4 food court foods you should never eat

We get it. After a long day of dragging yourself through the airport, you smell the faint, sweet aroma of General Tso's chicken. Or, you're trying on shoes on at the mall when a subtle hint of cinnamon wafts past you and gets your stomach rumbling.

Related: Best and worst gourmet foods:

Worst gourmet food items to order at a restaurant
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Worst gourmet food items to order at a restaurant

1. Wedge Salad

This steakhouse staple comprised of iceberg lettuce, dressing, blue cheese, tomatoes and bacon is included on many gourmet restaurant menus. Given the minimal ingredients, the wedge salad’s approximate price of $10 is excessive. In fact, many eateries mark this item up at least 20 times, said Peter Chastain, executive chef of California’s Prima Ristorante, in an interview with Reader’s Digest.

“I don’t get why people consider wedge salads a gourmet food,” said food blogger and nutrition student Alon Popilskis. “A person can easily make their own wedge salad at home for a few dollars.”

Save several bucks, and make the iceberg wedge salad yourself by cutting an iceberg lettuce into quarters and adding homemade blue cheese dressing, applewood bacon crumbles and chopped sweet tomatoes. For the price of one wedge salad served in an upscale steakhouse, you’ll get four salads.

2. Lobster

Unless you live near the Gulf of Maine, which nets 94 percent of the lobster in the U.S., enjoying this shellfish can be expensive. A typical lobster dinner will set you back about $45, and soups and pastas made with the seafood fetch high menu prices, as well.

It’s all a little comical when you consider the fact that lobsters were once fed to servants and prisoners in Colonial New England. However, the lobster’s image has evolved over the years, and now the once barely tolerated crustacean is considered a premium menu item.

The problem is, unless they’re serving whole lobsters in their shells, restaurants will sometimes substitute other seafood in dishes. Incredibly, a 2016 Inside Edition report uncovered that 35 percent of tested lobster dishes from 28 restaurants contained cheaper seafood, like pollock. Even Red Lobster’s lobster bisque included langostino and not lobster meat as the menu claimed.

Find Out: How to Eat Out and Still Save Money

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3. Kobe Beef

Currently, only about 3,000 head of cattle can accurately be labeled Kobe, which means that many of the restaurants claiming to serve the premium beef, don’t. To be Kobe beef, meat must come from Tajima cattle, which are born and bred in Japan’s Hyogo region.

Known for its distinctive marbling, flavor and tenderness, authentic Kobe beef is served at only nine restaurants in the U.S. and costs up to $25 an ounce. Moreover, Popilskis said that whatever is labeled, sold and priced as Kobe in the other American restaurants is fake. More likely, the meat passed off as Kobe is Wagyu, a term that refers to all Japanese beef.

“Another item that’s a huge rip-off are Kobe sliders,” Popilskis said. “Restaurants typically sell Kobe hamburgers for $15 to $20, but these places are just using some other combination of beef. Someone at home can easily make sliders with the same taste as what’s being served as Kobe for a fraction of the price.”

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4. Oysters

Sure, you can eat them smoked, baked, stewed or steamed, but it’s raw oysters that garner the most culinary fans. However, with each oyster priced between $2 and $3, the cost of a dozen-oyster appetizer is not insignificant. Additionally, oysters are prone to substitutions, and diners often find themselves purchasing lesser-quality seafood without knowing it.

Take, for example, Blue Point Oysters harvested from the Long Island Sound in New York and Connecticut. Once a favored oyster due to its flavor profile, the Blue Point was sold at premium prices — and just as often substituted with lesser-quality oysters.

If you want to be sure you’re eating the oysters you ordered, ask the restaurant to see the shipping tag, which shows an oyster’s freshness and origin. Most quality restaurants will show these to you upon request.

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5. Truffle Oil

A rare edible fungus, the truffle is a well-known delicacy often served shaved over dishes like risotto and other high-end entrees. However, instead of expensive fresh truffles, many restaurants offer truffle oil as a flavoring on french fries, potatoes and even pizza. The only problem is that most truffle oils don’t contain actual truffles.

“[Truffle oil] is a laboratory creation, made in the same manner as perfume, most often from a processed byproduct of formaldehyde,” said Larry Olmsted, the author of “Real Food, Fake Food,” in a recent interview with “The Diane Rehm Show.”

Find Out: How to Make Truffle Oil Guacamole 

Given that fresh white truffles sell for about $200 an ounce, the availability of white truffle oil for less than $20 is certainly suspect. Many chefs reportedly despise the use of truffle oil in cooking because it lends an artificial smell and taste to food, but it continues to be used and passed off as gourmet to unsuspecting diners.

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6. Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

Real parmigiano reggiano cheese is made in Northern Italy, and its production is subject to some pretty strict Italian laws and EU regulations. The resulting cheese is aged for at least one year and comes in a wheel measuring almost a foot in thickness and weighing between 80 pounds and 90 pounds. The real deal costs thousands of dollars and is easy to spot, thanks to its namesake rind and pin-dot pattern embedded in the crust.

However, this high-end cheese is often faked in both its whole and grated forms — and FDA testing even discovered that some counterfeit versions contained wood pulp.

To ensure you’re eating actual parmigiano reggiano cheese from Parma, Olmsted recommended looking for the Protected Destination of Origin (PDO) label, which guarantees the cheese’s authenticity.

