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The 5 Worst "Healthy" Fast-Food Menu Items in America

What's worse than blowing your diet at a fast-food restaurant? Unknowingly doing so when you thought you were ordering something healthy that could help you lose weight.

Thanks to the halo effect, people often assume that foods that are described and look a certain way are healthy when they're actually anything but. To make matters worse, popular fast-food chains exploit the evil health halo to convince health-minded consumers to buy dishes they'd normally pass on because of their nutritional profile.

Don't think you've ever fallen for one of these greasy grub tricks? You might be surprised. The five wannabe health foods below are just as bad as—and in some cases, worse than—the calorie- and fat-laden fries, nuggets and burgers you've been so adamantly trying to avoid. Scroll down to get in the know so you can stay on track towards a trimmer, healthier you.

Quiznos Chicken Wrap

Eat This

Quiznos Small Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread

Calories 480
Fat 24 g
Saturated Fat 9 g
Sugar 6 g

Not That!

Quiznos Apple Harvest Chicken Wrap with Acai Dressing

Calories 950
Fat 44 g
Saturated Fat 11 g
Sugar 47 g

Studies show that people tend to perceive (and in turn, overeat) not-so-wholesome meals as healthy if they are labeled with certain buzzwords—and Quiznos has marketed this wrap with a bunch of them: "apple", "acai" and wrap, to name but a few. Brace yourself for the truth: This dish actually has more calories than a Whopper covered with bacon and cheese and a day's worth of sugar. Yikes! Order the Small Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread instead to save 470 calories and 20 grams of fat. The only catch? The Flatbread is a bit higher in sodium, so be sure to limit your salt the rest of the day.


Eat This

Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich

Calories 440
Fat 18 g
Saturated Fat 4 g
Sodium 1,390 mg

Not That!

Chick-fil-A Cobb Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing

Calories 740
Fat 54 g
Saturated Fat 12 g
Sodium 1,890 mg

This dish is a prime example of how fast-food chains turn beds of leafy greens into junk food. High-fat toppings like fried chicken and shredded cheese make this salad one of the most caloric entrées on the menu. You may be surprised to see a breaded chicken sandwich on the "Eat This" side of the equation, but Chick-fil-A's take on the classic dish is a surprisingly modest indulgence for something that's been in the fryer. In fact, opting for this over the salad will save you 300 calories and 36 grams of heart-harming fat.

Arby's Swiss Sandwich

Eat This

Arby's Ham & Swiss Melt

Calories 300
Fat 9 g
Saturated Fat 3.5 g
Sodium 1,030 mg

Not That!

Arby's Roast Turkey & Swiss Sandwich

Calories 700
Fat 28 g
Saturated Fat 7 g
Sodium 1,760 mg

We know what you're thinking: "But I make turkey and cheese sandwiches all the time at home. How can this be on this list? It's healthy!" Well, yes, typically they are. Arby's is a bit more heavy-handed with the mayo and honey mustard than you likely are at home, which is why the calorie and fat count is so high. To lose your gut, order the Ham & Swiss Melt instead. Coming in at just 300 calories, it's the best bang for your nutritional buck at this fast-food chain. It's not only low in calories and fat, but also delivers 19 grams of protein that can help keep hunger pangs at bay.

Carl's Jr Guacamole Burger

Eat This

Carl's Jr Guacamole Turkey Burger

Calories 480
Fat 19 g
Saturated Fat 6 g
Protein 32 g

Not That!

Carl's Jr Veg It Meatless Guacamole Thickburger

Calories 670
Fat 46 g
Saturated Fat 10 g
Protein 14 g

Going meatless is a great way to cut back on calories and fat–generally. In this case, not so much. Carl's not only managed to shove 46 grams of health-harming fat into their Meatless Guacamole Thickburger–which is what you'd find in 15 McNuggets–but also had the nerve to advertise this nutritional nightmare as a "better for you option." Oddly enough, even after taking the guac, cheese and Santa Fe Sauce off the sandwich, there are still 18 grams of fat, which makes us wonder what they're putting in the bun. Last time we checked, lettuce, tomato and onion don't carry that much fat. Opt for the Guacamole Turkey Burger to save 190 calories, 330 milligrams of blood pressure-raising sodium and add an additional 18 grams of hunger-busting protein to your plate.

Wendy's Grilled Chicken Salad

Eat This

Wendy's Asian Cashew Grilled Chicken Salad (Full Size)

Calories 380
Fat 13 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Sugar 18 g

Not That!

Wendy's Apple Pecan Grilled Chicken Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing (Full Size)

Calories 590
Fat 26 g
Saturated Fat 9 g
Sugar 40 g

Believe it or not, you'd be better off ordering a Double Stack Burger (430 calories) than this sugar-laden, fat-packed bed of lettuce. The blue cheese crumbles, sugar-coated cranberries and super-sweet dressing cancel out any nutritional benefits the apples and greens slip into this salad. See if they can hold the blue cheese crumbles to save 120 calories, or opt for the Asian Cashew Chicken Salad instead. It's the only salad with a reasonable nutritional profile on the menu.

Image: Arby's

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh