The 17 Unhealthiest Fast Food Items

Before you cruise to the drive-thru at 2am, you might want to think twice about those burgers and fries. We looked at the nutritional value of meals from every major fast food chain in America and found the 17 worst items to avoid if you want to keep your health in check.

Fast food: everyone knows it’s bad for you. And yet, fast food consumption continues to skyrocket, with 1 in 4 Americans consuming some type of fast food every day. [1]

In fact, Americans spend a whopping $100 billion per year on fast food. [2] This is an interesting paradox, because the organic and gluten-free food movements continue to pick up steam.

So if this is the case, why do we still consume so much fast food? In a word: food addiction. It is extremely hard to stop consuming fast food once you regularly start eating it.

This is by design. Food manufacturers and the big fast food chains use a specialized technique called “the bliss point” to make their food irresistible — literally. [3]

If you’re looking to get healthier, check this out: we’ve compiled a list of the 17 worst foods from fast food chains — ones to absolutely avoid — so you can start on your healthier journey.

To avoid being biased, I stuck to elements that are universally recognized as unhealthy. This means foods made the list by having some, or all, of the following criteria:

  • Extremely excessive calorie counts
  • Poor-quality ingredients/artificial ingredients
  • Amounts of sugar way beyond your daily limit
  • Trans fats
  • Excessive amounts of added sodium
  • Large amounts of unhealthy fats
  • Lack of vitamins and nutrients (calorically empty)

An important reminder: not all fats are created equal. Check out my piece on why not all fats make you fat, to understand the key differences between eating a low-quality hamburger from a fast food restaurant, and making a grass-fed one, yourself.

If you are looking for ingredient lists for these items, good luck. The fast food companies know what they are doing, and purposely obfuscate their ingredient lists. Usually you can put them together yourself, with some adept Googling. But be prepared to stare at an ingredient list that is 40-60 items long (like this one for KFC’s Pot Pie). Yikes.

1. Chicken Pot Pie – Kentucky Fried Chicken

Kentucky-Fried-Chicken-Pot-Pie.jpg

Photo via KFC

Packing almost an entire day’s worth of sodium into one menu item, it is almost hard to believe that the nutrition facts for this pot pie are real.

But they are. Check out this absurdly long list of ingredients. And the real kicker here is the amount of saturated fat, with almost 200 percent of the daily value met.

To put that in perspective, you would have to eat 74 wings from KFC to consume the same level of saturated fat. Yes, you read that correctly. Yikes.

  • Calories: 789
  • Total Fat: 45g (69%)
  • Sat. Fat: 37g (185%)
  • Sodium: 1970mg (82%)
  • Source: Calorie King

2. Cinnabon Delights – Taco Bell

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Photo via Taco Bell

Let’s be honest, the idea of consuming balls of fried sugar dough filled with sugar sauce for breakfast is too good to be true. And if the idea of getting a Cinnabon-type item from Taco Bell isn’t enough of a red flag, this ingredient list filled with multiple trans fats might.

With an ingredient list longer than most novels, these doughy gut bombs are best avoided. Stick with some dark berries and a pasture-raised egg and spinach omelet in the morning. Your stomach will thank you.

3. Dave’s Triple – Wendy’s

Wendy’s-Dave’s-Hot-ʼN-Juicy-¾-Pound-Triple-.jpg

Photo via Wendy’s

Don’t get me wrong, we love burgers. And if this Wendy’s patty were grass-fed and properly sourced, without antibiotics and hormones, there would be less of an issue. But grass-fed, this meat is decidedly not. Add to it an entire day’s worth of sodium, and you’re looking at one of the worst dietary mistakes you can make.

  • Calories: 1090
  • Total Fat: 66g (102%)
  • Sat. Fat: 29g (145%)
  • Sodium: 1990mg (83%)
  • Source: Calorie Count

4. Big King Sandwich – Burger King

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Photo via Burger King

Want a ton of calories, more than half of a day’s worth of sodium, and almost no beneficial nutrients? Say hello to this double decker sandwich from Burger King. Instead skip the buns and make your own fresh patties at home.

  • Calories: 659
  • Total Fat: 37g (57%)
  • Sat. Fat: 8g (40%)
  • Sodium: 1600mg (67%)
  • Source: Calorie King

5. Meat Lover’s, Personal Pan Pizza – Pizza Hut

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Photo via Pizza Hut

Loaded with sodium, low-quality saturated fat, tons of (very low-quality) meats, and supposedly only meant to serve one person (so multiply these stats below by how many slices you eat), this pizza is probably the least healthy item on all of Pizza Hut’s menu. And that’s a pretty hard thing to do.

  • Calories: 210 (Slice)
  • Total Fat: 12g (18%)
  • Sat. Fat: 4.5g (23%)
  • Sodium: 540mg (23%)
  • Source: Pizza Hut

6. Asiago Ranch Chicken Club Sandwich – Wendy’s

Wendys_Asiago_Ranch_Chicken_Club_Sandwich.jpg

Photo via Wendy’s

Going to Wendy’s and ordering chicken, instead of beef, has to be healthier, right? Not really. This chicken sandwich offers some protein, but the real killer here is the sodium. While the sandwich itself has 1/3 of your daily calorie intake, it also packs more than 2/3 of your daily sodium needs. Be on the lookout for unhealthy items, disguised as healthy choices, in many fast food restaurants.

  • Calories: 669
  • Total Fat: 32g (49%)
  • Sat. Fat: 9g (45%)
  • Sodium: 1640mg (68%)
  • Source: Calorie King

7. Triple Whopper With Cheese – Burger King

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Photo via Burger King

By now, you may have noticed that Burger King has popped up on this list quite often. This is due to the fact that they add astronomical amounts of salt, bad fats, and sugar to all of their menu options.

