While the mall food court can be a welcoming place for weary shoppers to eat to their heart’s content, there are many items you’d be wise to avoid. This suspicious-looking corn dog rolling lazily on a hot dog roller might leave your stomach in ruins. Or you might send your blood sugar into a state of disarray if you get into the habit of ordering extremely sugary “fruit smoothies.”
Here’s a look at 10 foods you should avoid on your next trip to a food court, even if they’re one of your favorite post-shopping snacks.
1. Hot Dogs/Cord Dogs
Do not mistake yourself. There will always be something immensely satisfying about parking yourself on a food court stool and gobbling down a few hot dogs. But it comes at a price.
Not only is processed meat considered a carcinogen, but buns are often made from refined white flour and don’t contain the types of vitamins and/or minerals you might benefit from if you opted for a whole grain bun instead. You also need to watch out for the extra sugar you may end up eating if you slather the hot dog with ketchup, relish, or mustard.
2. Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnabon’s magnetic appeal is criminal. Honestly, it’s crazy how ubiquitous Cinnabons are in malls across the country. However, you have to remember that your typical Cinnabon cinnamon roll contains an incredible 880 calories.
Then there’s the additional 1,150 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of fat (16 grams saturated), 129 grams of carbohydrates and 61 grams of sugar. This isn’t the kind of “snack” you want to hold on to between stores.
3. Sushi rolls
Do we even have to say it? Eating raw fish at a mall food court is a risk you don’t want to take. Additionally, your average sushi roll will be stuffed with white rice, which has a high glycemic index and can contribute to blood sugar spikes. If you like your sushi with soy sauce, you’ll also end up consuming more sodium in the process. At the end of the line ? Stay away from sushi at the food court.
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If you think fruit smoothies are a healthy option, you’re not alone. But these brightly colored drinks are often also full of sugar – and lots of it.
Many smoothies at food courts are mixed with sweeteners, ice cream, or sweetened yogurt. Of course, there are plenty of healthy smoothie options out there, but be sure to do your due diligence when it comes to analyzing the ingredients that go into that food court blender.
Related: 10 Homemade Smoothies Better and Cheaper Than Chain Versions
5. Chicken wings
I understand. There’s never a bad time to eat chicken wings. However, wings — and the equally tasty sauces they’re tossed in — can end up being loaded with fat, sodium and sugar. The frying process required to make these steaming plates of goodies causes the wings to act like sponges, soaking up all those unhealthy fats and oils. Still want chicken? Instead, opt for a food vendor that serves grilled chicken.
Related: The 8 Most Popular Costco Food Court Items, Ranked
French fries are one of those side dishes that are dangerously easy to overconsume. It’s essential to remember that fries are full of trans and saturated fats, which can be detrimental to your overall health. In fact, these types of fats can increase the risk of increased cholesterol levels in your body – something no one wants to avoid when visiting a food court.
Related: 8 of the Best Frozen French Fries, Ranked
You’re going to have a hard enough time finding appetizing pizza options in your average food court. If you can’t resist eating a few slices of cheese, you might as well wait until after the mall and buy a better frozen pizza at the grocery store.
Need another reason? Pizza crusts are often made from refined white flour, which is high in simple carbohydrates and devoid of fiber and nutrients. You will find yourself riding a terrible roller coaster of rapid energy surges with terrible energy drops.
8. Prepared sandwiches
While they’re convenient to grab and go when you’re caught up in a busy day, those sandwiches made and packed a few days ago can be a nightmare for your stomach or, in the worst case, cause food poisoning. While these sandwiches may look quite appealing, it’s unclear if some of these ingredients (like vegetables, condiments, etc.) are past their expiration date. It’s just not worth it.
If that’s not enough to rid you of your desire to grab a sandwich from the food court, just know that your typical deli sandwich can be absolutely terrible for your heart health.
Yes, nachos are irresistible. Between the cheeses and toppings and the crunch of the tortilla chips, the ingredients really come together in perfect harmony. However, cheese can significantly increase the overall saturated fat content of your nachos, while the frying process of some nacho dishes can also contribute to additional fat levels. Finally, your typical plate of food court nachos will be monstrous in size. It’s just a bad move all around.
Of course, there are burrito options that won’t put a strain on your body. But most traditional food court burrito options won’t account for this; you can end up consuming half a day’s worth of calories in some of these burritos. If you have the chance, opt for smaller tacos instead.