Worst fries in America

Men's Health magazine has done a roundup of the worst -- that is, highest-calorie, highest-fat, highest-salt -- French fries in America. The champion is Chili's "Texas Cheese Fries with Jalapeno Ranch," clocking in at 1,920 calories, 147g of fat (of which 63g is saturated fat), and 3,580mg of sodium. The whole list is worth a read -- as hall of shames go, it's some pretty oily stuff. Our distant descendants will gaze in wonder on this as the 21st-century equivalent of Roman feasts that featured jellied slaves' fat topped with hammered gold and ocelot bile.
The only thing that comes close to redeeming this cheesy mound of lard and grease is the fact that it's ostensibly meant to be shared with a few friends. Even so, you'll collectively be taking in an entire day's worth of calories, three days' allotment of saturated fat, and a day and a half's allotment of sodium. What's even scarier, if you can imagine, is that even if you try to order more sensibly and ask for the "half" order of Texas Cheese Fries, you'll still receive a disastrous dish that packs in 1,400 calories. There's one French fries side dish at Chili's that's acceptable, although even in its much-reduced form, you'd be better off splitting it.
America's Worst French Fries (and What You Should Eat Instead!) (via Consumerist)



  1. “jellied slaves’ fat topped with hammered gold and ocelot bile” – is that, like, hyperbole? I’ve heard of some pretty messed up stuff, but never the fat, or the ocelot bile before.

    1. Oooh, yes, Roman feasts! One of my favorite topics of conversation!

      From Trivia Library:

      The Occasion: The feasts of Heliogabalus, Rome, C. 219-222 A.D.

      The Host: Roman Emperor Heliogabalus.

      The Menus: They included conger eels fattened on Christian slaves; caviar taken from ordinary eels caught by a private fishing fleet that the emperor maintained exclusively for this purpose; fresh fish which often had to be carried miles from the sea in pots of saltwater by runners; and camels’ feet and honeyed dormice, which the emperor considered a great delicacy. Once Heliogabalus had the heads of 600 ostriches brought to his table, only to eat their brains. If a chef invented a sauce that pleased His Majesty, he was handsomely rewarded; but if not, the chef was forced to eat that sauce and nothing else until he invented another sauce that pleased the imperial palate.

  2. Nowhere akin to slave fat with ocelot bile and gold– all of that was _rare_. This is cheap starch with cheap cheese and a topping of a cheap vegetable, seasoned with cheaply-mined salt.

    Really, it’s about as exotic as eating a sack of potatoes, just greasier.

  3. Hmm, They don’t seem to take deliciousness into account.

    Having never eaten any of the “worst” options, I’m inclined to suspect, as with most unhealthy foods, they’re bloody delicious.

    1. Precisely. “Best” and “worst” applied to food is a measurement of taste, not healthiness. Or should be. Call them “the least healthy” if you must, but that doesn’t make them the “worst.” But I’ll admit I’m not feeling very objective about this. Just the title of their book (“Eat This, Not That!”) makes me want to tell them to buzz off.

  4. *SPOILER ALERT* Skip this comment if you haven’t read the article and plan to.

    I was surprised that McDonald’s was the least-bad choice. In Finland, I’ve found all of McDonald’s food, but especially the fries, to be intolerably salty. I guess I’ve gotten used to eating less salt.

    1. One of the secrets of the fast-food industry is the difference between the de facto and the de jure recipes.

      It is not uncommon to find fat, sodium, and MSG levels of food as delivered by the local store at least twice as high as what is published by the parent company.

  5. Our distant descendants will have magic pills to take care of those pesky high sodium artery clogging related illnesses.

    1. I have the same problem. I don’t mind salt in moderation, and even crave it fairly regularly, but too much salt makes me really thirsty, and then I drink too much water and throw off my electrolyte balance. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  6. The saturated fat is probably the healthiest part of this dish. Saturated fat is good for you, much better than polyunsaturated and trans fats. Before the heart disease and obesity epidemic of the 20th and 21st centuries, we used to eat a lot more saturated and animal fats. Since we’ve cut down obesity has skyrocketed, as has heart disease. A recent survey of the most relevant studies demonstrated there was no, repeat no connection between saturated fat and heart disease…

    1. I’ve heard that many times, and read about it from both sides, and I’m not convinced. I’m still going to reduce my saturated fat intake. I will agree, however, that trans fats are nasty. Nastier than saturated fats – which I think are nasty.

      Plus, these fries look absolutely nasty.

