Consumer Reports: Surviving the mall food court

A full day at the mall could leave your wallet lighter but the rest of you heavier.

How does that work? Let’s say you stop at Starbucks for breakfast (frappuccino and a zucchini walnut muffin), Auntie Anne’s Pretzels for lunch (pretzel dog and lemonade), and Cinnabon for a pick-me-up (strawberry banana Chillata). We’ll play fair and pretend you didn’t actually eat a Cinnabon.

Ka-ching! 2,280 calories and 83 grams of fat—more of both than you should have in a day. But choose right and your waistline will pay a far lower price. Our chart shows nutrition figures for some of the best and worst choices from seven food vendors in many of the nation’s malls.

See the chart below or at

What you can do:

Avoid temptation by eating before you shop or taking your own snack. Other advice:

Choose reduced fat or light. You’ll save 50 calories and 5 grams of fat by buying a reduced-fat blueberry muffin at Dunkin’ Donuts instead of the regular version. At Starbucks, java chip Frappuccino with nonfat milk has 260 fewer calories and 14 fewer grams of fat than the same drink with whole milk and whipped cream. Visit Jamba Juice and you’ll save 120 calories by ordering a “light” banana berry smoothie instead of the “classic” version.

Be picky about toppings. Add blueberries, strawberries, or bananas to frozen yogurt: They have 13 to 33 calories per quarter-cup and no fat. By contrast, an ounce of peanuts, almonds, M&M’s, or peanut-butter-cup candies adds 137 to 169 calories. Order an Auntie Anne’s pretzel and you’ll cut 30 calories by skipping butter and 590 milligrams of sodium by leaving out the salt; 60 calories by avoiding sweet-mustard dipping sauce; and 150 calories (and 450 milligrams of sodium) by saying no to melted-cheese dip. You can’t do much right at Cinnabon except to pass on the frosting cup (180 calories).

Choose the right type. At Doc Popcorn, eat “better butter” instead of “caramel kettle” and cut calories in half. At Cold Stone Creamery, do the same by picking vanilla frozen yogurt, not vanilla bean ice cream.

Restrict the size. Yes, a Dunkin’ Munchkin is small, but a couple might at least satisfy your sweet tooth; and at 70 calories each, even six chocolate glazed munchkins have fewer calories than one blueberry muffin. Cold Stone’s Gotta Have It size of vanilla bean ice cream has 790 calories and 46 grams of fat; its Like It size has 330 calories and 19 grams of fat.

Check figures online before you go. Don’t assume you’ll know what’s most nutritious. Should you always choose something with veggies or fruit? No. The Starbucks zucchini walnut muffin has 490 calories and 28 grams of fat, and fruit smoothies can be wicked.

Eat a real lunch. Don’t sample a collection of fattening snacks. Eating a Starbucks ham and swiss panini instead of that pretzel dog can cut calories by almost half and fat by almost two-thirds.

Wear a pedometer or activity tracker. It might encourage you to cover lots of ground—and not give up ground by eating the wrong thing. In our recent tests, the Fitbit One Tracker performed very well. Consumer Reports Rates Activity Trackers.

Print this article Back to Top