If you don’t find the cheese you desire when eating out at your favorite restaurant, look for it at gourmet cheese shops or even your local supermarket. As long as you confirm the trademark rind and PDO seal, you can be relatively sure that you’re buying the real thing.

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The mall's food court is calling your name, and you're only human! You know how the story goes.

It's so easy to get tempted by the food court. Not only is it convenient and cheap, but it's delicious! Food courts are a fast-food heaven, but a nightmare in reality. Four particular foods can leave your body hurting for days. Watch the video above to learn about which tempting foods you should avoid.

Related: Best and meats for you

The 10 Best Meats And The 10 Worst Ones
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The 10 Best Meats And The 10 Worst Ones

The Best

It's important to know your health priorities when selecting the proper meat. There are meats you can enjoy that won't affect your cholesterol or send your sodium levels through the roof. Read on to learn more.

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Pork Tenderloin

While pork can definitely be considered a heavy food, lean cuts of pork can be pretty nutrient rich and even low in calories. A three ounce serving of pork tenderloin has 122 calories and three grams of fat.

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Buffalo (also known as bison) can be a great healthy alternative to red meat like steak or beef. The taste of buffalo is comparable to that of more common red meats and it has half as much fat and fewer calories.

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Roast Beef

If you can’t bear to give up deli meats, which are notorious for nitrates, then roast beef is your best bet. It’s leaner than most deli meats, lower in saturated fat and offers about seven grams of protein per slice.

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Chicken can be an exceptionally lean meat and impressively low in saturated fat when consumed without the skin. Chicken is also filled with nutrients like selenium, vitamin B6 and Vitamin B3. Traditionally white meat has been lauded as the healthier part of the chicken, but while white meat is lower in calories, dark meat contains more zinc and B vitamins than white meat does. Did you know that chicken can actually be a natural anti-depressant as well?

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Ostrich is another great choice for those trying to eat less red meat but who still crave the taste. It’s technically poultry and actually contains half the fat of chicken with 2.8 grams in comparison with chicken’s 7.4. A three-ounce serving has 123 calories and over 24 grams of protein.

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It’s not Thanksgiving without turkey and the good news is that you don’t even have to feel guilty about enjoying it! A four-ounce serving of white meat turkey without the skin has 158 calories and 34 grams of protein. Turkey is also filled with vitamins B3 and B6 in addition to maintaining a low saturated fat content.

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Pheasant is another type of bird that has a lot of nutrients and not too many calories. Enjoying this one with the skin is a bit more fattening, but at least there are a lot of minerals in the bird to make up for it.

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Lamb Shank

This meat comes from the shank half of the lamb and if it's very well trimmed it can be a reasonably healthy meat to enjoy. A lean three-ounce serving of lamb shank has about 153 calories and under six grams of fat. This size serving of lamb shank also contains about 50 percent of the daily recommended intake of zinc for women and 36 percent for men.

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Yes, veal has more cholesterol than beef. However, if you enjoy leaner cuts of veal like sirloin you'll be consuming 150 calories or less per three-ounce serving.

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Pork Chop

A boneless pork chop has about 147 calories per serving and 23 grams of protein. The sodium levels are also pretty low on this meat.

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The Worst

Try to consume these meats in moderation since their nutritional profile isn't as impressive.

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Corned Beef

Corned beef is generally made of the fattier areas of brisket, which should give you a pretty good image of its health profile. It has 16 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 960 mg of sodium, not to mention nitrates. Savor this meat on special occasions.

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Even if it seems light and thin, just a two-ounce serving of prosciutto contains over 10 grams of fat and four grams of that fat is unhealthy saturated fat. In addition to its unsavory fat content, prosciutto is also salted, which makes the sodium content a whopping 973 mg per serving when the daily recommended limit is 1500 mg. Enjoy this one sparingly.

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When eating ham spring for the leaner versions because it is a high fat food. A three-ounce serving of boneless roasted ham has 7.7 grams of fat with 2.7 grams made up of saturated fat.

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If you want to knock out 17 percent of your daily recommended sodium intake with one slice, then try salami. Of the six grams of fat in that slice, two are saturated fat. Savor this one on special occasions.

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It's a shame that such a popular food isn't very nutritionally beneficial since it is both high in sodium and saturated fat. Try sprinkling bacon on dishes as a condiment instead, or give turkey bacon a shot.

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This classic lunch meat is definitely one that should be enjoyed sporadically. One slice contains 300 mg of sodium and 3 grams of saturated fat.

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Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are a very common processed meat. Processed meats can contain nitrates and are frequently high in sodium.

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Roughly two ounces of mortadella contain 14 grams of fat and 560 mg of sodium. That's 23 percent of your daily recommended intake of sodium.

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Chicken Nuggets

This childhood staple is sadly not very healthy. Sometimes chicken nuggets contain very little chicken and the ingredients that end up in a nugget can be icky. Plus the signature breaded exterior only adds calories. Your best bet is to make your own chicken nuggets from scratch.

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Duck actually has a lot of nutrients in it, but if it's not prepared properly it becomes a very fattening meal. Try to keep the duck lean by cooking it skinless, trimming the fat and not using a lot of oil. Of the six grams of fat in a serving, there are 2.3 grams of saturated fat, so there's no need to add more.

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