There are few things better than enjoying a home-cooked meal. Food tastes better when you spend time and effort to make it yourself and, beyond that, you're aware of every ingredient that goes into the meal. Conversely, you could buy a hamburger combo from a local fast food restaurant and have no idea what ingredients are used or how the food is prepared and cooked. But while it's worthwhile and important to cook for yourself, it's not always practical. That's why fast food restaurants exist in the first place. Not everyone wants to come home after a draining 8-10 hour work day and prepare a meal for themselves or their family; instead, it's much easier to sacrifice healthy living and pull up to a drive-thru for some burgers and fries.
However, just because you've decided to order take out doesn't mean you need to completely sacrifice your health-conscious eating habits. A drastic rise in demand for organic and farm-fresh food has led to the creation of numerous healthy restaurants and even some nationwide chains. Zoe's Kitchen, LYFE Kitchen, and Tender Greens are just a few of the ever-expanding healthy fast food chains in the United States - but we'll get to them later. For now, here's a list of 24 fast food chains you should definitely avoid if you're worried about your health.
24 Five Guys
Most, if not all, burger joints can be included in this list, but Five Guys in particular is one of the most unhealthy fast food chains in the United States and it doesn't even hide the fact; according to its own menu and nutrition facts, a regular serving of fries has 953 calories, which is roughly half the amount most women need in an entire day.
Its cheeseburger is only slightly better at 840 calories. This is particularly troubling given that a 2017 poll of 100,000 people found Five Guys to be the most popular burger chain in the US. There are already more than 1,500 locations nationwide with another 1,500 in development.
This one is definitely surprising given its touted as a healthy lunch or dinner option, but Quiznos actually isn't as healthy as you might think - neither is Subway for that matter. This is because, in large part, the fact that bread actually contains a ton of calories and is high in sodium, as is a lot of Quiznos' meat options.
For instance, a single six-inch classic sub at Quiznos has 1,580 mg of sodium, whereas the recommended daily intake of the mineral is 1,500 mg. One of the worst options in regard to both sodium and calories is the 12-inch turkey bacon guacamole, which has 3,320 mg and 1,060 respectively.
22 White Castle
Remember when Harold Lee and Kumar Patel risked their lives and ventured all across New Jersey to feed their desire for White Castle burgers? It was truly a heroic and inspiring story for foodies everywhere, but what the film didn't accurately show (because everything else was obviously realistic) was how the characters felt the next day.
They ate what appeared to be dozens of White Castle cheeseburgers, which would equal thousands of calories. One six-pack container of those mini cheeseburgers is 990 calories and contains 1,800 mg of sodium and 51 grams of fat. Factor in fries and you're probably not going to be feeling too well the following day.
We could include the popular worldwide chains of which most people from North America are aware of, but there are a handful of country- and region-specific fast food chains that put even the likes of Wendy's and Dairy Queen to shame. Based in the Netherlands, FEBO is a perfect business model in a country in which marijuana is legal. It's also great for introverts who hate talking to people.
That's because the chain has automated vending machines which contain recently-made burgers, fries, and other snacks. They actually aren't all that bad calorie-wise (its most unhealthy burger is just over 700 calories), but the fact its food can sit in machines for several hours makes it a must-avoid destination when visiting Europe.
Last year, nine college softball players became sick after dining at In-N-Out Burger and if that isn't enough to keep you away from the fast food chain, then perhaps an examination of their food offerings will. Primarily based on the Pacific, In-N-Out has hundreds of outlets in California and Texas alone and is regarded as one of the best fast food chains in regard to customer satisfaction. Make no mistake, the burgers are great tasting, but not great for your health.
A popular order is the double-double burger with fries and a chocolate shake. If you're going to eat that, you better plan on spending a couple hours at the gym, because that combo alone has 1,650 calories.
Wendy's might often market itself as a health-conscious fast food chain with its salad offerings and fry alternatives, but the majority of items on its menu are high in calories and preservatives. Should you be seeking to adopt a more healthy lifestyle while still going to some of your favorite restaurants, Wendy's power Mediterranean chicken salad (full size) is only 450 calories; you can even order a half size and a junior chocolate frosty and still be under 500 calories.
However, the Baconator, which is one of the chain's most popular items, comes in at a whopping 970 calories and 62 grams of fat - and that's just the burger itself. A combo with a frosty instead of a drink can run as high 2,000 calories, which equals the amount of calories the average woman requires throughout the entire day.
"Home of the Original Chicken Sandwich," Chick-Fil-A was founded in 1946 out of Georgia and now has more than 2,200 restaurants across the United States. The chain has one location at the Calgary Airport and plans to expand to Canada in 2019, but for now only operates in the United States; in the mid-90s, it opened a pair of locations in South Africa, both of which were closed by 2001.
The restaurant's sausage, egg, & cheese biscuit is roughly 600 calories, while its most unhealthy lunch and dinner options run as high as 1,500 calories; even its honey peppercorn salad is 630 calories. Do yourself a favor and ignore the milkshakes.
