Lunch Break: This Is the Unhealthiest Meal in America

Long John Silver’s, you have some explaining to do.

Long John Silver's Big Catch meal of fried fish, hushpuppies, and onion rings is the unhealthiest meal in America, according to the DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. One meal contains 52 grams of fat and 3,700 milligrams of sodium. Photograph via Flickr user anokarina.

For this week’s special edition of Lunch Break, I have to start with a confession. Years ago, during a summer living in northern New Mexico and having already consumed countless tacos, I had a hankering for some fresh fish. So I pointed my rental car in the direction of the nearest restaurant that could (sort of) appease my craving: Long John Silver’s.

Barf, I know. But this was before my health and fitness blogger era, and $4.99 for some fried fish and hushpuppies was music to my poor-college-student ears.

Well, folks, that meal has come back to haunt me four years later. I now know that the very meal I ordered—or at least something very similar to it—is officially the worst restaurant meal in America. As the DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael F. Jacobson recently put it, Long John Silver’s Big Catch meal is a “heart attack on a hook.”

Last week the CSPI released lab test results that revealed the meal, which consists of fried fish, hushpuppies, and onion rings, contains a whopping 52 grams of fat—and not the good kind. That’s 33 grams of trans fat and 19 grams of saturated fat, two of the biggest promoters of heart disease.

It gets worse. The meal contains 3,700 milligrams of sodium, which far exceeds the FDA’s recommendation of no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. And the caloric total? A startling 1,320 calories.

“Long John Silver’s Big Catch meal deserves to be buried 20,000 leagues under the sea,” said Jacobson in a statement. “Instead of the Big Catch, I’d call it America’s Deadliest Catch.” 

CSPI researchers tested Big Catch meals at various Long John Silver’s in Washington. They found that about 40 percent of the seven to eight ounces of fried fish consisted of a trans-fat-drenched batter of hydrogenated oil.

The CSPI has contacted Long John Silver’s CEO Mike Kern and has warned of a potential lawsuit if the company continues to use hydrogenated oil and falsely advertise the amount of actual fish in its meals. (The chain’s California locations are the only restaurants required by law to use canola oil.)

So there you have it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go care for my still-clogged arteries.