Special Report

You Won’t Believe the Calories in Your Favorite Fast Food Cheeseburgers

Let’s face it: if you’re craving a cheeseburger, caloric intake probably isn’t at the top of your mind. Cheeseburgers are unhealthy almost by default; you won’t encounter too many people who are on a diet downing something called a Baconzilla – or if they do, they’ll hate themselves in the morning. But just as with most popular fast foods, there can be a considerable gap between the highest-calorie and lowest-calorie examples.

To identify the cheeseburgers with the most and fewest calories at 19 of the biggest fast food chains in the U.S., 24/7 Tempo reviewed nutritional information – including calories, fats, and sodium – on each chain’s official website. We selected the cheeseburgers with the highest and lowest amount of calories offered by each chain. 

Only food items intended for consumption by one person were included, and computations cover only the burger and its garnishes, not a complete meal (for instance, with fries and a drink). Cheeseburgers on kids’ menus were excluded. In a few cases we included two high-calorie burgers for a chain because the one with the most calories is offered only regionally.  

Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that when it comes to nutrition, calorie count isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. One slice of Kraft American cheese, for example, contains about 60 calories, while a cup of chopped spinach contains about 90. Spinach is obviously a healthier product than pasteurized process cheese food, though. So even if a plain Burger King cheeseburger has fewer calories than a Triple Whopper with Cheese, that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy – though if you have to choose between the two, it’s certainly healthier. (Considering burgers and other menu items, these popular fast foods are the biggest calorie bombs.) 

There are some pretty simple ways to tell if a cheeseburger is going to be absolutely loaded with calories. The first and most obvious one is the sheer size of the burger. Is it one small patty, topped with a single slice of cheese? Then it’s probably not going to set you back too many calories. Is it three patties topped with cheese, bacon, and fried onions? Then it should probably be a (very) occasional indulgence (and as long as you’re indulging, you might want to order you burger at one of the best burger joints in every state.) 

Click here to see cheeseburgers with the most and fewest calories

The cheeseburger is one of the most delicious foods on earth, and one bite seems to trigger all of the brain’s pleasure sensors. You might be surprised to learn that a straightforward fast-food cheeseburger isn’t actually all that caloric; a basic McDonald’s cheeseburger only contains 300 calories, about the same amount as a small sweetened yogurt with some granola. But once you start adding on extra patties, more cheese, bacon, and other toppings, the calorie count can really go through the roof. Some burgers on this list pack in more than half of the 2,000 daily calories recommended by the FDA.  

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