      1. Not only is dietary saturated fat NOT linked to heart disease (Framingham Heart Study 1970 and 1997, and also recently American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) it has been linked to DECREASED risk of stroke (Dr. Matthew Gillman and coleagues at Harvard Medical School and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1997)

        1. I’m still going to stick with Marion Nestle on this one and avoid saturated fat – plus those articles are pretty old to be up-to-date research.

  7. Julia Child said used to like McDonalds Fries. Before the “nutritionists got at them”. (Citation). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF31qCrclC0

    And she was right about what was ‘bad’ is good now.

    People in the 60/70’s would forgo butter because it was ‘bad’…and this new stuff Margarine was much better.

    Lard isn’t that bad when it’s not whipped up hydrogenated..when rendered pure it’s fine, health wise. So is Duck Fat.

    And a French Fry in Duck Fat is thing of beauty..just beauty. (and lard too)..

    BTW: McD’s used Beef Tallow Oil for their fries until the 90s or earlier.

    It’s not so much the product…it’s the consumer. (and the damn portion sizes).

    1. If I’m going to eat something that might cause me to drop dead, it should at least be really delicious. I have no qualms about chowing down on super-fatty Old World cheeses or crispy duck skin dripping grease. But mass-produced fries are just nasty.

      1. “I have no qualms about chowing down on super-fatty Old World cheeses or crispy duck skin dripping grease. But mass-produced fries are just nasty.”


        But that’s where the ironic bit come in. For the masses..it’s described as decadent compared to a Roman Feast, slobbering grease, gilts and gold.

        When in reality..when the we do it, it’s not like slobbering masses.

        Because we do it with Hudson Valley Duck Fat flown in..and trucked in pork bellies (which are fashionable now)..in small portions from selelative stores, and Miso flown halfway across the cross the globe..and hand rubbed Kobe Beef.
        Food cooked with Lasers, olives transformed via chemical magic into quivering orbs, PopCorn served dipped in liquid nitrogen, Noodles made from shrimp that magically turn into solids in your bowl. Menus that are edible printed in food safe inks. Peas whipped and foamed with gas into fairy clouds of castles. (all for a 350 dollar tasting menu 10 courses).

        Not to mention Organic Foods Available Year Round..(via airliner)…

        No comparison to the Romans there…But HEY! Look..someone has a french fry with cheep ass cheese. Let’s laugh at him!

        1. Just a tip: you’ll make it easier for us to disagree with when you let us know what the point is that you’re trying to get across.

          1. Sorry If I offended.

            I was laid off recently, and had to cancel my plans to go to Alinea this June. I couldn’t justify the 500 pp with wine parings.

            No, I’m not being sarcastic. In fact I have Alinea’s Cookbook some Ferran Adria books..and his Experimental Textures Kit. Available now from amazon. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001TJOL24/ref=oss_product

            I’ll never get to go to El Bulli, because it’s closing soon.

            I find the food fascinating. But in honesty, if anything should be compared to a Roman Style decadent orgy, it would be those places…and not ‘working mans’ food.
            Sure Chili fries are over the top..and Five Guy fries make me physically ill if I eat more than a few..however I love a good Scotch egg with a nice beer.

        2. Why do you think that others think all of those are any better? I’m a bit disgusted with those excesses also though they are of the economic waste kind, not the gluttony kind.

  8. It’s not just portion size but also the amount and type of exercise you get that determines how much and what you can reasonably get away with eating. I went for a long skate yesterday, and had no reservations about stuffing my face later that night.

    1. Well I doubt many would say “OMG” computers are making us fat! BAN THEM!

      Because we all know people can handle addictive electronic substances like online gaming and forums and there should be no ‘goverment minimum daily guidelines’ for sitting down on the internet..but Foods: we certainly need some smack down, teasing about, and goverment controls. Right?

      Imagine the cry that would go up if when you signed on your ISP..you exceeded the “The Healthy Minimal Intake” of sitting down posting messages on blogs/facebook/gaming/emails?

      1. I can’t remember the novel.

        I’m sure it was Samuel Delany. That described a feast where things where served on swinging skewers..that either came out of the floor or ceiling.
        “Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand” maybe?

        This reminded me of the modern gastronomy movement.

        Alnea Restaurant. (one of the best of the in the USA). http://www.alinea-restaurant.com/

        especially this bit: http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2009/04/food-tasting-or-art-installation/16341/

        Don’t get me wrong..I love that stuff. In fact I have the cookbook and play with some modern tech.

        But I don’t look down on the ‘masses’ for having a greasy cheeseburger or call them ‘decadent’ while I’m whipping up 6 carefully weight grams of Glice purchased from el bulli
        s head chef on a mirco gram scale.
        make soild olive oil. http://www.albertyferranadria.com/eng/videos-and-recipes-emulsification01.html

      2. Nobody controls what you eat, they just offer minimum recommendations, printed on the packaging/etc, so why would it be equivalent that they would alert you online that you haven’t met minimums and try to control what you do online?

