America’s Top 10 Unhealthiest Macaroni and Cheese Recipes

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Macaroni and cheese evokes feelings of nostalgia and contentment that few other American comfort foods do. Although there’s nothing quite like digging into your family’s recipe at home, many chain restaurants also serve mac & cheese if you’re in the mood for a hearty bowl of cheesy goodness. However, the hard-to-accept fact that most mac and cheese dishes aren’t very nutritious is hidden beneath the golden layer of melted cheese and perfectly cooked pasta (though there are some healthy options!). Although it’s common knowledge that macaroni and cheese isn’t a health food, we discovered that some restaurant chains’ offerings really push the boundaries of decadence.

By examining the nutritional data at some of the most well-known restaurant chains in America, we were able to determine which mac and cheese offenders were the worst. We examined the overall calorie count as well as the sodium and saturated fat content of each dish. Dishes frequently have 600 calories or more, which is simply too much. Saturated fat has a daily recommended maximum of about 20 grams, and many of these dishes exceed the recommended daily limits of sodium (2,300 milligrams). Regularly exceeding the daily recommended intake of saturated fat has been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

See which 10 American chain restaurant mac & cheese orders are among the worst for your health, according to registered dietitians. Continue reading to learn more. Additionally, you’ll discover some hints and techniques for savoring comfort food without going overboard.

1.Cheesecake Factory Fried Macaroni and Cheese

Cheesecake Factory Fried Mac and Cheese Appetizer

NUTRITION PER LARGE:1,310 calories, 70 g carbohydrates (6 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 2,140 mg sodium, 96 g fat (47 g saturated fat), and 40 g protein.
As stated by Tucson, Arizona-based Owner of Christy Wilson Nutrition, LLC is Christy Wilson, RDN. These marinara sauce-topped, crunchy, crumble-coated macaroni and cheese balls are a “calorie and fat bomb.” It is described as an appetizer that serves two to four people, but the serving size is actually quite small. Therefore, even if two people share this appetizer, it still contains far more saturated fat than is advised daily—and that’s before the main course!

2. Slim Chicken Mac and Cheese

Slim Chicken Mac and Cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 19 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 444 calories, 1,692 mg sodium, 48 g carbohydrates (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), and 19 g protein.
Macaroni and cheese is “one of the unhealthiest sides out there,” according to Eat Your Vitamins author Mascha Davis MPH, RDN. This dish has 73% of the daily recommended sodium intake. “These high amounts of sodium, fat, and calories, when eaten in excess, can lead to a higher risk for health issues such as heart disease and high blood pressure,” says Davis.

3. Panera Mac and Cheese

panera mac and cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 3,150 mg of sodium, 32 g fat (17 g saturated fat), 34 g carbohydrates (0 g fiber, 7 g sugar), and 16 g protein in 480 calories.
According to Davis, “not only is the Panera small mac and cheese high in sodium, but the fat content is close to the daily recommended value of 20 grams of saturated fat per day.” “This small 1-cup serving has an unhealthy fat content that’s through the roof.”

4. Noodles & Company Wisconsin Mac & Cheese

Noodles & Company mac and cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 42 g protein, 5 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 1,560 mg sodium, 38 g fat (20 g saturated fat), and 980 calories
Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, this main dish contains nearly 50% of the recommended daily caloric intake. While sodium is only 68% of the recommended daily maximum, saturated fat, which clogs arteries, is 100% of the recommended daily maximum. Eating this dish would be the same as eating almost eight slices of store-bought bread because the amount of carbohydrates is so excessive. If you’re in the mood for a delicious mac and cheese, I would definitely go for the small size.

5. Romano’s Macaroni Grill Signature Truffle Mac & Cheese

Romano's Macaroni Grill Signature Truffle Mac & CheeseALIMENTATION BY ORDER: 1,060 NUTRITION PER LARGE: calories, 24 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 2,970 mg sodium, 89 g fat (56 g saturated fat), and 45 g protein.
A blend of penne, asiago, fontina, smoked mozzarella, cheddar, pecorino, truffle oil, and herbed breadcrumbs create this sophisticated mac and cheese. Saturated fat is almost 300% of the daily recommended max, sodium is 129% of the recommended daily maximum, and the calories—despite sounding delicious—are more than 50% of the daily recommended amount (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). Regular consumption of foods high in these overconsumed nutrients can raise the risk of developing chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.

6. Chick-Fil-A Mac & Cheese

Chick-fil-a Mac and cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 840 calories, 53 g fat (30 g saturated fat), 2,230 mg sodium, 53 g carbohydrates (5 g fiber, 6 g sugar), and 38 g protein make up a large’s diet.
Don’t believe that this enormous mac and cheese side is what you’re craving. It’s just not a healthy choice, containing more calories than you should have in a single meal (keep in mind, this is a side dish), nearly 100% of the daily maximum sodium intake, and 150% of the daily maximum saturated fat intake that can clog arteries. Choose the small size or make this a shareable side for the table.

7. Church’s Texas Chicken Baked Mac & Cheese

Church's Texas Chicken Baked Mac & Cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 640 calories, 36 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 2,760 mg sodium, 57 g carbohydrates (4 g fiber, 11 g sugar), and 26 g protein are included in one large serving.
There are more calories in this side dish than you should be consuming in one meal. While saturated fat makes up 75% of the recommended daily max, sodium makes up 120% of it. If you’re going to get mac and cheese, get a small to share with a friend or split the large with the rest of the table.

8. Uno Pizzeria & Grill Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 2,200 calories, 160 g carbohydrates (6 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 133 g fat (58 g saturated fat), 4,310 mg sodium, and 96 g protein.
This dish is so high in calories that it exceeds the daily recommended intake of calories for the average American, who follows a diet of 2,000 calories. There’s an abundance of saturated fat and sodium, making up nearly 300% and 187% of the daily recommended maximum, respectively. As a registered dietitian, I would advise against ordering pasta at this restaurant because every dish has more than 1,000 calories.

9. Au Bon Pain Macaroni & Cheese

Au Bon Pain Macaroni & Cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 590 calories, 29 g fat (18 g saturated fat), 730 mg sodium, 61 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), and 20 g protein make up the small’s nutrition.
The calorie count and nutritional value of the small macaroni and cheese are excessive. Even though there is enough protein for a meal, the higher cheese portions also result in higher levels of saturated fat. Your best option is to share the small size and a protein-rich soup or healthy sandwich with a friend.

10. El Pollo Loco Macaroni & Cheese

el pollo loco mac and cheese

NUTRITION PER LARGE: 770 calories, 48 g fat (25 g saturated fat), 2,180 mg sodium, 60 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), and 23 g protein are included in the nutrition per large.
Although the large macaroni and cheese is intended to be served as a side, its high calorie, saturated fat, and sodium content means that it will cause you to consume well over the daily maximums before you’ve even had a chance to eat your main course. To put the 60 grams of carbohydrates in this mac and cheese dish into perspective, that’s the same as four slices of bread. This is something that a family should share, or you could divide the small amount among two or three people.

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