Things You Should Never Order At Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel knows that when you've got driving to do, it's not just your car that needs fuel. Which is why its restaurants are nearly always located just a stone's throw from the highway. But while a gallon of lunch for your car is pretty much the same from one gas station to the next, the same can't be said for the human equivalent. And although the convenience of Cracker Barrel can help you keep your road trip on track, making the wrong decision when you order your meal might do the exact opposite for your diet — or your digestive tract. 

Cracker Barrel might draw you in with the promise of meals that are as close to home-cooked as you'll get on the road, but some of the ingredients are far from anything you'll find in your mother's kitchen. So should you find yourself filling up at the Cracker Barrel pump, here are some things to steer clear of.

Cracker Barrel's Fresh Fruit N' Yogurt Parfait Breakfast

The cruel irony of the Fresh Fruit N' Yogurt Parfait Breakfast is that it's part of the "Lighter Twist" menu, meaning if you're ordering this for breakfast, you're probably making an effort to make healthy choices. And what a valiant effort it was — ordering yogurt in a room filled with pancakes and bacon is no easy feat. Unfortunately, it was probably not as great of a choice as you were hoping. 

This breakfast is a parfait, constructed from low-fat yogurt, seasonal fruit, honey oats, and granola, and it's served with scrambled egg whites and turkey sausage. Sounds healthy, right? Wrong. Sure, it's fewer calories than a stack of pancakes, coming in at 510. But the 65 grams of carbs that come loaded on this plate are not what you'd expect with a "light" breakfast, and neither are the 41 grams of sugar. All that sugar means that depending on your nutrition goals, you're either meeting or surpassing your daily sugar intake before you've even finished breakfast. For all those carbs and sugars, you might as well at least order something that tastes good, because this breakfast is not as healthy as the'd like you to think.

Cracker Barrel's Fried Chicken Salad

You shouldn't be surprised to see the Fried Chicken Salad on this list. Topping a salad with fried chicken, cheese, croutons, and deviled eggs is definitely one way to make your greens taste good, but it's not so helpful if you're working your waistline or your heart health.

With this salad, you're looking at 870 calories, 1860 milligrams of sodium, and 53 grams of carbs — and that's without the dressing. Of course, it's not a salad without the dressing. Since you're on a roll already you might as well choose the worst offender there, too, which is the Honey French Dressing. That's going to add another 350 calories, 580 milligrams of sodium, and 26 grams of carbs. At this point, you may as well give up on ordering a salad and go for a burger and fries. It's just about as healthy, and you don't have all that pesky lettuce to eat around.

Cracker Barrel's Sunday Homestyle Chicken

Cracker Barrel offers a different dinner special for every day of the week, and Sunday is not the day you want to go for it. 

The Sunday Homestyle Chicken is two boneless chicken breasts, dipped in buttermilk batter, breaded, and deep-fried. That definitely sounds delicious, but probably not worth the calories — it clocks in at 1350, and that's just for the chicken! It also provides 3200 milligrams of sodium, which is more than double what the American Heart Association says you should aim to take in over the course of an entire day. 

Hold on to your menus, because you still have to pick two sides, and make a choice between biscuits or corn muffins — both served with real butter, of course. Depending on what you choose there, you could easily add another 1,000 calories and a 1000-2000 more milligrams of sodium. That's an awful lot for just one meal. If you absolutely have to have this Sunday special, we recommend choosing at least one of lighter sides, such as steamed broccoli, and saving one piece of the chicken for a later meal. 

Cracker Barrel's Pecan Pancakes

If you're a fan of pecans (is there anyone who isn't?), these pecan pancakes are delicious breakfast option. Unfortunately, they're also incredible unhealthy. These three giant, pecan-filled pancakes, topped with butter, come in at a whopping 1130 calories, 2720 milligrams of sodium, and 119 grams of carbs. What a way to start your day! Lucky for you, they're relatively low in sugar — just 12 grams — but hold on just a minute, because that part's coming. 

It's almost impossible to eat pancakes without syrup, and once you add a serving of the 100 percent natural, pure maple syrup Cracker Barrel has on offer, you're tacking on 150 more calories and 37 more grams of sugar. That's your daily recommended intake of sugar, just in maple syrup. And lets' face it, no one's going to eat just one serving of syrup when they're faced with three pancakes, each the size of a plate. 

Cracker Barrel's Momma's Pancake Breakfast

Everyone knows that our moms just want what's best for us. One of the ways our moms look after us is to make sure we start the day with a good solid breakfast, the better to help us flourish and have all our dreams come true. But if your mom was Cracker Barrel, and "she" fed you her pancake breakfast every day, the only dream you could realistically expect to come true would be obesity, heart disease, and an early death ... so not really a dream then. 

According to Cracker Barrel's nutritional guide, Momma's Pancake Breakfast (that's three pancakes, two eggs, butter, and your choice of meat — let's use bacon) would contain 1,1250 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat, and a heart-stopping 2,710 milligrams of sodium. According to the FDA, your standard 2,000-calorie daily diet should include no more than 20 grams of saturated fat and 2,400 milligrams of sodium if you want to stay remotely healthy. You could save yourself 350 calories by skipping the butter and syrup, and switching from bacon to turkey sausage, but now you're eating a plate of dry pancakes and you're still over budget on sodium for the whole day. This one seems like a lose-lose, no matter how you look at it.

Cracker Barrel's Grandpa's Country-Fried Breakfast

Cooking styles often run in families, and the Cracker Barrel family is certainly no different. Because if you take one look at the breakfast Grandpa Barrel is offering, it's clear where Momma learned everything she knows. Grandpa's country-fried breakfast comes with two eggs, grits, gravy, biscuits, butter, fried apples or hash brown casserole, and either country-fried chicken or chicken-fried steak. Whew — so much food!

