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Video: Beware of burger blunders

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updated 7/1/2009 9:56:17 AM ET 2009-07-01T13:56:17

The burger industry in America is looking more and more like an arms race these days. Every few months, we watch in horror as another bacon-enhanced, cheese-embalmed, ranch-riddled weapon of mass inflation hits menu boards at the country’s largest restaurant chains.

The Baconator, the Monster Thickburger, the FlameThrower — they sound like weapons, not something you’d order for dinner.

What makes our hamburger habit particularly scary is the Super Size Phenomenon, which for years has been mutating our burgers into double burgers and our double burgers into 1,250-calorie Triple Whoppers with Cheese.

A 1957 burger contained little more than one ounce of meat, but by 1997 that same meat wad had grown to six ounces. Stack one of the bloated burgers out there next to a beverage like those among these unhealthiest drinks in America and you’re risking two days’ worth of calories in a single, misguided meal.

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Each year Americans eat about 40 billion burgers, which means that each of us downs nearly 150 of them. That’s why we dedicated an entire chapter of our new book “Eat This, Not That! Best (& Worst!) Foods in America” to the beloved burger — because we want to help you lose weight while still enjoying all of your favorite foods.

Choose better burgers, and you can save 10 or 15 pounds over the course of a year, without ever dieting, just by incorporating some clever “Eat This, Not That!” swaps. To get you started on your own burger war, we’ve compiled a list of the seven greasiest patties ever to be sandwiched between two buns. But because we understand you still need your burger fix, we’ve thrown in five of our favorites that you can eat with relative impunity.

Worst mini burgers

Ruby Tuesday Bacon Cheddar Minis (4 burgers)
1,358 calories
86 g fat
75 g carbohydrates

Diminutive dishes are one of the hottest trends in the cost-cutting restaurant world right now, and you’d think that would bode well for your waistline. But not under the reckless watch of the burger barons at Ruby Tuesday, who manage to make a veggie burger (!) with more than 1,000 calories. They use that same heavy hand to convert these four little patties into the caloric equivalent of 30 chicken wings. Ouch.

Eat this instead!

Turkey Minis (2)
529 calories
29 g fat
40 g carbohydrates

Worst bacon burger

T.G.I. Friday’s Cheesy Bacon Cheeseburger
1,590 calories
Unknown fat content
Unknown sodium content

Although Friday’s is mum on the fat and sodium, it takes only one number to realize that this burger suffers from bigger-is-better syndrome. T.G.I. Friday's average burger has 1,250 calories, and their appetizers are some of the toughest in the country to swallow, calorie-wise, as we've shown with this America’s Worst Appetizers list.

Eat this instead!

Ahi Tuna Ciabatta Burger
800 calories

Side note: When the “best” burger on the menu still packs 800 calories, you’d be better off ordering the Dragonfire Chicken Sandwich, with 510 calories, instead.

Saltiest burger

Red Robin A.1. Peppercorn Burger
1,440 calories
97 g fat (unknown saturated fat content)
5,784 mg sodium

There’s hardly a burger on Red Robin’s menu that contains fewer than 1,000 calories. What pushes this particular burger to the position of worst — aside from the gratuitous use of cheese and bacon — is the three days’ worth of sodium and the bed of fried onion straws wedged between patty and bun. Now we’re beginning to understand why — while researching the story 16 Secrets the Restaurant Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know — it may have taken Red Robin so long to come clean about the impact of its burgers.

Eat this instead!

Garden Burger
517 calories
18 g fat
1,748 mg sodium

Trans-fattiest burger

Denny’s Double Cheeseburger
1,540 calories
116 g fat (52 g saturated, 7 g trans)
3,880 mg sodium

Add this to our ever-expanding list of the Trans-Fattiest Foods in America. (This burger has more than three days' worth of the stuff.) In fact, with as much saturated fat as 52 strips of bacon and more sodium than 21 small bags of Lay’s potato chips, this burger also belongs on the salt-packed list of 20 Foods Your Cardiologist Won’t Eat.

Eat this instead!

BLT
570 calories
37 g fat (9 g saturated)
850 mg sodium

Worst specialty burger

Outback Steakhouse Blooming Burger
1,880 calories
Unknown* fat content
Unknown sodium content

By fusing one of the worst appetizers in America with an already-bruising line of burgers, the corporate cooks behind this faux-Aussie establishment have birthed a monster of a sandwich with more calories than nine Krispy Kreme doughnuts. With no burger less than 1,530 calories, you’ll have to turn to chicken if you want to eat at Outback and not spend the entire next day on the treadmill.

*Outback refuses to offer up full nutritional information for their menu items.

Eat this instead!

Grilled Chicken and Swiss Sandwich
760 calories

The 19 worst drive-thru foods in America

Worst fast-food burger

Hardee’s Two-Third Pound Monster Thickburger
1,420 calories
108 g fat (43 g saturated)
2,770 mg sodium

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. take a misplaced pride in their shamelessly caloric approach to everything they put under a heat lamp, which is probably reason enough for some to find another place to eat. Need more motivation? Many of their burgers break the perilous 1,000-calorie barrier; their worst bun-buster has nearly 75 percent of your entire day’s calories and as much fat as a dozen Taco Bell soft tacos. Chili’s burger menu rivals Ruby Tuesday for the worst in America, so you’re better of with one of the reasonable Fajita Pitas to satisfy your hunger.

Eat this instead!

1/3-lb Low Carb Thickburger
420 calories
32 g fat (12 g saturated)
1,010 mg sodium

The worst burger in America

Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing
1,901 calories
138 g fat (47 g saturated)
4,150 mg sodium

You know this burger's in trouble when it takes more than 20 syllables just to identify it. If you think the name’s a mouthful, just wait until the burger hits the table. You’ll be face-to-face with two-and-a-half day’s worth of fat — a full third of which is saturated. To do that much damage with roasted sirloin, you’d have to eat about eight 6-ounce steaks. It’s nearly three days’ worth of saturated fat.

Eat this instead!

Fajita Pita Beef
489 calories
21 g fat (4 g saturated)
1,543 mg sodium

The ‘Eat This!’ Burger Hall of Fame
If you’re hankering for a burger and have a choice as to where you eat, try these suggestions:

DQ Original Burger
350 calories
14 g fat (7 g saturated)
680 mg sodium

Wendy’s Quarter-Pound Single
430 calories
20 g fat (7 g saturated)
870 mg sodium

Burger King Whopper Jr. w/o mayo
370 calories
21 g fat (6 g saturated)
570 mg sodium

McDonald’s Quarter Pounder
410 calories
19 g fat (7 g saturated)
730 mg sodium

In-N-Out Protein-Style Protein-Style Cheeseburger
330 calories
25 g fat (9 g saturated)
720 mg sodium

© 2012 Rodale Inc. All rights reserved.

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