Quick: which fast-food sandwich do you think has more fat and calories, a McDonald’s Big Mac or Wendy’s Asiago Ranch Chicken Club? If you guessed the Big Mac, you’d be wrong by nearly 10 grams of fat and almost 200 calories.
Read More: America’s Unhealthiest Fast-Food items
The Big Mac is still the standard-bearer of fattening fast-food sandwiches, but in reality, these days it doesn’t hold a candle to some of the other offerings out there. As the American palate demands larger and larger portions of food, packed with as many toppings as possible, fast-food chains have been more than happy to rise to the occasion. In the 1960s the concept of a burger with 93 grams of fat and 1,300 calories was unheard of (original McDonald’s hamburgers only contain 9 grams of fat and 250 calories), but that’s exactly what’s on offer at Hardee’s, by way of their Monster Thickburger. And if you had told someone 30 years ago that a salad could contain more than 40 grams of fat they’d have laughed at you, but that was long before Taco Bell introduced their Fiesta Taco Salad with beef.
And while burgers tend to get most of the attention when it comes to calorie overload, there are plenty of super-unhealthy items rounding out menus at the fast-food chain near you, especially breakfast items. McDonald’s breakfast items, for example, generally pack in as much fat and calories as Big Macs, and while Hardee’s Breakfast Bowl might be advertised as "low carb," it still manages a whopping 61 grams of fat.
While it might not be super-easy to discern which fast-food items are better for you than others, there are a few common-sense giveaways. First of all, whenever something has more than one type of meat (especially if advertised as "Meat Lover’s" or the like), that’s a sure sign of calorie overload. Also, the more ingredients piled in, the more calories, so maybe next time you’re at Chipotle you should forego the sour cream and cheese. And one beef patty will generally suffice.
We took a look at the menus of the major chains, and have assembled a roundup of the least healthy fast-food items out there. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before ordering that Baconator!
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.
The Worst Fast-Food Beverages in America
Sometimes, the hardest part about deciding what you want to get at the drive-thru isn't what's going to be your main meal, but what you're going to sip on. In-between bites of burgers and fries, you're going to need a drink, right? And while we would recommend a bottle of water, it's easy to get swayed by the eye-catching menu options.
But some fast-food beverages are actually scary. They're not only high in calories and fat, but the amount of sugar one of these drinks serves up is just out of control. It's important to keep in mind that The American Heart Association recommends men should consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day, and women shouldn't have more than 25 grams daily. You'll quickly notice that all of these beverages completely blow that limit out of the water. Big yikes.
So to help you avoid ordering a total diet disaster, we've rounded up the worst fast-food beverage options you'll find at popular chains. Just be sure you're not ever pairing your meals with any of the popular sodas we ranked by how toxic they are.
The 10 Most Unhealthy Meals Served by America's Fast Food Chains
According to a new study released this week, Americans now have a top 10 list of “The Most Unhealthy Meals Served by America’s Fast Food Chains," which could help us avoid the worst of the worst.
The new list may shock some people as it contains some of our favorite fast food menu items including specialty pizzas, juicy hamburgers and potpies.
The fast food items made it to the top of the list this year after an in-depth consumer study conducted by the analytical group, 24/7 Wall Street.
Analysts say "Junk" foods, or processed, low-nutrient foods, are still a significant part of the American diet.
French fries, mainly purchased from fast food restaurants, are still on the rise and Americans consumed an average of 152 pounds of added sugars in just one year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Since junk food is often high in unhealthy fats, sugar, sodium and/or calories, gaining an understanding of what draws Americans to it may motivate some to maintain healthier dietary behaviors, food experts said.
Eating healthier diets could prevent at least $71 billion per year in medical costs, lost productivity, and lost lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health.
Obesity alone is estimated to cost $117 billion, and osteoporosis costs $14 billion in medical expenses.
Although fast food chains are now offering a lot of “healthy food” options, some food experts say they may not be better for you.
Nutritionists say fast food outlets would be better off reformulating their entire menus, making small changes in salt and fat content and adding more vegetables rather than just offering some token healthier alternatives.
"Fast food restaurants are legitimately concerned about negative publicity,” said Charles Areni, an academic professor at the University of Sydney.
“It’s a public relations move to say, 'We're doing something about healthy food options', but what they may inadvertently be doing is making things worse."
He says research from Duke University found a person can feel they've met a health goal by taking a small action such as considering a salad without actually ordering it.
"It's a social necessity to offer a healthier option these days," he said.
Lola Berry, nutritionist and author of the recently released book Inspiring Ingredients, says it's becoming trendy to be healthy and fast food outlets are giving consumers what they want – healthier options.
"If it means people who would always eat fast food having a salad meal instead of a burger and chips, then it's a positive step, but it's scary to think that some of the healthier options, if you go through them with a fine-tooth comb, aren't necessarily all that much healthier," Berry said.
Many trends in society helped create the modern fast food industry and are still helping fuel its growth.
Many children, especially racial minorities, live in single-parent households – a whopping 65 percent of non-Hispanic black children and 37 percent of Hispanic children as of 2007, according to Kids Count.
