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The 16 Most Unhealthy Fast Food Items (And What to Order Instead)

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The 16 Most Unhealthy Fast Food Items (And What to Order Instead)

You make a decision when you go to a fast-food restaurant, and it’s not one to be taken lightly. It’s okay to indulge from time to time but be warned that many of the items on that menu are high in fat, sodium, and calories, so going overboard can mean serious trouble for your health. While most items at the drive-thru aren’t exactly healthy, there are some that are seriously bad news. Today, we’ll talk about many of the most unhealthy fast food items on menus today and why they should be avoided. We’ll also tell you what you can order instead to be at least somewhat healthy during your meal. Here’s your list in no particular order.

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1. Pepperoni & Cheese Stuffed Crust at Little Caesars

Ask most people what their favorite food is, and they’ll tell you that they love pizza. It’s one of the world’s most beloved dishes, but it’s not usually very good for you. One of the worst choices is the Pepperoni and Cheese Stuffed Crust pizza from Little Caesars. Pepperoni pizza on its own is not great for your health, but a stuffed crust pizza like this brings it to the next level. Much of its taste comes from the 8,750 milligrams of sodium. 

The American Heart Association recommends that people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, so you can see how bad this is. But that’s not it, the pizza also has 188 grams of fat and 261 grams of fat.

What to Eat Instead:

If you decide to go to Little Caesars as part of your diet plan, your best option is to order a regular cheese pizza. This option provides a fraction of the sodium and calories. Another healthy option is the Hula Hawaiian pizza. If you have to add an additional topping onto any pizza, go for fresh mushrooms. The best-case scenario is to order a pizza without cheese and mushrooms, peppers, onions, and olives.

2. Double Steak Grilled Cheese Burrito at Taco Bell

Hearing the name of this burrito may not set off alarm bells right away, but too much steak and cheese is not great for your health, especially when it’s showered in sodium. This single burrito has 920 calories and 2,170 grams of sodium, which is about the number of milligrams that you should have in an entire day. They make the steak taste better by covering it in salt, and that’s a common issue you’ll see with many fast food items. 

What to Eat Instead:

If you’re going to eat a burrito at Taco Bell, your best bet is to go with the standard bean burrito. Beans, in moderation, are good for your heart, and the burrito only has 380 calories. The meal also has a good amount of fiber and protein. Instead of the red sauce it comes with, ask for pico de gallo, and you’ll reduce your salt intake and have a better meal.

3. Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese at McDonald's

Lviv, Ukraine - October 9, 2023: Woman with McDonald's burger at table in restaurant, closeup
People love McDonalds but it's far from healthy so check out the nutritional information first.

©New Africa/Shutterstock.com

This is one of the more well-known items on this list, and many people have eaten it in the past, but it’s not good for you. The burger is loaded with cheese and two huge portions of meat, which results in tons of sodium and saturated fat. The burger has 740 calories, 43 grams of carbs, and 1,360 milligrams of sodium. It’s okay to have it once in a while, but don’t make it a regular meal. Just be careful about getting the entire meal because the fries are also loaded with sodium.

What to Eat Instead:

If you must eat dinner at McDonald’s, then just go with the simple, standard hamburger. It is certain to fill you up, and it only has 250 calories and 510 grams of sodium. Instead of the fries, ask for the apple slices and wash it down with water to keep your total calorie count at a reasonable place. 

4. Big Breakfast With Hotcakes at McDonald's 

Doctors will tell you that breakfast is the most important part of the day, and that’s because a good breakfast will replenish your supply of glucose that boosts your alertness and energy levels. That’s important after you’ve essentially fasted all night while you were sleeping. A good breakfast will also ensure that you’re getting the proper nutrients for a healthy body.

If you decide to go to McDonald’s for your breakfast, choose carefully and try to avoid ordering their big breakfast with hotcakes. This meal has over 1,300 calories, 63 grams of fat, and over 2,000 milligrams of sodium. Eat this, and you're essentially getting your total recommended salt intake before 9AM. If you’re going to get this meal, at least share it with your family or a large group of friends.

What to Eat Instead:

While you should avoid the drive-thru during breakfast whenever possible, if you must go, try the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. It’s one of the only items with fruit, and it contains fiber and protein, which are good to have in the morning. However, you should pair it with a hard-boiled egg to get the extra protein you need to start your day.

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5. Double Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit at Burger King

Another breakfast item that you should probably avoid is the Double Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit from Burger King. The biscuit itself is loaded with fat, and eating it on its own would already be bad. However, there are also two huge pieces of sausage. In general, sausage isn’t healthy because it’s almost always loaded with salt and saturated fats, which are bad for your heart and can make you feel sluggish. Altogether, this meal has 853 calories for a single sandwich. It also has 66 grams of fat, 1.6 grams of trans fat, and over 2,500 milligrams of sodium.

