Real Appeal logo
How It WorksOur MembersOur CoachesThe Spark
Member login

5 Worst Lunch Foods

Real Appeal image

Your healthy breakfast is long gone. Your stomach is starting to growl loudly enough for coworkers to hear. You have an hour for lunch. What will it be? The combo at your favorite sandwich shop? Three slices of pizza from the cafeteria? Or the classic burgers and fries?

Not so fast. Lunch fuels the rest of your day, so making the right choice is crucial.

Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, weighs in on five terrible lunch food options and why they can leave you feeling bloated, give you heartburn and add up to weight gain.

1. Pizza

The average slice of pepperoni pizza contains about 680 mg of sodium, 12 g of fat (5 g saturated fat) and 300 calories. But who eats just one slice? Three slices from a large pie provide more than 2,000 mg of sodium -- almost the daily limit for average Americans (2,300 mg/day) in just one meal. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of disease and death in the country. Leave the pizza for an occasional Friday night out -- and give your blood vessels a break.

2. Burgers & fries

If your favorite lunch meal contains the words “combo” or “meal deal,” take a step back from the counter. A typical double cheeseburger and large fries provides about 1200 calories and up to 1700 mg of sodium (74% of daily needs). Make it a combo with a large soda, and you’ll top 1,500 calories. Unfortunately, consistently eating high-calorie, high-fat and high-sodium foods wreaks havoc on your body -- upping your risk for weight gain, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

3. Cold-cut combo

Lunch meats tend to be loaded with sodium, saturated fat and carcinogenic agents known as nitrates and nitrites, which are known to increase the risk of certain cancers. Three ounces of processed deli meat (bologna, ham, turkey or salami) can provide up to 1300 mg of sodium. That’s before you add cheese, condiments and bread. The saturated fat content is as high as 9 g for one 3 oz serving of a cold-cut sandwich; that’s about 50% of the recommended daily limit. Don’t just hold the pickles -- skip the sandwich.

4. Hot dog

A typical frankfurter contains as much 19 g of fat -- 8 g of which is “bad” saturated fat. One hot dog provides more than half of your daily recommended saturated fat intake and 33% of your sodium intake. Keep in mind this is for ONE plain dog, if you add any condiments values will increase. Or if you typically eat two hot dogs, it would be close to your day’s allotment of saturated fat and sodium. High saturated fat intake can increase your LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. A high salt (sodium) diet can increase blood pressure, which also puts you at an increase risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure. Try a grilled chicken sandwich or salad instead.

5. Fried chicken

Just one fried chicken breast from your favorite chicken place packs 500+ calories, 34 g of fat and 1,200-plus mg of sodium. Fried foods are often loaded with fat and sodium, a deadly tag team when you consider that every 40 seconds an American dies from a cardiovascular-related disease. Ditch the fried chicken -- and the other foods above -- or at least make them rare treats rather than daily habits. Your body will thank you.

This article was written by Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD from Cleveland Clinic and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to