Special Report

America's Least Healthy Fast-Food Chains

Michael B. Sauter, Sam Stebbins, Alexander Kent, Ashley C. Allen

10. Burger King
>Pct. meals with 600+ calories: 25.5%
>Pct. meals with 10+ g saturated fat: 29.6%
>Pct. meals with 1,000+ mg sodium: 49.0%
>Pct. meals unhealthy in at least one nutrition category: 72.4%

While it is considered the chief competitor to McDonald’s, Burger King lags far behind the golden arches in sales, with just $8.5 billion in the United States compared to McDonald’s $35.8 billion U.S. sales. Burger King also lags behind McDonald’s in terms of the health of its menu. The Ultimate Breakfast Platter, for example, has 1,420 calories — nearly three-quarters of a full day’s diet for the average adult, as well as 139 grams of carbs, close to half the recommended daily intake. Despite the presence of several unhealthy breakfast items, Burger King’s main courses are roughly in line with McDonalds in our health ranking. However, while McDonald’s sides are the second healthiest, Burger King’s are the ninth healthiest. The large hash browns has 670 calories.

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9. Checkers
>Pct. meals with 600+ calories: 51.0%
>Pct. meals with 10+ g saturated fat: 75.5%
>Pct. meals with 1,000+ mg sodium: 69.4%
>Pct. meals unhealthy in at least one nutrition category: 91.8%

While not one of the top tier of popular fast-food restaurants, Checkers still has hundreds of locations around the country, and is among the 50 most popular fast-food chains in the country. It is is also one of the least healthy chains in the country. More than three-quarters of the meals on its menu have higher levels of saturated fat than in comparable menu items of other major fast-food restaurants. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that individuals limit their saturated fat consumption to 20 grams a day, and advises that more than 4 grams of saturated fat in a single meal is high. It is impossible to order anything from the burger menu at Checkers without at least doubling the amount of saturated fat the FDA deems reasonable for a meal. In fact, the ½ LB Double Champ with Cheese, contains 140% of the recommended total daily value of saturated fat. Adding an order of large french fries adds another 20 grams of saturated fat, a total just shy of two-and-a-half days’ worth in one meal.

8. Chick-fil-A
>Pct. meals with 600+ calories: 10.8%
>Pct. meals with 10+ g saturated fat: 18.9%
>Pct. meals with 1,000+ mg sodium: 56.8%
>Pct. meals unhealthy in at least one nutrition category: 75.7%

The Atlanta-based fast-food restaurant is famous for its chicken sandwiches as well as for being closed on Sundays. On the remaining six days of the week, the fast-food chain serves some of the least healthy food among the nation’s largest restaurants. Relative to many of the largest fast-food chains, Chick-fil-A’s main courses actually rank as among the healthiest. The Grilled Chicken Sandwich, for example, is healthier than the majority of fast-food meals for every nutrition category considered except for sodium. The restaurant’s sides, however, worsen its rating. Nearly 45% of Chick-fil-A’s sides have above-average sugar content among the menu items considered. The large coleslaw has 26 grams of sugar, higher than in all but four sides among the most popular fast-food restaurants in the country.