Let's face it: Fast food is an American institution.
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Love it or hate it, it's a facet of life that we're not shaking any time soon.
The good news? It's entirely possible to eat the occasional drive-thru meal without inflicting too much bodily harm. The challenge is avoiding the kind of foods that wreak havoc on your wasteline.
Chain restaurants will try to convince you that a bacon-gravy-sausage sandwich is a slight indulgence, when in truth it's a severely dangerous way to spend a lunch break.
Here we've uncovered the country's 10 worst fast food meals. You'd be wise to avoid them at all costs.
Domino's Chicken Carbonara Breadbowl Pasta
56 grams fat (24 grams saturated fat)
2,220 milligrams sodium
Basically, what we have here is a big wad of pizza dough hollowed out and stuffed with noodles, cream and cheese. That’s why half of these calories come from refined carbohydrates and another third come from fat. This leaves little room for healthy nutrients such as protein and fiber. Three slices of pizza with chicken, peppers and parmesan cheese will give you the same basic flavor profile while saving you more than 900 calories.
Eat this instead: Domino's medium hand-tossed pizza with grilled chicken, green peppers, and shredded parmesan (in place of regular cheese blend) (three slices)
15 grams fat (5.5 grams saturated fat)
1,190 milligrams sodium
McDonald’s Big Breakfast with large biscuit, hotcakes, margarine, and syrup
64.5 grams fat (21.5 grams saturated fat)
2,335 milligrams sodium
49 grams sugar
First off, this meal has more than two-thirds of the calories you should eat in a day. Secondly, it has more than a day’s worth of saturated fat and, with the pancake syrup, more sugar than two packages of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Really, there’s only one decent item on this plate, and that’s the eggs. Everything else — the pancakes, biscuit, sausage, and hash brown — is the sort of food that gives you a body more like Grimace than Ronald.
Eat this instead! Egg McMuffin with hash browns
121 grams fat (6.5 grams saturated fat)
1,130 milligrams sodium
KFC Half Spicy Crispy Chicken Meal with macaroni and cheese, potato wedges and a biscuit
104 grams fat (27.5 grams saturated fat)
5,050 milligrams sodium
Half a deep-fried chicken is bad news, especially considering the half KFC gives you: the bottom half. That means two drumsticks and two thighs — all dark meat. Not only are these the cheapest cuts, but they're also the fattiest. All told this meal has close to 85 percent of your day’s calories and more fat and sodium than you should eat in an entire day.
Eat this instead! Two Honey BBQ Snackers with mashed potatoes and gravy
10 grams fat (3 grams saturated)
1,470 milligrams sodium
Burger King Large Triple Whopper with Cheese Value Meal with fries
111 grams fat (38 grams saturated fat, 3.5 grams trans fat)
2,430 milligrams sodium
Never eat foods that are named for their oversized dimensions. Take the Triple Whopper with Cheese: You know it’s big, but you still probably don’t realize that it’s packing 1,200 calories and 80 grams of fat. A side of fries adds almost 600 more calories, and if you opt for a Coke, you’re at nearly 2,200 calories! Eat one of these meals a week for one year and you’ll put on more than 30 pounds.
Eat this instead! Whopper Jr. with no mayo and a 6-piece Chicken Fries
26 grams at (6.5 grams saturated fat)
1,280 milligrams sodium
Quiznos Tuna Melt (large) with Cheetos
145 grams fat (29 grams saturated fat, 2 grams trans fat)
2,230 milligrams sodium
This tuna got taken from one sea and stuck into another: A sea of mayonnaise. Eating this sandwich is the caloric equivalent to eating one whole bag of Chewy Chips Ahoy! Cookies, which makes it one of the absolute worst sandwiches in the country. Even if you order it without chips, you’re looking at 1,740 calories and 27 grams of saturated fat. No thanks.
Eat this instead! 2 Roadhouse Steak Sammies and Baked Lays
14 grams fat (8 grams saturated)
2,140 milligrams sodium
Wendy's Triple Baconator Combo Meal with small fries and small Coke
106 grams fat (43 grams saturated fat, 4 grams trans fat)
2,780 milligrams sodium
Three slices of cheese, three hamburger patties and three strips of bacon? It doesn't take a nutritionist to see the problem here. It's a shame too, because the Baconator is a serious blemish on Wendy's otherwise decent menu. Not only is it loaded with sodium and saturated fat, but it's also one of the trans-fattiest burgers on any big-chain fast food menu in the country.
Eat this instead! Wendy's Jr. Hamburger, small chili, and medium iced tea
15 grams fat (6 grams saturated, 1 grams trans)
1,350 milligrams sodium
Dairy Queen Chicken Strip Basket (6-piece with country gravy)
74 grams fat (12 grams saturated fat, 1 grams trans fat)
3,690 milligrams sodium
This basket embodies everything wrong with America's eating habits. Dairy Queen has taken an already unhealthy meal of deep-fried chicken strips and french fries and made it worse by adding Texas Toast and a side of gravy. Nevermind that this meal takes up almost 80 percent of your daily calories or that it far surpasses your day's sodium. Heck, you could eat two large Butterfinger Blizzards and still not consume the fat load of this meal.
Eat this instead! Dairy Queen Classic Grillburger and side salad with fat free Italian dressing
19 g fat (7 grams saturated, 0.5 grams trans)
1,220 milligrams sodium
Hardee's Loaded Biscuit and Gravy with large Hash Rounds
110 grams fat (26 grams saturated)
3,020 milligrams sodium
Breakfast at fast food restaurants can be dangerous. Fried sides, gravy, fatty meats and empty carbohydrates can account for half of your day's calories in just one meal — especially when that meal contains all of the above. The 32 grams of protein in these biscuits don't make up for the fact that nearly 1,000 of these calories come from fat. Switch to the Sunrise Croissant and you'll cut your caloric intake by two-thirds and still earn 21 grams of protein. The choice should be easy.
Eat this instead! Hardee's Ham Sunrise Croissant and grits
28 grams fat (11 grams saturated fat)
1,550 milligrams sodium
Long John Silver's Fish Combo Basket
42 grams fat (10.5 grams saturated fat, 12 grams trans fat)
1,930 milligrams sodium
Notice the staggering amount of trans fat in this meal? That's a testament to Long John Silver's unflagging commitment to keeping partially hydrogenated oils in its fryer. While other fast food chains are working to phase out the dangerous fats, Long John Silvers is quietly stuffing America's bellies with cheap, artery-clogging grease. If you can't pass on the fried foods, you better find a better seafood shack.
Eat this instead! Long John Silver's Grilled Pacific Salmon (two filets) and Corn Cobbette without no butter oil
8 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat)
440 milligrams sodium
Carl's Jr. Double Guacamole Bacon Burger with large fries
98 grams fat (32 grams saturated fat)
3,060 milligrams sodium
Guacamole is a healthy condiment, but it's still high in calories. That means you probably shouldn't be eating it in a "double" portion, and you certainly shouldn't eat it off a latticework of bacon. Only one burger at Carl's Jr. falls below the 500 calorie mark, and at 460 calories even that one doesn't leave much room for a side. Go with the chicken sandwich instead of this monstrosity and you'll swap out 10 grams of fat for 10 grams of protein. Not a bad exchange by any measure.
Eat this instead! Carls Jr. Charbroiled BBQ Sandwich and a garden side salad with raspberry vinaigrette
21 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat)
1,235 milligrams sodium
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