Mothers are working outside the home at much higher rates than in years past. It is projected that women will account for 46.9 percent of the labor force in 2018, up from 46.8 percent today.
Add to this mix, high unemployment rates caused by the uncertainty of the worldwide economy, and the allure of fast, cheap food becomes hard to resist.
A hectic daily schedule may make it difficult to plan, prepare and sit down to a healthy meal, according to a report published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association."
The report also revealed that more than 92 percent of surveyed adolescents and adults claimed they eat fast food because it is "quick," and 80 percent because the food is "easy to get to."
The same may be said for grabbing a bag of potato chips or a candy bar at a convenience store. If these factors motivate you to consume more "junk" than healthy fare, health officials say consider setting aside time one day each week to purchase and prepare healthy foods, such as fresh-cut vegetables, fruit and baked chicken breasts you can incorporate into your meals throughout the week.
Packing a healthy lunch the evening before a hectic day may also help.
In order to create the top 10 list, 24/7 Wall Street examined the menus of the top restaurant brands in the quick service category by sales as determined by QSR, an industry publication, looking for items that were the highest in calories, carbohydrates, sodium and saturated fat.
Analysts then ranked them against the nutritional guidelines issued by the USDA.
Food experts also took the average nutritional ratings of menu items compared with the USDA recommendations. Carbohydrates, saturated fat, and sodium were given the most weight. Calories and protein were also considered.
Here is the list of “The Most Unhealthy Meals Served by America’s Fast Food Chains:"
1. Pizza Hut Triple Meat Italiano
• Calories: 1280
• Saturated Fat: 23g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 123 (38 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 3070mg (133 percent)
(Pizza – plain with cheese and sauce – is not particularly unhealthy. This menu item contains "all-natural pepperoni, all-natural Italian sausage, and baked ham." Pizza Hut offers plenty of healthier choices.)
2. Subway 12" Italian B.M.T.
• Calories: 900
• Saturated Fat: 16g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 94 (27 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 3000 mg (130 percent)
(It's easy to see why Subway does not list this sandwich under its "low fat footlongs" on its website. It has a whopping 3,000 mg of salt, 130 percent of the recommended allotment in a daily diet. "The problem with Subway is the portion size" and the problem with this sandwich is the salty luncheon meats. Subway is getting the message about salt. As an April USA Today article noted, "Beginning today, sodium content in Subway's 'Fresh Fit' sandwich line in the U.S. will be cut 28 percent vs. 2009, when Subway first began to cut salt. And sodium in its overall sandwich line will be cut by 15 percent, compared with the same period.")
3. Taco Bell XL Grilled Stuft Beef Burrito
• Calories: 880
• Saturated Fat: 3g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 94 (26 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 2130mg (93 percent)
(Taco Bell has mastered the art of blending meats and cheese in ever-creative caloric combinations. Taco Bell calls it its "biggest burrito yet." It has "a blend of three cheeses – cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella – flavorful seasoned rice, hearty beans, reduced-fat sour cream, chunky guacamole, avocado ranch and fiesta salsa, wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla." Taco Bell's sales have been hurt by the publicity surrounding the quality of its beef.)
4. KFC Chicken Pot Pie
• Calories: 790
• Saturated Fat: 28g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 43 (12 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 1970mg (86 percent)
(Salty and high in calories, there is little positive that can be said about the KFC Chicken Pot Pie. A Yum! Brands spokesman had this to say: "It's all about providing our consumers with choices, and each of our brands has introduced products that are lower in calories and fat, such as KFC's Kentucky Grilled Chicken.)
5. McDonald's Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon
• Calories: 800
• Saturated Fat: 37g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 66 (18 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 2020mg (88 percent)
(The Angus Chipotle is big and has bacon, two red flags for any dieter. The Golden Arches have borne the brunt of negative publicity about fast food. That's unfair, analysts said. They did find that McDonald's did have more healthy options" than other chains.)
6. Sonic SuperSONIC Bacon Double Cheeseburger
• Calories: 1370
• Saturated Fat: 14g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 95 (27 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 1610mg (70 percent)
(The name alone should think. Those brave enough to chow down on this 1,370-calorie monstrosity probably shouldn't eat much for the rest of the day. Once a regional operator in the South and Midwest, Sonic (Nasdaq: SONC - News) now operates in over 3,500 locations.)
7. Wendy's Triple
• Calories: 1030
• Saturated Fat: 18g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 66 (18 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 1800mg (78 percent)
(Anyone eating this monstrosity might not realize that the USDA recommends that people eat a portion of meat roughly the size of deck of cards. This Wendy's monster burger clocks in at a whopping 423 grams.)
8. Subway Footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki
• Calories: 750
• Saturated Fat: 2.5g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 117 (41 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 1810 mg (79 percent)
(Subway unhealthy? In some cases, the answer is "yes." While this sandwich is low in calories and fat, it is high in salt. The portions of Subway's footlong sandwiches are too large.)
9. Wendy's Baconator Double
• Calories: 930
• Saturated Fat: 34g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 55 (15 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 1840mg (80 percent)
(Who says you can never have too much bacon? Anyone with sense, that's who.)