Have you ever wondered what the international equivalent to New York Fries would be? Spudulike, while not quite the same, is a similar franchise operating out of the United Kingdom that utilizes potatoes as its main ingredient - except not as fries. Instead, Spudulike, which has more than 50 locations across the United Kingdom, specializes in oven-baked potatoes topped with ingredients like chicken, beans, cottage cheese and chives, or tuna and sweetcorn mayo.
Those might not exactly sound like your typical fast food offerings, but they're still relatively unhealthy; some of the toppings alone have more than 25 grams of fat.
Founded in Denver, Colorado in 2007, Smashburger is a rapidly-rising fast food chain with more than 370 locations across 37 states. Named after the process with which the burgers are cooked (smashed on a flattop grill at high heat), the restaurant also offers your typical high-calorie sides like sweet potato fries and fried pickles.
Among its signature burgers (not including a combo), the big-sized bbq, bacon, and cheddar burger tops the list of most unhealthy at 830 calories and that's also not including any additional toppings. It also contains 55 grams of fat and 1,70 mg of sodium. The idea that it also offers healthy salad choices is a misnomer as even three ounces of chipotle mayo dressing has 530 calories.
This isn't a surprise to you if you've ever watched Super Size Me, but McDonald's isn't very healthy. The popular restaurant chain has more than 37,000 restaurants across 69 different countries, but it's popular for its convenience - and taste - rather than its health-conscious menu. While it has made effort in recent years to make its menu more healthy, there's only so much you can do to offset the likes of the big mac and double quarter-pounder with cheese.
A normal big mac combo with large fries and a large Coca-Cola has 55 grams of fat and 1,400 calories and that's a soft estimate. Just imagine that McDonald's hangover meal that also includes a 10-pack of nuggets and a couple McChickens.
More commonly referred to as Checkers, the Tampa, Florida-based restaurant chain Checkers Drive-In Restaurants was founded in 1986 out of Mobile, Alabama and later merged with Rally's in 1999. The drive-in restaurant operates in 28 states and specializes in hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes. Beyond the drive-in aspect, it's no different than its competitors in both menu items and calorie count.
Generally speaking the cheaper the food the less healthy it is and that certainly applies to the Checkers $0.99 burger, which has 390 calories and 22 grams of fat. Its bacon double cheeseburger has 650 calories, 42 grams of fat, and a whopping 1,340 mg of sodium.
Founded in Greece in 1975, Goody's Burger House serves more than 160,000 customers per day at 132 restaurants in Greece, Australia, Albania, Cyprus, Macedonia, and Mayotte, however 124 of those locations are in Greece. In addition to its customizable burgers, the chain also offers a variety of sandwiches and pasta options.
The chain is a founding member of Europe's Platform for Nutrition, but that doesn't mean you should take the next flight to Greece to begin a cleanse. Its large fries alone is 508 calories, which is just about equal to a large fries at McDonald's. Moreover, the majority of its burgers are over 600 calories and 40 grams of fat.
There are dozens of prominent burger chains in the United States, but Whataburger, which opened in 1950 out of Corpus Christi, Texas, continues to grow; the popular chain now has more than 825 locations throughout the Southern United States and, like most Southern food, isn't exactly known for being low in calories.
If you're not concerned with your health, it might be worth trying the triple meat Whataburger, which has 1,130 calories and 70 grams of fat; even the junior burger has 540 calories and 35 grams of fat, while its large fries contains 520 calories and 27 grams of fat. Of course, you can choose to have a garden salad or a side of apple slices as an alternative to fries.
11 Mary Brown's
One of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in Canada, Mary Brown's began in Newfoundland in 1969 and was almost exclusive to that province until 2007, when it was acquired by Gregory Roberts. Since then, Mary Brown's has gone from 67 to more than 140 locations across the Great White North and with good reason: the chicken - and golden-crisp taters - is delicious.
It could be considered Canada's answer to KFC and it's equally, if not more, unhealthy - it is deep-fried chicken after all. One chicken breast has 320 calories and 18.8 grams of fat, but that seems low coming from someone who has eaten there regularly. To give a better idea of how unhealthy it is, two cups of coleslaw have 818 calories and 61 grams of fat.
10 Charley's Philly Steaks
Formerly known as Charley's Grilled Subs and Charley's Steakery, Charley's Phill Steaks has more than 500 locations across 46 states and Puerto Rico. It was founded by Charley Shin in 1986 while he was studying real estate at Ohio State University and its headquarters remain in Ohio to this day.
Fortunately, you can eat somewhat healthy at Charleys as a small Philly cheesesteak has 390 calories and 1,030 mg of sodium, but that usually isn't enough to satisfy your hunger throughout the day. To do that, you're going to need a full-length sub and even one of the more healthy options, the California chicken, has 800 calories and a ridiculous 2,010 mg of sodium as well as 140 mg of cholesterol.
Arby's is a polarizing fast food restaurant in regard to taste. There are those who enjoy its signature roast beef and cheddar sandwiches and then those who despite the chain and its entire menu with unmatched passion. Although it is primarily based in the United States, it does operate in Canada, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, so heads up if you fall into the latter category.