What to Eat Instead:

Instead, go for the Breakfast Burrito Jr meal. While this is still not really a healthy option, it’s the best of what they have for breakfast. There’s still 416 calories and 26 grams of fat, but it's light years better than the double sausage sandwich. Plus, the burrito does have 16.5 grams of protein, that’s necessary for building and repairing muscles and providing essential energy.

6. Breakfast Crunchwrap With Sausage at Taco Bell

Then there’s the Crunchwrap from Taco Bell, which is another of the unhealthy fast food items. Instead of the typical Crunchwrap Supreme, that’s served for lunch, this one has that unhealthy sausage inside. Plus, the fried hash browns aren’t very good for you either. This meal might look tasty, but it has 730 calories, 47 grams of fat, and close to 1,300 milligrams of sodium. The only good thing is that it packs 20 grams of protein, but there are better ways to get what you need.

What to Eat Instead:

Get the Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burrito with Sausage. Yes, it also has sausage. However, it has fewer calories, 350 to be exact, which is about as good as it gets at Taco Bell. It also has less sodium and saturated fat than many other items on the menu. This is not a meal that you should eat every day, but if you must go to Taco Bell for breakfast, go this route.

7. Hash Brown Scramble Burrito With Sausage at Chick-fil-A

If you choose to eat breakfast at Chick-fil-A, then you’re making a slightly better choice than you would at McDonalds or Burger King, but fast food is fast food. The worst thing you could get when you go would be the Hash Brown Scramble Burrito With Sausage. In addition to the sausage, there are also processed ingredients and deep-fried potatoes that don’t have the nutritional value of regular potatoes. This meal has 720 calories, 47 grams of fat, and 1,450 milligrams of sodium. That’s a lot of bad stuff in one meal that’s actually pretty manageable when compared to the other options on this list.

What to Eat Instead:

Try the Egg White Grill instead. This meal only has 290 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 980 milligrams of sodium. It’s better because it has grilled chicken and a multigrain English muffin. It also has 26 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates, both of which give you energy for the day. Again, while it’s a healthier option, don’t eat it every day. Instead, make something at home.

8. 4×4 Burger at In-N-Out

Close up shot of many In n Out burger, ate at Las Vegas, Nevada
In-N-Out incorporates a lot of fresh ingredients but that doesn't mean it's all healthy.

©Kit Leong/Shutterstock.com

In-N-Out Burger separates itself a bit from the other restaurants on this list because the owners pride themselves on only using fresh ingredients without a lot of unnecessary preservatives. However, it’s still fast food. While you have worse options when choosing a restaurant, In-N-Out has its share of unhealthy food. The 4×4 burger is on the company’s “secret menu,” meaning that it’s not on the main menu, and you have to ask for it specifically. As the name suggests, there are four beef patties and four slices of cheese. The result is 1,050 calories, 70 grams of fat, and 2,320 milligrams of salt.

What to Eat Instead:

Instead of going for the craziest item on the menu, if you go to In-N-Out, consider ordering the standard hamburger with onion. By comparison, it has 390 calories, 19 grams of fat, and 650 milligrams of sodium. It’s not as healthy as eating a salad, but it’s much better in comparison and is tasty in moderation.

9. Large Cheese Curds at Freddy's

Cheese curds are not good for you and that’s mostly because it’s fried cheese, and most fried foods are far from healthy. Many different restaurants sell cheese curds. However, if you get yours from Freddy’s, then you’re in trouble. This side dish has 1,100 calories, 1,180 milligrams of sodium, and 81 grams of fat. They recommend that you top it off with their famous Fry Sauce, and that makes it worse. 

What to Eat Instead:

It may seem less exciting, but if you’re going to get a side for your dish at Freddy’s, then choosing the Mott’s Natural Applesauce is your best option. It only has 50 calories, and it doesn't have any sodium, fat, or saturated fat. If you desire a crunch, then you can also go with the baked bag of chips, which is only 120 calories.

10. Sack of Mozzarella Cheese Sticks at White Castle

The next entry on our list of the most unhealthy fast food items is the seemingly innocent mozzarella cheese sticks sold at White Castle. This is a relatively large side dish with 10 sticks. If you were set on eating them all, then you’d be taking in 1,490 calories, 111 grams of fat, and 3,110 milligrams of sodium. That’s your daily limit, and you could be hitting it before getting to the main meal.

What to Eat Instead:

Once again, applesauce is to the rescue. The actual sliders at White Castle aren’t terribly unhealthy, especially since they’re smaller in size. The original slider without cheese has 140 calories and 380 milligrams of salt. So you can have one or two of those and pair them with an applesauce, and you’ll leave not feeling too bad about your diet.

11. Chips & Queso Blanco at Chipotle

This side dish may seem relatively harmless at first, but it’s far from the healthiest side dish at Chipotle. If you eat all of the chips and the queso, you’ll be taking in about 780 calories, one gram of trans fat, and 880 milligrams of sodium. The other side dishes aren’t that great for you either, but this dish has more saturated fat, and that’s what causes the most harm.