But this Triple Whopper with Cheese is beyond bad. Half of your day’s calories, almost all of your daily sodium, and even half of your daily sugar intake (!) can be found in this colossal burger.

  • Calories: 1230
  • Sat. Fat: 32g (160%)
  • Trans Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 1550mg (65%)
  • Source: Fast Food Nutrition

8. Double SmokeShack Burger – Shake Shack

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Photo via Droolius

Shake Shack is gaining rapidly in popularity, but that doesn’t mean they are a healthy choice for consumers. This burger contains loads of trans fat, and an entire day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat. Ouch.

  • Calories: 930
  • Sat. Fat: 27g (135%)
  • Trans Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 2070mg (86%)
  • Source: Nutritionix

9. Large French Fries – Five Guys

Five-Guys-Large-French-Fries_2.jpg

Photo via I’m Only Here For the Food

Nearly an entire day’s worth of calories and a whopping 71 grams of low-quality fat get backed into a paper cup here. Even you’re craving fries, we’ve got good news: it’s ridiculously easy to make a healthier, sweet potato version in minutes. You’re welcome.

  • Calories: 1474
  • Total Fat: 71g (109%)
  • Sat. Fat: 14g (70%)
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Source: Calorie Count

10. White Hot Chocolate, Venti – Starbucks

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Photo via Starbucks

Sorry, Starbucks fans.

While it would have been easy to include the near-entirety of Starbucks’ menu on this list, this hot chocolate stands out as especially poor.

It’s not only a heavy dose of drinking calories but also contains 3 times your daily maximum intake of sugar. If you’re going to drink coffee, go black and make it organic. And if you really need some kind of chocolate drink, try this hot chocolate recipe and mix in your favorite brew.

  • Calories: 563
  • Total Fat: 21g (33%)
  • Sat. Fat: 13g (69%)
  • Sugar: 76g
  • Source: Calorie King

11. Grande Scrambler Burrito, Sausage – Taco Bell

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Photo via Brand Eating

Yes, the idea of an entire cheesy meal wrapped in a tortilla can sound appealing, but not when it comes with a huge helping of unhealthy fat, and almost a whole day’s worth of sodium.

  • Calories: 670
  • Total Fat: 36g (55%)
  • Sat. Fat: 9g (45%)
  • Sodium: 1410mg (59%)
  • Source: Fast Food Nutrition

12. Baconator – Wendy’s

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Photo via Wendy’s

The Baconator contains 1200 milligrams of salt. While we do need some salt in our diet, we don’t want to be getting this much at one time.

And remember — Wendy’s is not packing these burgers with high-quality, grass-fed beef. It is low-quality meat that you would never pick out on your own.

  • Calories: 939
  • Sat. Fat: 23g (115%)
  • Trans Fat: 2.5g
  • Sodium: 1890mg (79%)
  • Source: Calorie King

13. Large Italian Meatball Sub – Quiznos

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Photo via Quiznos

Compared to the artery-clogging meals found throughout most of this list, this fare from Quiznos is still somehow worse. This one has 150 percent of your daily value of sodium, and an amazing 81 grams of (bad) fat.

  • Calories: 1530
  • Total Fat: 81g (125%)
  • Sat. Fat: 28g (140%)
  • Sodium: 3580mg (150%)
  • Source: Quiznos

14. Ultimate Breakfast Platter, Burger King

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Photo via Burger King

An easy way to spend an entire day’s worth of sodium and nearly 2 days worth of sugar before noon, this menu item from Burger King is a doozy. Also, what are you doing at Burger King this early? Make these grain-free healthier-for-you pancakes instead and thank us later.

  • Calories: 1190
  • Sat. Fat: 15g (75%)
  • Sugar: 32g
  • Sodium: 2460mg (103%)
  • Source: Calorie King

15. Charbroiled 2/3 lb Monster Thickburger – Hardee’s

hardees-burger.jpg

Photo via Hardee’s

Hardee’s isn’t quite as big as many huge fast food chains, but they make up for it with extremely poor nutritional choices. Like this burger. More than a day’s worth of sodium, nearly 75% of your day’s calories, and mind-boggling amounts of fat stacked into one burger.

  • Calories: 1329
  • Total Fat: 95g (146%)
  • Sat. Fat: 35g (175%)
  • Sodium: 2820mg (118%)
  • Source: Calorie King

16. SuperSONIC Bacon Double Cheeseburger – Sonic

Sonic-SuperSONIC-Bacon-Double-Cheeseburger-with-Mayo-.jpg

Photo via Sonic

Sonic manages to pair a sodium bomb with low-quality mayo (packed with bad fats). A single-patty version of this burger would be bad enough, but the doubling up makes this choice downright disastrous for your waistline.

  • Calories: 1239
  • Sat. Fat: 35g (175%)
  • Trans Fat: 3.5g
  • Sodium: 1690mg (70%)
  • Source: Calorie King

17. Taco Bell’s Quesarito, Beef

Taco-Bell’s-Chicken-Quesarito-e1460445796488.jpg

Photo via Taco Bell

This seemingly-harmless choice stands out for a few reasons. One – this is barely beef. This item has an ingredient list so long, it may need to be printed on a scroll. Secondly, this is a ton of sodium (surprise!), for only 620 calories. Lastly, you get a nasty dose of unhealthy fats. Nothing good to see here, folks.

  • Calories: 650
  • Total Fat: 34g (52%)
  • Sat. Fat: 12g (60%)
  • Sodium: 1450mg (60%)
  • Source: Taco Bell