among chain restaurants. I'm always keeping my eye on the very best places for you to eat, and the often surprising places where hidden calories lurk. Get the scoop every day by following me right here on Twitter! or by signing up for the FREE Eat This, Not That! newsletter.

FriesWORST "FREE" RESTAURANT FOOD #4: Ruby Tuesday Endless Fries
396 calories
18 g fat
1,389 mg sodium
50 g carbohydrates

If you order a burger at Ruby Tuesday, you automatically get fries on the side—with infinite refills. A bargain, right? Sure, for your tailor: He’ll be making a lot of extra dough letting out your pants. A single side of the chain's fries has more calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger! That means every time you ask for a refill, you’re getting an additional visit from Mayor McCheese. And Ruby Tuesday doesn’t report saturated fat levels—a warning flag for those who like to know what, exactly, they’re putting in their bodies. In fact, two of Ruby's burgers make this Eat This, Not That! treacherous list of the 15 Worst Burgers in America.

ChipsWORST "FREE" RESTAURANT FOOD #3: On the Border Chips and Salsa
430 calories
22 g fat (4 g saturated)
52 g carbohydrates
460 mg sodium

Chips and salsa: Who could eat Mexican food without it? At On the Border, the answer should be you. This free starter has more calories than three White Castle sliders. That’s no way to start your meal anywhere, let alone at a restaurant where every single enchilada dish will cost you at least 1,000 calories. Good things come to those who wait: Eschewing the chips and sticking to your order will get you across this Border with less baggage around your midsection.

PancakesWORST "FREE" RESTAURANT FOOD #2: Denny's Unlimited Pancake Stack
Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple-Flavored Syrup (2 pancakes)
473 calories
4 g fat (0.5 g saturated)
1,196 mg sodium
103 g carbohydrates

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They don't say, “Eat as much as humanly possible for breakfast.” And yet you’d think that’s what Denny’s has in mind with this deal. Just two buttermilk pancakes will cost you more calories than four full servings of Breyers Smooth & Dreamy Dark Chocolate Velvet ice cream—double or triple that, and you’ve ruined your diet for the day without paying a cent. The Denny’s press release announcing this promotion brags about the “value” they’re providing Americans: Not Americans who value their bodies! (If you're one of those folks, get easy, effective advice about foods to avoid--and the smart swaps you should go for instead to make the belly fat fall off--with the latest Eat This, Not That! 2011 book.)

Bonus Tip: Lose weight fast. Build muscle. Get out of debt. Whatever your resolution for 2011, here's your plan.

BreadsticksTHE #1 WORST "FREE" RESTAURANT FOOD: Olive Garden Bottomless Salad and Breadsticks
Garden-Fresh Salad (1 serving with dressing)
350 calories
26 g fat (4.5 g saturated)
1,930 mg sodium
22 g carbohydrates

Breadstick (1 with garlic butter spread)
150 calories
2 g fat (0 g saturated)
400 mg sodium
28 g carbohydrates

Olive Garden wins the battle of the fattening freebies by a mile. The minute you sit down, you’re staring at bowls of bottomless breadsticks and “garden” salad. Bottomless, however, doesn’t describe what you’ll look like if you spend too much time grazing in the Garden. Just one serving of each will give you 25 percent of your day’s caloric intake, before you’ve taken your first bite of your actual meal. But wait: Aren’t salads “healthy”? Not in this Garden: The free salad alone has almost a full day’s worth of sodium. Unfortunately, Olive Garden is far from the only restaurant that’s really a dietary minefield.


Jan 15, 2011
Good post. Eating out is the devil, plain and simple. Even when you think you're eating well, you're probably not (at least, not at any "chain" restaurant. Whether its the fat content, the kind of oil they use to cook (or butter!),or the sodium levels...its bad stuff. I've learned over the years that if you wanna be lean and mean, you cook your food, tupperware it up and eat it throughout the day. Cheat every once in a while to stay sane, and thats that.


Senior Member
Oct 8, 2010
Good friggin post LK!! This reminds me of the tricks bars play, giving salty peanuts in a tray to make you more thirsty which makes you buy more beer!!

I didn't know where you were going with that title "FREE FOOD", as I was almost out the door to see where there was some free food as I'm BROKE (well that is till payday)!!


Dec 25, 2010
Well you get screwed either way when you go to a resturaunt. You are either going to pay more for less, you know those "500 calorie" meals that cost just as much as a regular dish but with 1/3 the food or you are going to get a dish that's packed full of carbs and fat.
Lizard King

Lizard King

Staff Member
Sep 9, 2010
We were doing soup and salad, their minestrone is pretty damn good and I would down at least 3 whole bowls of salad, lol I knew it was salty but didn't taste too greasy, oh well, now I know.

The cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster on the other hand, I will continue to eat my fill of those since I usually only go there once a year!


Crusty Poo Butt
Sep 21, 2010
The only time I'd indulge the cheddar biscuits is if I'm on a bulk or eating a cheat meal...those things are deadly


Jan 19, 2011
A country boy from Texas and your talking down the only decent Mexican restaurant in the pit I live. Luckily I don't get to eat there but once every three years or so, but I so dearly love that stuff. Thanks for the info, seems everything I like is terminally bad.


Feb 14, 2011
I'm so glad they don't have all these restaurants here in Ireland.. I was raised in California and since moving here two years ago i have lost 20lbs of fat and gained 30lbs of muscle.. the fact that on every corner in america you have a Jack in the box or a taco bell or a carls junior or a dennys or a Outback it is no wonder america is so obese, it is HARD to find a place that's food isn't loaded with sodium and saturated fat.. at least now i heard there was some legislation being passed to reduce salt content in the food over there.. hopefully this sticks.