Things you should never order from the food court

We've all been there. You're running through the mall for a quick errand, and that's when it hits you. You suddenly realize that you're starving, and your only option is the bright neon lights of the food court. Don't panic. There are some good options there, but be sure to avoid these ones.

Fancy coffee drinks

You'd be hard-pressed to walk through a mall without running into a Starbucks or other fancy coffee shop on nearly every floor. Grabbing a nice cold coffee drink is a fun treat while running around the mall, but make sure it's really worth it for you. How much sugar and cream are being poured into that little cup?

"Sometimes the real question to that beloved caffeinated morning drink is, 'Would you like some coffee with your sugar, syrup, or cream?'" Sarah Asay, RD at bistroMD told me. "The cup of joe can be overflowed with unnecessary ingredients, ultimately displacing the benefits coffee has shown to offer."

Steven J. Hausman, Ph.D. agreed. "While the health benefits of coffee are manifold, people have come to love to have fancy lattes and other sorts of flavored coffee," he told me. "The problem with these concoctions is that they can contain huge amounts of sugar and fat. Stick with black coffee instead." If you can't get enough of your frozen coffee drinks, try a plain iced coffee with a splash of cream or one pump of flavored syrup.

Soft pretzels

You know that intoxicating scent that wafts through the air every time you walk past Auntie Anne's Pretzels? It's absolutely spellbinding and always leaves me craving a soft pretzel. Literally just typing these words right now is causing me to look for my keys so I can drive to the mall to get one. The problem with one of those soft pretzels is that it just feels like a little snack, but contains as many calories and fat as a full meal. An Auntie Anne's pepperoni pretzel dipped in their hot salsa cheese dip adds up to 570 calories with 23 grams of fat!

Fresh juice

A nice green juice seems like a safe option. You can bring your blood sugar back up for more shopping energy, then eat some real food at home. However, it's not as safe a choice as you'd think. It's true that your green juice is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but it's also full of sugar. 

"When you juice, you remove this healthy nutrient [fiber], leaving the sugar behind. Sugar in the absence of fiber will promote a higher more rapid rise in blood sugar in place of the more favorable steady rise in blood sugar when eating the whole fruit," Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA, Dr. Adrienne Youdim told me.

Large smoothies

So now that we know juice isn't as healthy as it looks, what about smoothies? Unlike juice, smoothies blend up the entire fruit, keeping that vital fiber. However, even smoothies aren't all they're cracked up to be.

For example, at Jamba Juice it' crucial to check the nutrition information. Sure, the peanut butter chocolate smoothie is probably not the best choice, but you'd be surprised at how sugary the matcha green tea blast smoothie is. It sounds so healthy, but the large size has 540 calories and 102 grams of sugar! Next time you're looking for a quick snack at the mall, skip the smoothie bar. 

Creamy pasta

I don't usually hit the mall food court when I'm craving a savory Italian dinner, but one look at that Sbarro buffet sometimes lures me in. We all know the pizza isn't great for us, but once in awhile it really hits the spot. However, watch out for the pasta dishes. They contain many more calories and fat than the pizza, and honestly, don't taste as good.

The chicken vesuvio with ziti dish contains a whopping 1510 calories and 93 grams of fat. That's in one serving! If you find yourself at the mall with Sbarro fever, try a slice of thin crust pizza topped with veggies.

Giant ice cream treats

Beware the food court ice cream options! It's very easy to mindlessly snack on a dish of ice cream while walking around the mall, without realizing just how much you're eating. If you're craving ice cream, get the smallest size and sit down to really enjoy it. The large size is never worth it. Just look at Dairy Queen. A large brownie cookie dough blizzard will not only give you a stomachache, but also 1500 calories and 63 grams of fat. Yep, that's 1500 calories, as in what some women eat in an entire day! If you're craving something cold and sweet, I get it. A mini M&M blizzard is the perfect amount of sweet treat and has 370 calories and 12 grams of fat. 

Fast food pastries

I dare you to walk past a Cinnabon or other fresh pastry shop in the food court and not to at least slow down. Those smells, that gooey frosting, and that warm pastry call your name, and it's hard to say no.

Deep down, each of us knows that a giant cinnamon roll is just one big sugarbomb, but the the numbers are still shocking. A Cinnabon caramel pecanbun, which sounds absolutely amazing, is definitely not worth it at 1080 calories and 51 grams of fat. And with 75 grams of sugar, this treat will send you into a major food coma once you come down from your sugar high.

Chinese food

If you find yourself craving some salty and savory Chinese food at the food court, be very picky with your choices. Look for grilled chicken breast with fresh vegetables and add some brown rice. Most of the Chinese options at the food court are deep fried and have so much batter that it's hard to find the meat inside. Dietitian Kari Hartel told SheFinds that some of the worst offenders are crab rangoon, fried egg rolls, lo mein, and General Tso's chicken.

Up-sized meals

Any time a food court employee asks if you'd like to up-size or try the value meal, just say no. I don't care if you get double the food for just one dollar more, it's not worth it for you or your health. According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, when healthy young adults ate a high-fat meal, the next time they were exposed to stress, their blood pressures rose more than normal. After a low-fat meal, their blood pressures remained stable. This shows us that just one meal high in saturated fat puts more stress on our hearts! So that extra large fry doesn't sound like such a deal anymore, does it?