    1. Ah, the toe-curling duck fat fries. I have copied the recipe and had some last week.

      By the way, I used to work tech support for a bondage dungeon upstairs from that place. They specialized in sexy wrestling, if you’ve ever heard bumps coming from the ceiling in there.

  9. “by appearance alone, nobody could guess what’s really at stake when you order this side from Jack’s”

    Well, you could once it arrives on the table. It look like greasy, vibrant yellow goo. Disgusting.

  10. It makes me happy to see Jack N The Crack’s Potato Wedges on the list. I contend not only are they the best tasting slices of potato around, that all the grease helps everything slide out of you nice and easy, no pooping issues for that day.

    I’m pretty sick of the food police. Unfortunately the list didn’t have much in the way of “I want to go run out and eat that.” – Five Guy fries are all right, not great. Arby’s curly fries are pretty darn good but Arby’s food is just so darned overpriced if you actually buy enough to fill you up.

    The simple truth is we wouldn’t have all these problems if people just learned how to cook for themselves. ‘Fast Food’ isn’t fast at all. Buy groceries. Learn to freaking cook! And if you say you don’t have time you are full of crap. You are going to spend more time waiting for your overpriced coffee at Starbarf’s than you would cooking yourself a good simple meal.

    Put down your texting device, er, cellphone, whatever you kids call those things these days, wash off the kitchen counter, and make some food. Anyone who cries about fast food calories, salt content, etc, I have no sympathy for. It’s called ‘Learn How To Cook – it’s simple’.

    Don’t tell me you don’t have time or some people don’t have that option – if you are reading this on BB – unless you are in a public library and are homeless – you have the time to cook.

    ‘But I have to do my Wii Fit or play my fat inducing MMO’s, or text message 1000 times before I go grab a bite at…oh.”

    1. I agree- I’m now making much more of an effort to cook for myself so I get to decide what terrible things I’m going to do to my body. Baked mac & cheese using a real bechamel and white truffle oil, cassoulet with canard confit, coconut-milk curries. I’d rather be finished off by that than by some driver running me off the road while I’m on my bike.

  11. When I first became vegetarian, my #1 comfort food was french fries, and lots of them – preferably hosed in ketchup. One habit I am so glad to have abandonded, I don’t think I have even tasted fries in at least five years.

    In fact, I remember exactly when the last time I had fries was, because it was a western style restaurant in India….and I was shocked by the contrast with America. The side dish of fries was compromised of about five little french fries.

    On a side note, the first step to health care reform in America is nutrition reform. Anybody who calls for nationalized health care while eating loads of obviously crap food etc. is a hypocrite of the first order.

    Of course, it’s hard to know exactly what is healthy food, there are so many conflicting views. But I think a few good ones are the classic “only buy food from the edges of grocery stores,” “try to live on the food that your great-great-great grandparents lived on,” and simply cook your own food and try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible.

    I have my own contribution to this list I just came up with: avoid any restaurant that has chain locations outside of the city/state that you live in.

  12. I’m sorry… jellied slave’s fat? I got caught on that and didn’t get much further. Why will not the Oracle at Google divulge this secret, no matter how many search terms I try?

  13. To each their own – if whining about how tasty potatoes will cause the downfall of western civilization is your thing, I’d say go for it. Except that their really are food police out there trying to interfere with my life.

    I’ll tell you what, you can have my chili cheese fries when you pry them from my cold dead hands…

  14. You might be interested to know that there is no scientific evidence that sodium is bad for people–except for a minority fraction of people with high blood pressure who are sodium sensitive. There is no scientific evidence to show that eating salt *causes* high blood pressure in normal people, and there is no evidence that eating a low salt diet is beneficial for people who do not have high blood pressure. It also is not helpful for most people who do have high blood pressure. Also, I was interested to read an article recently saying that people all over the world eat a consistent amount of salt each day, which is around 4000 mg, independent of culture and nationality. The drumbeat against salt is misguided.

  15. jellied slaves’ fat topped with hammered gold and ocelot bile.

    Can I get that to go?

  16. it is kind of odd that all of the other fries are large portions, or even family size; but when the “best” fries are mentioned, it is a small portion. that just doesn’t seem right.
    did the clown get to the author?
    to be fair, it should have been measured out per oz or some base unit, then stated how many of these base units are in a typical serving.

