Special Report

America's Least Healthy Fast-Food Chains

4. Quiznos
>Pct. meals with 600+ calories: 51.5%
>Pct. meals with 10+ g saturated fat: 61.9%
>Pct. meals with 1,000+ mg sodium: 85.6%
>Pct. meals unhealthy in at least one nutrition category: 86.6 %

One bit of good news for the sandwich shop, Quiznos sides were much closer to the average major fast-food restaurant. However, its main meal options rank worse than any other major fast-food restaurant. Of the just under 100 subs and sandwiches that make up the restaurant’s menu, more than a third had abnormally unhealthy levels of all six nutrition categories considered. Of all the most popular fast-food restaurants surveyed, Quiznos is home to some of the most calorie rich sandwiches — 21 sandwiches have more than 1,000 calories. Seven of those are among the 10 sandwiches with the highest calorie counts, including the Chipotle Steak and Cheddar Sub and its 1,130 calories, one of the most caloric sandwiches among the largest fast-food restaurants.

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3. Whataburger
>Pct. meals with 600+ calories: 36.4%
>Pct. meals with 10+ g saturated fat: 53.0%
>Pct. meals with 1,000+ mg sodium: 69.7%
>Pct. meals unhealthy in at least one nutrition category: 89.4%

Though most of its locations are in Texas, Whataburger is one of the most popular fast-food restaurants in the country with more than $1.5 billion in sales. More than 40% of Whataburger’s sides rank as unhealthy, even compared to other fast-food chains. Nine out of the 10 side items on the restaurant’s menu have above average levels of at least one of the nutrients that are unhealthy if over consumed. Over half of its meal items are in the top third for saturated fat levels. The 1,170 calorie Monterey Melt burger contains 24 grams of saturated fat and three grams of trans fat.

2. Carl’s Jr.
>Pct. meals with 600+ calories: 48.0%
>Pct. meals with 10+ g saturated fat: 58.0%
>Pct. meals with 1,000+ mg sodium: 80.0%
>Pct. meals unhealthy in at least one nutrition category: 84.0%

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, owned by the same company, are by many measures two sides of the same coin. Their logos are almost identical and their menus are similar. Both sell shakes and burgers. However, even with the extremely similar menus, the restaurants are different enough in nutrition that Hardee’s does not even make the list of the 10 least healthy fast-food restaurants, while Carl’s Jr. is the second-least healthy in the country among major chains. Any amount of trans fat is considered unhealthy, and only a small percentage of all the meal items on fast-food menus have more than a milligram of trans fat. Carl’s Jr. sells six different breakfast sandwiches with six grams of trans fat, although none are sold in California.

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1. Sonic
>Pct. meals with 600+ calories: 48.4%
>Pct. meals with 10+ g saturated fat: 49.5%
>Pct. meals with 1,000+ mg sodium: 73.7%
>Pct. meals unhealthy in at least one nutrition category: 87.4%

Sonic, also known as America’s Drive-In, has one of the more unique business models in the fast-food industry — servers on rollerskates deliver the food to parked customers. The restaurant also stands out for having the most unhealthy menu in the country. The average Sonic burger, for example, has 780 calories, roughly 300 calories more than the average burger on a McDonald’s menu. And 10 burgers have more than 1,100 calories. The restaurant is also among the most likely to have above-average levels of trans fat. Nearly half of Sonic meal items have at least 1 gram of trans fat and some items have as much as 3.5 grams. Most menu items among fast-food restaurants have zero trans fat.