The 10 Most Unhealthy Fast-Food Items on America’s Menu

Let’s think back to the pioneer days. People had to plant their crops, tend to their animals and cook foods from scratch. There were no box mixes or pre-made items. Meals had to be planned ahead every day. People really had to work for their food! Grab and go meals were unheard of! Coincidentally, the obesity rates were much less years ago.

Let’s now fast forward to today. You can find a fast food restaurant every time you turn the corner. You can choose from greasy burgers, crunchy tacos or a sugary drink at most intersections. It is not necessary to plan your meals ahead, cook or even shop because you have a variety of foods right there at your fingertips.

These quick and easy foods are also cheap, which appeals to so many Americans. You can order dollar cheeseburgers, dollar sodas and supersize items for just pennies. People see a value in cheap food and get it with fast food. People often claim it is cheaper to eat at a restaurant than prepare a meal at home.

Most Americans are overscheduled and overcommitted. They run from activity to activity and do not make time to plan or prepare meals. It is just too easy to grab fast food on the way home from work, or treat the kids to a thick milkshake after a busy day at soccer practice. Having fast food everywhere makes this very easy.

Unfortunately, people do not know the consequences of fast food. They are unaware how the extra fat in their diet can lead to cardiovascular disease. They do not realize the supersized fries may be the reason why their pants are tight. They forget the recommendation to eat a low sodium diet, so their blood pressure rises says Sarah Muntel, RD is a registered dietitian with IU Health Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss.

The degree to which fast food is at fault for the poor state of the health of many Americans “is impossible to quantify, but is definitely a factor,” says Christina Munsell, a registered dietitian and research assistant at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, in an interview. The increase in obesity “definitely would correlate with eating quicker meals that are easier to obtain.”

In order to create the rankings, 24/7 Wall St. examined the menus of the top 10 restaurant brands in the quick service category by sales as determined by QSR, an industry publication, looking for the most unhealthy options in the fast-food universe:items that were the highest in calories, carbohydrates, sodium and saturated fat. We then ranked them against the nutritional guidelines of the United States Department of Agriculture.

A couple of important caveats to consider. Not everything sold at fast food restaurants is unhealthy. The industry aggressively promotes healthier choice on their menus. Subway, for one, makes a special point of doing this, though its foot-long subs are not healthy choices. Moreover, experts point out that many items sold at sit-down restaurants are actually much more unhealthy than many fast food items. Fast food, though, has gained ground during the economic slowdown while casual and fine dining chains have suffered.

Methodology: We derived the rankings by taking 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.

10. Wendy’s Baconator Double                                                        
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 930 (36%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
41 (13%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
1840mg (80%)

Whose says you can never have too much bacon? Anyone with sense, that’s who. The Rudd Center’s Munsell noted with amusement how fast food chains “combine every type of meat on one sandwich.” The Baconator was relentlessly hyped for a while. A Wendy’s (WEN) spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.


9. Burger King Triple Whopper with Cheese                 
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 1180 (45%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
52 (16%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
1330mg (58%)

The Triple Whopper makes a mere 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. In a statement to 24/7 Wall St., the company referred to the Triple Whopper as an “indulgent option for our guests.” Burger King says it encourages customers to eat healthy choices that provide 650 calories or less — approximately one-third of a 2,000-calorie daily diet.


8. Subway Footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki           
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 750 (28%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
117 (41%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
1810 mg (79%)

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 foot-long sandwiches are too large, Munsell notes. Subway did not respond to a request for comment.


7. Wendy’s Triple                                                  
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 1030 (40%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
43 (18%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
1800mg (78%)

Anyone eating this monstrosity might not realize that the USDA suggests one portion of meat should be roughly the size of deck of cards. This Wendy’s monster burger weighs in at a whopping 423 grams. Wendy’s has struggled for years against larger rivals. It unloaded its underperforming Arby’s chain earlier this week to private-equity group Roark Capital Group. Wendy’s did not respond to a request for comment.


6. Taco Bell XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito Beef                       
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 880 (34%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
94 (26%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
2130mg (93%)

Taco Bell has mastered the art of blending meats and cheese in ever more creative caloric combinations. The XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito Beef is a monument to gluttony. 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 recently by questions surrounding the quality of its beef.


5. McDonald’s Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon                                 
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 800 (31%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
66 (18%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
2020mg (88%)

The Angus Chipotle is big and has bacon, two red flags for any dieter. “It’s problematic,” says Munsell, adding that the Golden Arches have borne the brunt of negative publicity about fast food. That’s unfair. “We did find that McDonald’s did have more healthy options” than other chains, she notes. Indeed, it ended its Super Size promotion a few years ago, no doubt spurred by the publicity surrounding Morgan Spurlock’s Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me.

4. Sonic SuperSONIC Bacon Double Cheeseburger with Mayo                 
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 1370 (53%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
55 (17%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
1610mg (70%)

The name alone should make a diner want to grab a fistful of Lipitor. Those brave enough to chow down on this 1,370 calorie colossus probably shouldn’t eat much for the rest of the day. Once a regional operator in the South and Midwest, Sonic (SONC) now operates over 3,500 locations.


3. KFC Chicken Pot Pie                                          
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 790 (30%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
66 (20%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
1970mg (86%)

Salty and high in calories, there is little positive that can be said about the KFC Chicken Pot Pie. But 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, Pizza Hut’s Thin ‘N Crispy Pizzas and salads and Taco Bell’s Drive Thru Diet Menu with 7 items less than 9 grams of fat.”

In other words, diners have a choice about whether or not they eat something with almost a full day’s allotment of sodium in one item.


2. Subway 12-inch Italian B.M.T                                              
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 900 (35%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
94 (27%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
3,000 mg (130%)

It’s easy to see why Subway does not list this sandwich under the “low-fat footlongs” on its web site. It has a whopping 3,000 mg of salt, 130% of the recommended allotment in a daily diet. “The problem with Subway is the portion size,” Munsell says, adding that the problem with this sandwich is the salty luncheon meats. However, 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% vs. 2009, when Subway first began to cut salt. And sodium in its overall sandwich line will be cut by 15%, compared with the same period.”


1. Pizza Hut Triple Meat Italiano (9-inch personal pizza)                     
> Calories (pct. daily diet): 1,280 (49%)
> Saturated Fat:
> Carbohydrate (pct. daily diet):
123 (38%)
> Sodium (pct. daily diet):
3,070mg (133%)

Pizza — plain, with cheese and sauce — is not particularly unhealthy. This gastronomical overkill featuring “all-natural pepperoni, all-natural Italian sausage, and baked ham” is terrible for you. Pizza Hut offers plenty of healthier choices.


Article Source: Jonathan Berr, Michael B. Sauter