  17. It’s useless to say how bad this food is. If anyone is subsisting on it, they’ve got a larger problem. What’s gone wrong is the change from restaurants being a treat to becoming a staple.

    Everything is bad for you. Bad things are ok in moderation.

    Besides, who eats at fast food or chain restaurants? Gross.

  18. The FDA should require fat in excess of 30 grams to be expressed in ounces. This particular plate-full of fries clocks in at about four ounces of fat. For those of you who are doing the math, that is a quarter POUND of fat – one whole stick of butter’s worth. Oink.

  19. The thing about Roman decadence is the stuff we hear about and remember are the things that were written by people trying to prove how terrible, immoral, and disgusting people were in comparison to their ancestors. In other words: it was bullshit.

    This, on the other hand…we’re not making this stuff up.

  20. Meh? Doesn’t mean a thing unless you consider the number of servings. Yeah, 1 person could eat the whole thing but it’s really unlikely.

  21. When we get Five Guys we split the regular order of fries but we still can’t finish it between 2 people. Half of it goes to the birds in the front yard the next morning.

  22. I love these Real World food comparisons. Forget your ethereal discussions of the best tofu or which kinds of fats are good or bad: tell me about the real stuff that I’m probably going to end up eating anyway. Where the spork meets the stomach, so to speak.

    I remember one comparison of burger-joint entrees. Burger King won the Mall of Shame award with their Super-sized (or King-sized I suppose) Cheeseburger/Fries/Milk Shake combo. Surprisingly the breakdown of the hit-points (to use the D&D terminology) was about 1/3 the slab of cheese-like substance, 1/4 the fries, and 1/3 the shake.

    I forget what the worst chocolate bar was but Aeros and Malteseres were the least harmful.

  23. Last year I went to Chillis, ordered the Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple-The-Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing combo’d it with the Texas Cheese Fries with Jalapeno Ranch seen above. It was delicious. 3,960 calories, 197 g fat (116 g saturated), 110 g protein, and 8,480 mg sodium all in one meal (not including the beverage).

    Sadly, I no longer see the Smokehouse Bacon Triple-The-Cheese Big Mouth Burger available on their menus. Perhaps bad publicity about have one of the most unhealthiest burgers available on their menu encouraged the m to change.

  24. The funny part is vegetarians offering nutritional advice. Are they serious?
    “French fries used to be my comfort food when I became a vegetarian”
    Right, there’s a vegetarian who knows about nutrition…

    1. What an odd comment, Mitch. Many vegetarians are very concerned with nutrition and choose their lifestyle specifically to focus on vegetables rather than animal protein; others just want to stop eating animals for various reasons. Some of the healthiest people I’ve ever known are lifelong vegetarians… and some are chunky slobs that eat only ramen, fries, and cheese pizza.

      The vegetarian in question also said that he’d given up fries years ago.

    2. MitchSchaft, my girlfriend is vegan, and she knows more about nutrition and the food she eats than anyone else I know.

    1. Deep fried mars bar portion containing 1x239g mars bar has 932 calories

      That’s a damn big mars bar, unless that weight includes the batter. A normal mars bar weighs around 40g.

  25. … clocking in at 1,920 calories, 147g of fat (of which 63g is saturated fat), and 3,580mg of sodium.

    Yeah, so? That’s interesting and all, but fries are spuds, so I’d be a lot more worried about the carb count than anything else. That stuff’ll kill you.

  26. yes, we get that you obsess over cholestrol and all that, but they avoided the most important question, HOW DOES IT TASTE!!!???

  27. Zippy fries are the greatest fries ever.

    In the unlikely event you pass through Troy, NY, GO HERE. Get 5 or six of their hot dogs and some zippy fries. You won’t be disappointed if you love grease and goo and heart attacks.

  28. The only reason Five Guys is on this list is that they serve their fries in gargantuan portions. They fill the cup with fries, put it in a bag, then shovel another generous helping of fries into the bag on top of that.

    A “regular” fries is easily a two-person serving, meaning that if you follow their advice (split the regular with someone) you’re back in a reasonably acceptable range.

    I went there once with my in-laws and some kids, and had to stop my mother-in-law from ordering everyone their own fries, lest we need a wheelbarrow to get all the potatoes to the van.

  29. But a coronary never tasted so good. I’d rather die with a cannoli in my mouth than with my feet on a treadmill. :D

  30. Ah, Roman feasts.

    Still, even though I’m no fan of Christianity, I doubt I would have any desire to ingest it’s followers.

  31. “Men’s Health magazine has done a roundup of the worst — that is, highest-calorie, highest-fat, highest-salt — ”

    Or what I like to refer to as, “the best.”

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