Several nutrition websites maintain that you can still stick to your diet and eat Arby's occasionally, but you would likely have to avoid eating much of anything the rest of the day. The regular beef 'n cheddar sandwich, which is actually among the more healthy options, comes in at 430 calories but pairing it with a large side of curly fries and a chocolate shake comes in at more than 1,500 calories.
8 Carl's Jr.
Founded in 1941, Carl's Jr. has more than 3,700 franchises across 44 states and, in 2016, was listed by Entrepreneur Magazine at No. 54 on its Top Franchise 500 list. You really don't have to do more than simply look at its menu to know it isn't the most healthy option available, but a quick glance at its nutritional value shows its even worse than you might imagine.
Few chains on this list have burgers with more than 1,000 calories, but Carl's Jr. has three - the half-pound jalapeno thickburger (1,020), half-pound guacamole bacon thickburger (1,200), and double western bacon cheeseburger (1,010). Add in fries and a drink and you're easily looking at a 2,000-plus calorie meal.
Nobody really knows what ingredients The Colonel put into his secret blend of spices to create some of the most appetizing fast-food chicken on earth, but what we do know is that it's ridiculously unhealthy due to the nature of how the chicken is cooked. Grilled chicken is actually a relatively heart-friendly food option, but deep-fried chicken can hurt both your heart and waist size.
A regular fried chicken breast at KFC is 320 calories and has 16 grams of fat, whereas the restaurant's seldom-ordered grilled chicken breast is only 180 calories with six grams of fat. The most popular sides at KFC (corn bread, fries, mashed potatoes, and macaroni salad) are also high in both calories and fat.
6 Jack in the Box
For more than 67 years, Jack in the Box has been serving up its signature hamburgers, chicken tenders, and fries to its clientele. Founded in 1951 out of San Diego, California, the popular fast food chain has more than 2,000 locations along the Pacific Coast of the United States as well as select locations in Cincinnati, Charlotte, Nashville, and Indianapolis, among other cities.
Like its competitors, it's not exactly regarded for its health-conscious menu. In fact, even one of its healthy dining options, the chicken teriyaki bowl, has 690 calories per serving, although it does have only five grams of fat, which is nothing compared to the 1,20 calories and 71 grams of fat in a sirloin cheeseburger with bacon.
5 Burger King
It's hard to imagine how the Burger King mascot is so thin when apparently all he eats is food from the global fast food chain - perhaps it all goes to his massive head? Regardless, it should come as no surprise that Burger King's menu is extremely unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs if you're on a diet.
Best case you can grab a medium fries for 380 calories and 17 grams of fat, but anything more than that is going to set back your progress at least a few days. If you're crazy enough to try the triple whopper with cheese, you'll be ingesting 1,240 calories, 83 grams of fat, and a ridiculous 1,470 mg of sodium.
4 Cheesecake Factory
OK, so maybe the Cheesecake Factory doesn't come to mind immediately when thinking about fast food given its a full-service restaurant, but it does allow for takeout and even sells its readily-available products elsewhere. As is the case with burgers and deep-fried chicken, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that some of your favorite desserts are loaded with fat and high in calories.
For instance, the regular slices offered range from 830 to 1,570 calories. Even the low-carb cheesecake is about 630 calories per slice, meaning you should probably avoid eating there too often if you're trying to maintain healthy eating habits.
3 Dairy Queen
Whether you're going to Dairy Queen for dinner or for a post-meal treat, you should know that you likely won't be feeling great afterwards. This isn't a surprise - can you imagine how be the lineups would be if Blizzards were actually healthy? - but their menu options might be even more unhealthy than you imagined.
A large Oreo Blizzard has 1,190 calories and 45 grams of fat, which is only a couple hundred calories less than an entire supersized meal at McDonald's. Similarly, a six-piece chicken strip basket is a whopping 1,600 calories, while a half-pound flamethrower is 970 calories and has 68 grams of fat.
The word Sonic is associated with speed, but you won't be going anywhere fast after eating from this drive-in fast food chain. There are more than 3,600 Sonic locations across 45 states, all of which are surviving because of the atmosphere rather than the quality of its food. There's truly nothing special about its burgers and other menu items, but the food is brought to you in your car because apparently people like eating there? For whatever reason, it works.
Like other restaurants, Sonic has a junior cheeseburger with 17 grams of fat and 330 calories. It also offers a variety of options below 500 calories, but most are well above that threshold. For instance, the more popular SuperSonic bacon double cheeseburger has 1,240 calories and 87 grams of fat. Moreover, a single order of onion rings has 800 calories.
1 Taco Bell
The food offered at Taco Bell is generally a better remedy for constipation than drinking a gallon of coffee and taking over-the-counter laxatives, which should tell you all you need to know about the fast food chain. Yet, despite the unhealthy offerings, there's a natural curiosity as to what a taco would taste like if the shell were made out of Doritos.
The nacho cheese Doritos Locos taco has 190 calories and 11 grams of fat, which is relatively high given the size of the taco and the fact you're likely to eat at least three in any given sitting. There are low-calorie options at Taco Bell, but the majority of burritos and breakfast items have more than 600 calories.