What to Eat Instead:

You can still have chips, but instead try them with a regular serving of guacamole. You’ll find that it has similar calories. However, it has less saturated fat. Plus, there’s a decent amount of fiber in guacamole, and fiber is good for your digestion while keeping you fuller for longer.

12. Epic Cali Bacon Burrito With Carne Asada at Del Taco

Another of the unhealthy fast food items on our list is the epic burrito, which is loaded with unhealthy ingredients. This particular burrito comes with fries inside. There’s also bacon, cheese, and sauce, and the combination is far from nutritious. When you combine everything together, you’re looking at 1,050 calories, 60 grams of fat, and 2,600 milligrams of sodium. Eating this whole thing will leave you feeling bloated and sluggish, and while it may taste good at first, it’s not worth it if you’re on a diet.  

What to Eat Instead:

It’s not a burrito, but if you’re looking for something in the same vein and you want to be healthier, go with the shrimp tacos. Shrimp is better for you than those fries, and there’s less sodium. Altogether, there’s 310 calories and 18 grams of fat. It’s not a meal that you should eat every day, but it’s a tasty option that’s not terribly unhealthy.

13. Double Chicken Tostada Salad at El Pollo Loco

Beautiful hispanic woman eating chicken wings celebrating crazy and amazed for success with open eyes screaming excited.
Be aware of meals the include fried chicken.

©Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock.com

Although it has the word “salad” in the title, this meal is far from healthy. Although there is some lettuce involved, the meal is mostly chicken, cheese, rice, and beans in a deep-fried tostada shell. This is not the light salad you’re supposed to eat. Instead, this one is loaded with 990 calories, 46 grams of fat, and 1,790 milligrams of sodium. Granted, there is some protein involved, but that doesn’t offset the bad elements.

What to Eat Instead:

If you want a salad from El Pollo Loco that’s not all bad, then try the Classic Chicken Tostada Salad, but skip eating the fried tortilla bowl. Although the regular salad is still 840 calories, if you get rid of the bowl, it goes down to 410 calories. Plus, you get 34 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, which does a body good.

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14. Triple Whopper at Burger King

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid any burger that has more than one beef patty. Just like the 4X4 at In-N-Out is dangerous, so is this Triple Whopper at Burger King. This huge burger has 1,181 calories, 1,297 milligrams of sodium, and worst of all, there’s 1.5 grams of trans fats. Trans fats are terrible, and eating them regularly can result in an increased risk of heart disease. 

What to Eat Instead:

If you need a burger, get the regular burger because it only has 240 calories and 380 milligrams of sodium. To stay as healthy as possible, just get the burger and avoid the side of fries and the jumbo soft drink. Avoid additional sauces as well. If you love cheese, you can get the regular cheeseburger. It has 560 milligrams of sodium, but it’s much better than adding on additional layers.

15. Triple Meat Whataburger at Whataburger

Another entry on the unhealthy fast food items ”more meat” category is the Triple Meat Whataburger, which has three thick patties in addition to a host of toppings. The more meat at once, the worse it is and when you add the carbs that are in the buns, you’re asking for trouble. When all is said and done, you’re looking at 1,070 calories, 1,720 milligrams of sodium, and 63 grams of fat.

What to Eat Instead:

The funny thing about the Triple Meat burger is that it’s a bit of an outlier. Research shows that Whataburger is one of the healthiest fast-food restaurants in the country. The regular Whataburger has 590 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 1220 milligrams of sodium. It’s not great, but it’s better than many alternatives. 

16. Monster Double Thickburger at Hardee's

Burgers made from plant based meat, food reducing carbon footprint
Beware of any burger with more than one patty.

©Antonina Vlasova/Shutterstock.com

If you head to Hardee's, then avoid this salt monster. As the name suggests, the patties are very thick, and that’s bad news, especially with the sauces, toppings, and cheese that’s included. The two layers of bacon aren’t helping matters either. Order the burger as is, and you’ll be consuming 1,400 calories, 2,780 milligrams of soda, and 4.5 grams of trans fats. That’s a huge number, and it’s at least double what you’d see in almost any other sandwich. Eat enough trans fats, and the risk of heart disease increases exponentially.

What to Eat Instead:

When it comes to feeding your meat fix at Hardee’s, your best bet is to go with the regular small burger. It may not have all of the bells and whistles, but that’s a good thing. The burger has 250 calories, 570 milligrams of sodium, and 32 grams of carbs. Eat this burger in moderation, and it can fit in okay with your diet plan. 

Conclusion

These are the most unhealthy fast food items that you can get today. You can try any of these meals in moderation, but having them on a regular basis could be troublesome. Always read the nutritional information for any fast food item before you buy it, and ensure that it fits within your diet plan and won’t push your body to the limits. Find ways to eat healthy whenever you can, and your body will thank you.

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