Fast food chains are readily available in almost any corner of the country, and their accessibility is helpful for when you’re in a hurry or need something more affordable than what other types of restaurants can provide. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of fast food being everywhere is that it can harm our health when consumed on a regular basis. According to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, fast food consumption can contribute to obesity, heart attacks, dementia, diabetes, stroke, and even cancer.
Even with the risks involved, fast food is sometimes the only option. When you’re looking for something to eat on the go and need to head to a fast food restaurant, knowing your options can be beneficial for helping your health, because some menu options are better than others. For example, if you know the most unhealthy fast food burgers to avoid, you can better choose a lighter alternative at your favorite chain.
In order to help you feel more prepared the next time you need some quick food, we prepared a list of the unhealthiest burger you can find at all of the major fast food chains. These sandwiches are loaded with calories, total fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and many of them contain trans fat as well. In fact, none there isn’t a burger on here with less than 18 grams of saturated fat, and the daily limit is around 13 grams. Even more shocking, a few burgers on the list are almost triple the amount of the daily saturated fat limit.
If you’re heading to McDonald’s, you’ll be faced with plenty of menu items loaded with calories, saturated fat, and sodium. But one that truly takes the cake is their classic Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. “This item features two quarter pound burger patties, with two slices of melted cheese and sauce on a bun,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our Medical Expert Board. “The fact that it’s a double means it’s going to have around twice the calories, saturated fat, and sodium.”
“The portion size of three 4-ounce patties makes it a winner for one of the most unhealthy burgers,” says Young. Along with having more than twice your recommended amount of daily saturated fat and more than half of your recommended sodium limit, this burger also contains over half a day’s worth of calories!
According to Young, when you’re heading to Wendy’s, you may want to steer clear of the Big Bacon Classic Triple. “This is both ‘triple’ and ‘big,’ making it to my top choice for worst burger at Wendy’s,” she says. Not only are the calories, sodium levels, and total fat levels extremely high in this burger, but the saturated fat grams are almost triple what you’re recommended to have in one day.
“This burger contains a third of pound patties, 4 strips of bacon, 3 slices of melted American cheese, and mayonnaise, served on a toasted potato bun,” says Young. “It is ultra-processed and too high in saturated fat and sodium, in addition to too many calories.” If you find yourself at a Hardee’s, try ordering something like the BBQ Grilled Chicken Sandwich instead.
“The Checkers Triple Baconzilla Burger is high in calories, fat, and sodium, and consuming such a high amount of these components regularly can contribute to various health issues, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
Best also adds that for those with high blood pressure or other conditions where sodium may be an issue, this unhealthy fast food burger contains a dangerous amount at almost 3,000 milligrams. It’s also important to note that the Baconzilla comes with 2.5 grams of trans fat, and World Health Organization recommends limiting yourself to less than 2.2 grams of trans fat per day.
According to Best, the Dairy Queen Flamethrower Stackburger is certainly one of the most unhealthy fast food burgers you can choose off of the Dairy Queen menu. “The fat, sodium, and calories of this burger are all high, but the fat content is most concerning,” says Best. In fact, she adds that if the daily recommendation of fat is around 25–35%, that would be 55–78 grams of fat per day on a 2,000 calorie diet. Unfortunately, this burger alone has 65 grams.
In-N-Out is near and dear to fast food lovers out west, but like other major chains, it comes with plenty of calorie-loaded, saturated fat-heavy burgers. “The In-N-Out Double-Double Burger is lower in calories, fat, and sodium compared to most of the unhealthy burgers on this list, but this doesn’t mean that it should be considered a healthy option,” says Best. “For a lower-calorie and fat burger, the sodium content is still at a concerning level for increased risk of high blood pressure and risk of heart disease.”
“The Jack in the Box Ultimate Cheeseburger is among the unhealthiest burgers on their menu for the same reasons as most: calories, fat, and sodium content,” says Best. Also concerning is the three grams of trans fat, which exceeds the recommended limit per day. In fact, many experts say you should just limit your consumption of trans fats and keep the number “as low as possible.”