Even going with the slightly less bad options of fried apples and country-fried chicken, assuming two biscuits and ignoring the optional preserves, you're still consuming 1,340 calories, 19 grams of saturated fat, 465 milligrams of cholesterol, and 2,805 milligrams of sodium. Congratulations! Even this monstrous meal hasn't put you over your daily recommended intake of ... calories. 

The saturated fat is over the limit, and the sodium crosses the line, as well. If you're prepared to ignore "All the Fixin's," (i.e., the biscuits, butter, and gravy), you can bring the sodium and saturated fat content of your breakfast down to semi-reasonable levels, but that leaves you with a pretty boring breakfast.

Cracker Barrel's Country-Fried Shrimp

Choose anything on the Cracker Barrel menu that includes the word "fried" in the description, and you know it's never going to be a poster child for weight loss, but it's not necessarily an automatic disqualification. Add the word "country" to that description however, and it might as well be waving a red flag. The country-fried shrimp platter comes with half a pound of breaded fried shrimp, hush puppies, three sides of your choice, plus a complimentary corn muffin or buttermilk biscuit with butter. Even choosing three boring sides like steamed broccoli, boiled cabbage, and coleslaw, along with a slightly more interesting complimentary corn muffin, you'll be sentencing yourself to a meal that contains 1,250 calories, 15 grams of saturated fat... and 3520 milligrams of sodium!

That's more than twice the ideal daily intake of sodium. Even if you abandon all the sides and just eat the fried shrimp and hush puppies, you'll still be consuming 2570 milligrams of sodium in one sitting: 270 milligrams more than the maximum amount for a whole day. And if instead of choosing the relatively sensible sides, you go all in, you could go over a day's worth of calories — and a week's worth of sodium.

Cracker Barrel's Chicken n' Dumplins

It's easy to get distracted by nutrition when you're trying to decide what to eat. However there are occasionally other reasons to decide against a certain dish. Take Cracker Barrel's Chicken n' Dumplins as an example. However, there's an even better reason to avoid a plate full of "dumplins": because it will probably just look gross. 

You have to remember that the pictures you see on the menu are better than a best-case scenario of what your particular chef might turn out the night you're there. What you actually get will depend a lot on what's happening behind the scenes, but in the case of chicken and dumplings (to use its full name), look what a writer from the Dallas Observer found on his plate the one time he stopped at the Barrel in 2013. It wasn't appetizing. What he received looked less like a meat- and starch-based entree covered in sauce and more like a beige, gelatinous mass that could conceivably double as an extra from Ghostbusters. It probably wouldn't look much different if it had already made the trip to your stomach and then decided to come back for an encore.

Cracker Barrel's Macaroni N' Cheese

Cracker Barrel's macaroni and cheese side option is basically regular mac and cheese with bits of bacon in it. Mac and cheese has its place, but that place is mostly in a cardboard box, being cooked on a student's stove, or riding on a student's fork directly from the pot it was cooked in. 

Mac and cheese can make for a good dinner when prepared well and eaten in moderation — it can even get fancy from time to time — but when it's casually included in a long list of side options, it's more like a landmine: sitting quietly and unnoticed until someone chooses it without thinking. Then BOOM! An extra 270 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 700 milligrams of sodium just blew your diet, and your health, to kingdom come.

Cracker Barrel's Sweet iced tea

Drinking sweet iced tea is a fine way to cool off on a warm summer day, or any other day for that matter. It's refreshing and easy to drink, often has less sugar than regular soda (and more nutritional benefits).

Cracker Barrel's sweet iced tea contains 130 calories from 34 grams of sugar, and as long as you know that's what you're drinking when you order it, it's probably fine. Except for those dang complimentary refills. All the time you're chatting away with your friends and casually drinking your tea, your servers are refilling it (like they should) and multiplying your calorie intake without you even realizing. At the end of the meal you might only have one empty glass in front of you, but thanks to good service it transformed into the beverage equivalent of the Tardis, containing several times more liquid and calories than you thought it did.

Cracker Barrel's Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake

It's hard to criticize a dessert for being less than good for you. The dessert wasn't trying to keep it a secret. And no one saying the words "Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake" to the server is expecting to gain some sort of health benefit from it. In fact, most of the "benefit" is gained in full knowing that the opposite is true ... but there are limits. 

Usually it's possible to eat a light meal, then indulge in a dessert without the numbers getting out of hand. But pick this option off the Cracker Barrel menu and you will be indulging in an extra 790 calories, 14 grams of saturated fat, and 96 grams of sugar. The only way to square that stomach-bulging muffin top of a circle is to limit your entree to a bowl of green salad and a glass of unsweetened ice tea. Then go for a 3-mile run, too. 

Cracker Barrel's Dumplins (on the side)

When you're looking at a menu and trying to make a smart decision, it's easy to get distracted by the main elements of a dish and drop your guard when it comes to the sides. But it does you no good to save yourself from some calories and salt on the main course (by forgoing your favorite main, at that!), only to unknowingly get them back in an ill-considered side dish. 

A side of dumplins, for example, seems pretty innocent. A little bowl of floury blobs covered in sauce — just the kind of thing you'd pick in a rush because you spent all your time making the big decisions. But those little dumps contain 210 calories and 940 milligrams of sodium, almost halfway to your daily limit of sodium. There shouldn't be that much sodium in your entire meal, let alone in just one of the three forgettable side dishes that come with it.