10. Burger King Triple Whopper with Cheese
• Calories: 1140
• Saturated Fat: 25g
• Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet): 41 (11 percent)
• Sodium (pct. daily diet): 110mg (5 percent)
(The Triple Whopper makes the Quarter Pounder with Cheese seem like health food. At 1,140 calories, it packs more than twice the punch of the McDonald's burger, which has 535 calories.)
The 41 Deadliest Fast-Food Meals
Obama’s health-care law requires chains to post calorie counts next year. So how does KFC's new 'Double Down' sandwich, which replaces bread with pieces of fried chicken, fare against the rest of the fast food universe? Not too badly, actually.
The Daily Beast
How does KFC's new ɽouble Down' sandwich, which replaces bread with pieces of fried chicken, fare against the rest of the fast food universe? Not too badly, actually. Plus, shocking calorie equations.
Lost in the acrimony of the health-care reform, there was one clause that all sides seem to agree on: Beginning next year, all restaurant chains with more than 20 locations will have to post calorie counts and other similar information.
Click Here to See the Unhealthiest Fast-Food Items in America
Yet the trend toward healthy eating (or at least knowing what’s in that burger) took a decisive 180-degree turn when KFC introduced its Double Down sandwich—two fried chicken filets stuffed with bacon, cheese and a mayonnaise-based sauce—to great internet buzz and fanfare. The Double Down sounds like an artery clogging nightmare, but it’s actually not that bad, comparatively speaking. Slightly worse than a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut, slightly better than a Bonus Jack double cheeseburger from Jack in the Box, the Double Down slides into the #23 slot on our list.
Fried chicken sandwich revolutions aside, consumer health advocates are thrilled about the calorie count legislation. The Daily Beast decided to provide a preview, ranking 40 fast-food standards and classics based on which are worst for your health. We equally weighed five criteria, which were almost universally available to each of the items we measured: calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.
Only in America would Chicken McNuggets and large fries look like health food. But once consumers get a full dose of information, they’ll learn about the 1,330-calorie, 38-grams of saturated fat monster topping the list. Who’s the culprit? Click here.
Smashburger has over 370 locations across the US, but the food is unhealthy. Image credit: wikimedia.org
Smashburger has over 370 locations across the US and has more opening every year. This Denver-original offers its signature burger at over 830 calories before adding any toppings, a side dish, or drink. You will be consuming over 55 grams of fat with the burger alone. Even the "healthy" choices have much to be desired as their salads with their dressings are over 530 calories. Let's move on.
Fat: 68 g
Saturated Fat: 23.5 g
Sodium: 3,020 mg
Cholesterol: 135 mg
This is what happens if you add up the the nutritional data for a burrito with carnitas, white rice, black beans, lettuce, cheese, fajita vegetables, corn salsa, tomato salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole.
There might not be any trans fat in this meal, but it's still a lot of calories and fat — and that's without chips!
Triple Whopper With Cheese – Burger King
At this point, you may have seen that Burger King has sprung up on this rundown frequently. This is because of the way that they include galactic measures of salt, awful fats, and sugar to the majority of their menu alternatives.
Be that as it may, this Triple Whopper with Cheese is past terrible. Half of your day’s calories, practically the majority of your every day sodium, and even 50% of your day by day sugar admission (!) can be found in this gigantic burger.
- Calories 1230
- Sat fat 32g 160
- Trans fat 2g
- Sodium 1550mg 65
- Source fast food nutrition
Wendy's might often market itself as a health-conscious fast food chain with its salad offerings and fry alternatives, but the majority of items on its menu are high in calories and preservatives. Should you be seeking to adopt a more healthy lifestyle while still going to some of your favorite restaurants, Wendy's power Mediterranean chicken salad (full size) is only 450 calories you can even order a half size and a junior chocolate frosty and still be under 500 calories.
However, the Baconator, which is one of the chain's most popular items, comes in at a whopping 970 calories and 62 grams of fat - and that's just the burger itself. A combo with a frosty instead of a drink can run as high 2,000 calories, which equals the amount of calories the average woman requires throughout the entire day.
These are the most unhealthy meals in America, ranked
If you've ever wondered what four days' worth of fat content in one meal looks like, you finally have your answer.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has put together a list of the unhealthiest meals in America, known as the "Xtreme Eating" list. These highly calorific, artery-clogging meals make a KFC family bucket look like child's play.
The list is collated by nutrition experts who reviewed menus at 200 restaurant chains in the United States to find the meals heaviest in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the daily recommended intake is 2,000 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat, 2,300 milligrams of sodium, and 50 grams of added sugar.
Unfortunately for the chains on this list, chain restaurants nationwide are now required to list calories on all menus and menu boards.
1 Dunkin' Donuts - Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich
First off, why do we need so many glazed donut concoctions? Why can't we just leave well enough alone?!
This gooey sugary mess (which will, of course, end up all over your hands by the end of your meal) consists of two sad pieces of bacon and an even sadder egg shimmied between two halves of a glazed donut. Maybe this would be less disgusting if the innards had more flavor and a bit more of a char, but they don't. They might as well be made out of some kind of latex material. It's kind of edible, but mostly not. Your body will be not thankful for this.