If you want to keep both your wallet and your waistline happy this holiday season, don’t shop on an empty stomach. Researchers from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota analyzed the purchases of 81 department store shoppers as they left the store and found that those who were hungry bought more and spent about 64 percent more than those who weren’t famished.

The best advice is to hit the mall fully fortified, but marathon gift buying works up an appetite—and the wafting scent of cinnamon rolls or chocolate chips cookies can lead you by the nose right to the food court. To help you make smart choices, Consumer Reports’ dietitians scoured the menus at 10 popular mall food court chains and found some better alternatives to 20 not-so-healthy dishes.

Au Bon Pain

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Chicken Caesar Asiago Salad with Caesar Dressing

660

46

12

4

1,440

Pick

Chicken Caesar Asiago Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

480

25

8.5

9

1,280

Skip

2 Egg, Ham & Cheddar on a Plain Bagel

530

17

8

6

1,090

Pick

2 Egg & Ham on a Skinny Wheat Bagel

270

12

4.5

2

740

Small swaps at this food court eatery can make a big dietary difference. At Au Bon Pain, a simple change in salad dressing on the Chicken Caesar Asiago Salad results in a savings of 180 calories and 21 grams of fat. Leaving off the Cheddar cheese on the plain bagel sandwich saves 60 calories and 5 grams of fat. But skip the cheese and choose the smaller Skinny Bagel, and you save about half the calories and 5 grams of fat.

Auntie Anne’s

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Original Pretzel with Cheese Dip

440

13

5.5

10

1,460

Pick

Original Pretzel
(no butter, no salt, with Marinara Dip)

355

2

0

14

640

Skip

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel

470

12

7

29

400

Pick

Sweet Almond Pretzel
(no butter)

350

2

1

17

400

Pretzels have a reputation for being a low-fat snack, but not at Auntie Anne’s, where they’re slathered in butter. Plus, the savory options are often rolled in salt. Fortunately, the chain gives you the option of ordering many of the pretzels sans butter and salt, which cuts calories and sodium. If you must have a dip, your best option is the marinara. The other savory dips and the sweet glaze and caramel dips from this food court favorite pack in too many calories and too much fat, sugars, or sodium.  

Cinnabon

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Classic Roll

880

37

17

58

820

Pick

Churro

280

11

2

8

375

Skip

Cinnasticks

400

21

9

16

400

Pick

Cinnasweeties

260

13

6

13

220

Cinnabon certainly isn’t the healthiest place you could visit at the food court, but if you can’t resist, it’s good to know that there are some better choices. Be sure to say no thanks to the frosting cup that come with the Cinnasticks and Cinnasweeties, though—it adds 210 calories, 13 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 21 g sugars, and 120 mg of sodium.  

Five Guys

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Cheeseburger

840

55

g fat, 26.5

g saturated fat, 9

g sugars, 1,050 mg sodium

Pick

Little Cheeseburger

550

32

15

8.5

690

Skip

Hamburger

700

43

19.5

8

430

Pick

Little Hamburger

480

26

11.5

8

380

Portion control is the secret to having the burger you crave without going overboard. The “little” options are still a satisfying 6 to 7 ounces, compared to 11 ounces for the regular size. Just forgo the fries—a order here will set you back 953 calories, 41 g fat, and 962 mg sodium. 


Check Consumer Reports' 2015 Holiday Guide for our picks of the best gifts, details on the latest deals, time-saving tips, and much more. And see our countdown calendar for top gift ideas for everyone on your list.
 

Panda Express

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Beijing Beef

470

26

5

24

660

Pick

Beef Broccoli

150

7

1.5

7

520

Skip

Veggie Spring Roll

190

8

1.5

3

520

Pick

Chicken Potsticker

160

6

1.5

2

250

You probably wouldn’t expect a beef dish to have the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugars (24 grams). Some of the sugars in the Bejing Beef at this food court Asian restaurant come from the onions and red peppers, but a fair amount is found in the “sweet-tangy” sauce everything is tossed in. The Veggie Spring Roll is actually not such a bad option, but we included it here to show you that the vegetarian choice isn’t always the better nutritional choice. 

