CSPI Nutritionists Name Worst Packaged & Restaurant Foods

The iconic red and white cans look so innocent, but an average cup of Campbell's condensed soup provides more than 810 milligrams of sodium. Someone eating the whole can—like most people, probably—will consume 2,030 mg of sodium, more than most adults should consume in a whole day. And according to nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it's one of the 10 worst foods that Americans should be eating less of. Tomorrow, October 24, is Food Day and the nonprofit watchdog group is helping people observe the occasion by identifying 10 packaged and restaurant foods that help illustrate why America has obesity, diabetes, and heart disease problems.

"Food Day is an opportunity for Americans to begin improving their diets," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Eating an occasional can of Campbell's Soup isn't going to kill anyone. Neither is the odd 1,000-calorie burrito or 2,000-calorie plate of macaroni and cheese. But for too many Americans those aren't special-occasion splurges… they're everyday staples."

Other foods to avoid include:

  • Stouffer's Satisfying Servings White Meat Chicken Pot Pie has "only" 590 calories, 13 grams of saturated fat, and 930 mg of sodium. But those numbers are only for half a pie! Most people are likely getting all of its 1,180 calories, 26 grams of saturated fat (more than a day's worth), and 1,860 mg of sodium.
  • Five Guys might have a rosier reputation than McDonald's, but not when it comes to nutrition. Its Bacon Cheeseburger (sans toppings) has 920 calories and 1 1/2 days' worth of saturated fat (30 grams). It makes a Big Mac (520 calories) look positively wimpy, says CSPI.
  • Chicken Burrito from Chipotle is a terror in a tortilla with 1,020 calories, 16 grams of saturated fat, and 2,400 mg of sodium.
  • Macaroni and cheese is never health food, but Uno Chicago Grill's Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese has 1,980 calories (a day's worth), 71 grams of saturated fat (3 1/2 days' worth), and 3,110 mg of sodium (2 days' worth). According to CSPI it's like eating a family size box of Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese—which serves five people—with a stick of butter on top.

Food Day was launched by CSPI and a diverse advisory board in 2011 but today is powered by hundreds of volunteers who are organizing roughly 8,000 events around the country. Food Day aims to inspire Americans to change their diets for the better and to support smarter food policies. Many events taking place this week will have a special emphasis on food justice issues facing farmworkers, restaurant employees, and children.

"Picking up good habits is just as important as dropping bad ones, which is why Food Day is giving away two collections of recipes, one designed especially for kids, to help people get started," Jacobson said.