This Is the 1 Absolute Worst Fast Food Chain in America

Although it’s not surprising that fast food isn’t exactly healthy, it is possible to make healthy choices while you’re in the drive thru line. Many of America’s most popular chains now offer more soups and salads, and things like choosing water instead of soda and skipping fries can help make your meal more nutritious.

Still, when it comes to fast food, some chains are definitely healthier than others. A recent report from 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 unhealthiest fast food chains in America, and some of them might surprise you.

Always check the nutrition information

Nutritional facts on a paper

Keep an eye on that nutritional information. | iStock.com

Fear not: It is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle while ordering from the fast food menu on occasion. The trick is to read labels or look up nutrition information before you dig in to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Just because you order a salad, for example, doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest choice–some menu items can be very misleading.

And if you frequent any of these 10 unhealthy fast food chains, it’s best to do your research ahead of time or avoid them if you can.

Next: The King of calorie-laden breakfasts. 

10. Burger King

Burger King Restaurants

You may love the taste of Burger King, but your body probably hates processing it. | Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

Burger King came in 10th on the list mainly because of its breakfast items, which can run up to 1,420 calories (for the Ultimate Breakfast Platter). If you go, stick to ordering a Whopper Jr., which has just 240 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat.

Next: This chain has held up in popularity over the last few decades, but not for health reasons.

9. Checkers

Cheeseburger on the grill

The cheese just makes it that much worse. | rpernell/iStock/Getty Images

Checkers is still one of the 50 most popular fast food chains in the country, with hundreds of locations nationwide. Their 1/2 lb. Double Champ with Cheese has 140% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat, and in fact, more than three quarters of the meals on the menu have higher levels of saturated fat than most other fast food restaurants.

Next: This place is known for its chicken sandwiches, but please skip the sides. 

8. Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A Embattled In Controversy Over Anti-Gay Marriage Remarks

Chick-fil-A is an American favorite, but watch what you order! | Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A is a great example of the necessity of knowing nutritional information before you order. Their Grilled Chicken Sandwich is actually healthier than most fas food meals (except for its sodium)–but the side dishes are what put this place on the list. Almost half of Chick-fil-A’s sides have above average sugar content, and 75% of the meals are unhealthy in at least one category.

Next: This fast food chain markets itself as healthy, but some of their choices are anything but.

7. Wendy’s

wendy's

How bad can it be? Turns out, pretty bad. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Watch what you order at Wendy’s. Their high calorie Baconator burger contains nearly half the daily calories recommended for the average adult, and 115% of the recommended daily saturated fat. If you go, stick to a Jr. Cheeseburger–it has  280 calories and packs in 16 grams of protein.

Next: This fast food chain is in 21 states, but it has some seriously unhealthy menu items.

6. Jack in the Box

Jack in the box

Even this chain’s “light” menu isn’t healthy. | David McNew/Getty Images

Eight Jack in the Box burgers contain an entire day’s worth of saturated fat, and the “lighter” menu isn’t great, either–the Chicken Teriyaki Bowl has about 700 calories as well as more sugar and carbohydrates than 98% of the meal items at other fast food restaurants.

Next: Where’s the beef? Perhaps somewhere else…

5. Arby’s

Arby's

The entrees and sides are full of trans fat. | Arby’s via Facebook

Known for their tantalizing roast beef sandwiches, Arby’s is one of America’s most popular fast food spots. But all but two of their sandwiches ranked very poorly in the study’s nutrition categories, and one third of the menu items (including the classic roast beef sandwiches) have trans fat. The sides aren’t any better, especially the mozzarella sticks, which have 2,530 milligrams of salt (which is more than the recommended daily allotment).

Next: Choose another sandwich chain over this one.

4. Quizno’s

quiznos

A sandwich seems like a healthy option! But is it really? | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yikes. Quizno’s meals ranked the least healthy among all fast food chains. And since 21 of their sandwiches contain over 1,000 calories, you may want to have lunch somewhere else if you’re trying to lose weight.

Next: Whata calorie bomb

3. Whataburger

Whataburger

These yummy meals are filled with saturated fat. | Whataburger via Facebook

A whopping 90% of Whataburger’s sides have more than the daily recommended value of at least one of the six nutrition categories examined by 24/7 Wall St. Their meal items also ranked in the top third for saturated fat.

Next: This burger joint is officially the second unhealthiest fast food restaurant in the country.

2. Carl’s Jr.

Carl's Jr. announced on January 12 that it had decided to close most of its fast-food outlets in Russia due to the economic crisis

Ordering a salad is the healthy way to go. | Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Even though Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are owned by the same company, they’re just different enough that Hardee’s didn’t even make the list, while Carl’s Jr. almost tops it. Any amount of trans fat is considered very unhealthy, and six of their breakfast sandwiches have six grams of it. If you go, eat a healthy breakfast at home and instead order a Charbroiled Chicken Salad or a BBQ Chicken Sandwich.

Next: America’s Drive-In is letting us down.

1. Sonic

A cheeseburger from a Sonic Drive-In

The worst of the worst: Sonic. | Sonic Drive-In Via Facebook

Sonic tops the list of unhealthy fast food chains mainly because of their burgers: 10 of their hamburgers contain over 1,100 calories (and that’s before the fries or tots). In addition, almost half the menu items have at least one gram of saturated fat.

Next: How the results were determined

What makes a fast food chain unhealthy

Habit Burger

These are the things to watch out for. | The Habit Burger Grill via Facebook

The 24/7 Wall St. study analyzed nutritional information for America’s largest fast food chains based on the publicly available nutritional information for each restaurant’s menu. Levels of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, carbohydrates, sugars, and calories in each menu item were studied, then compared with typical levels found at other fast food chains. That’s how places like Carl’s Jr., which actually has an entire menu of salads, ended up on the list.

Next: Runners up?

Other fast food chains to be wary of

People queue to buy meal at Mcdonalds at Melbourne International Airport

McDonald’s isn’t healthy either. | TkKurikawa/iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

So what about other popular chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell? While all fast food chains have menu items that are considered unhealthy, some of our major chains have started using healthier cooking methods (changing the oil in McDonald’s fries, for example). McDonald’s classic hamburger actually has the least amount of calories on their menu (250), including salads. Taco Bell’s fresco soft tacos have just 280 calories and seven grams of fat.

Next: These are the healthiest fast food chains in the country.

The healthiest fast food chains

Chipotle

If you’re going to eat fast food, choose wisely.| Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In recent years, there are been a growing movement to being healthy and fast, convenient food to the market. Chains like Chop’t, LYFE Kitchen, Native Foods Cafe, and Veggie Grill aren’t available nationwide yet, but they’re all known for their nutritious options (and Veggie Grill is entirely vegan). Chipotle and Panera are also known for their healthy menu choices, although reading labels is still required.

Next: Moderation is the key.

All things in moderation

Healthy Homemade Savory Oatmeal

Eating a healthy dinner at home a majority of the time is the way to go. | iStock.com

Just like nearly everything else, fast food should be enjoyed in moderation only. Aim for eating the foods your body needs to thrive–fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins–at least 80% of the time. The concept of indulging in moderation is definitely difficult, but if you can stick to it, you’ll maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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