Sbarro

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

New York Style Cheese Slice

410

14

8

N/A

790

Pick

Sbarro Skinny Slice

270

8

2.5

N/A

790

Skip

Tomato, Broccoli, and Spinach Stromboli

640

20

5

N/A

1,190

Pick

Broccoli, Tomato, and Spinach Slice

460

18

7

N/A

770

Our first skip choice here is a bit misleading because a cheese slice is the second lowest calorie and fat pizza slice at Sbarro. But the Skinny Slice is the best pizza option. Strombolis are among the worst choices here; the meat ones are upwards of 1,000 calories and even the spinach one is 900 calories. The Tomato, Broccoli, and Spinach is the best of the bunch. Split one with a friend or go for a Broccoli, Tomato, and Spinach Slice—it's a little better overall. 

Starbucks

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Chicken Artichoke on Ancient Grain Flatbread

510

27

8

1

1,120

Pick

Chicken Santa Fe on Ancient Flatbread

370

15

6

1

850

Both these sandwiches sound as if they’d fall into the lighter fare category, which just goes to show you that you can’t always choose by the name. In fact, the Chicken Artichoke sandwich has as many calories as Starbucks’ BBQ Beef Brisket on Sourdough—and more fat. As with most fast food fare, both sandwiches are too high in sodium. You shouldn’t get more than 2,300 milligrams a day. The Santa Fe supplies 37 percent of that, but the Chicken Artichoke is worse, providing nearly half your daily maximum. 

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Caffe Mocha

360

15

9

35

150

Pick

Skinny Mocha

160

1.5

1

15

140

The Caffe Mocha is made with 2 percent milk and comes topped with sweetened whipped cream. Skip the whip and the calories drop to 290, the fat to 8 grams, and the saturated fat to 5 grams. The Skinny is made with nonfat milk, sugar-free syrup, and no whip. These nutritional values are for the 16-ounce Grande; order a Short (8 ounces) and you’ll slash the numbers in half. Tempted by one of the holiday coffee offerings? Be aware that they can be calorie and sugar bombs, not just at Starbucks, but at other coffee chains, too. 

Subway

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item
(6-inch subs)

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Steak & Cheese with Light Mayo

430

15

5

8

1,130

Pick

Roast Beef with Mustard

320

5

1.5

7

780

Skip

Turkey Italiano Melt

510

25

9

9

1,490

Pick

Turkey Breast with Provolone and Light Mayo

380

13

4

7

890

Depending on what else is piled on, a turkey sandwich can be rather high in calories and fat, as this Turkey Italiano shows. Roast beef is actually one of the leanest cold cut options. Adding Cheddar cheese increases the calories by 60 and the sodium by 110 milligrams. With either turkey or roast beef, though, the simpilier the sandwich, the healthier. Skip condiments if you can—they add lots of sodium and sometimes calories. For example, mustard is practically calorie-free, but it contributes 120 milligrams of sodium to the roast beef sandwich. Add extra veggies for flavor and moisture instead. 

Taco Bell

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Fiesta Taco Salad-Chicken

730

33

7

7

1,490

Pick

Fresco Soft Taco, Shredded Chicken (2)

280

7

2

4

940

Skip

XXL Grilled Stuff Burrito, Beef

860

41

14

6

2,200

Pick

Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller

380

16

4

3

830

The Fresco Soft Taco’s are on the small side, but as you can see even if you eat two, you still making a healthier move by choosing the tacos over the taco salad. And the sodium count of the Grilled Stuffed Burrito—just 100 milligrams shy of your maximum daily allotment—is a good example of why it’s best to stay away from foods with XXL in their name. We found a hearty alternative that has less sodium along with far fewer calories and much less fat, saturated fat, and sodium. 

TCBY

Skip
or
Pick?

Menu Item

Calories

Fat
(g)

Saturated Fat
(g)

Sugars
(g)

Sodium
(mg)

Skip

Sorbet Fizz

340

0

0

68

55

Pick

Lemon Sorbet

80

0

0

10

0

Skip

Cookies & Cream Yogurt with Hot Fudge

230

7

1.5

30

105

Pick

Dutch Chocolate Yogurt with Strawberries

108

0

0

17.5

66

Sorbet Fizz sounds so light, doesn’t it? When you look at the numbers you see it’s anything but. The drink is made with sorbet and Sprite. Nutritional information depends on the flavor of sorbet; what we used here is the best possible scenario. The counts can rise far higher—up to 610 calories and a whopping 111 grams of sugars. That’s 28 teaspoons. Plain sorbet is a far better pick, or if you want something creamy frozen yogurt is OK—just watch what you top it with.

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/shopping/holiday-shopping-and-gift-guide/index.htm