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The 18 Best & Worst Menu Items at Carl's Jr., According to Dietitians

RDs looked at the Carl's Jr. menu in its entirety and picked the items to try, and the ones to avoid.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

Carl's Jr. is known for its burgers, but not its nutritional value. Similar to most fast-food restaurants, the emphasis at Carl's Jr. is on delicious, convenient meals and less on how their food can positively impact health. While some healthier fast-food burgers and chicken sandwiches can contribute essential protein to your day, the unhealthier ones can also pack in fat, saturated fat, loads of sodium, and a surprising number of calories. This goes for breakfast foods and side items, too.

When navigating the Carl's Jr. menu, there are stand-outs for best and worst items when it comes to nutrition. Unfortunately, even those that make the best category should still only be enjoyed occasionally. While they are the healthiest options in their category at Carl's Jr., some still have a nutritional profile that leaves much to be desired. For weight and health management, you are better off eating from home more often than relying on fast food for frequent meals.

When you do swing through Carl's Jr., use this list to help you make more informed menu selections. When in doubt, limit fried items, skip sauces that can add empty calories, and avoid sugary drinks that add significant calories and added sugar to your meal.

Read on for the 18 best and worst menu items at Carl's Jr. Then, for more healthy eating tips for when you visit your favorite fast-food chains, check out the 20 Best & Worst Menu Items at Sonic.

Breakfast

Best: Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit

Carl's Jr. Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 520 calories, 29 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 1,730 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 19 g protein

Although biscuits are generally higher in fat and saturated fat than regular bread, this sandwich still makes our best list. This is because, at 520 calories, it is one of the lower-calorie options on the Carl's Jr. menu.

The Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit is also much lower in fat than many other breakfast options while still providing 19 grams of protein. Make this an even healthier breakfast by eating the sandwich open-faced and adding a serving of fruit from home.

 The 10 Best & Worst Menu Items at Popeyes

Best: Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich

carl's jr. grilled cheese breakfast sandwich
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 490 calories, 24 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,520 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 26 g protein

Another breakfast sandwich with a reasonable nutrition profile, this Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich with Ham and Egg comes in at 490 calories. At 24 grams of fat, it is one of the lower-fat breakfast options and provides two grams of fiber.

Unfortunately, you won't find much fiber on the breakfast menu, so adding your own fruit from home is a good way to boost this important nutrient in your meal. Skip a slice or two of cheese on this sandwich to significantly lower calories and fat grams, making for a healthier option.

Carl's Jr. offers a Sausage and Egg version of their Grilled Cheese Breakfast Sandwich (which you see pictured because the website doesn't have a picture of their Ham and Egg version), but the sausage option is a bit more calorie and fat-dense than the ham.

Worst: The Breakfast Burger

Carl's Jr. The Breakfast Burger
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 810 calories, 41 g fat (15 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,600 mg sodium, 69 g carbs (4 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 42 g protein

The Breakfast Burger combines a beef patty with egg, bacon, and hash rounds, all served on a bun. This makes it the second-highest calorie option on the breakfast menu while providing a whopping 41 grams of fat.

The only thing this sandwich has going for it is four grams of fiber, although the 13 grams of sugar and high sodium count distract from its positive attribute. If this option sounds too good to pass up, at least skip the hash rounds and bacon to lower the fat and saturated fat, and keep it as only an occasional breakfast option.

Worst: The Monster Biscuit

carl's jr. monster biscuit
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 830 calories, 56 g fat (25 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,420 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (0 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 34 g protein

At 830 calories, this is the highest calorie and fat option on this list. The 56 grams of fat it provides is enough to satisfy some people's needs for the entire day. Not to mention, nearly half of its fat comes from saturated fat.

This sandwich also contains over 2400 milligrams of sodium, more than is required in a full day, and zero grams of fiber. You are better off skipping this option and going with the Bacon Egg & Cheese biscuit instead.

 13 Best & Worst Fast-Food Breakfast Sandwiches

Burgers

Best: Big Hamburger

Carl's Jr. Big Hamburger
Photo: Courtesy of Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 480 calories, 18 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 970 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 25 g protein

A simple beef patty with condiments and vegetables allows this hamburger to make the best list. At just under 500 calories, it provides a reasonable amount of energy for a meal while containing 25 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. This profile allows it to be filling while keeping you within your calorie budget.

Best: California Classic Double Cheeseburger

Carl's Jr. California Classic Double Cheeseburger
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 590 calories, 41 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 23 g protein

A double cheeseburger wouldn't typically make a "best" list, but this one manages to stay under 600 calories and provides the second-lowest sugar count. Go without one of the patties to lower the calorie and fat count, and consider going light on the classic sauce that is a source of empty calories.

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Worst: Double Guacamole Bacon Burger

Carl's Jr. Double Guacamole Bacon Burger
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 1,340 calories, 93 g fat (31 g saturated fat, 4 g trans fat), 2,300 mg sodium, 57 g carbs (6 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 73 g protein

It's no surprise that calories, fat, and saturated fat climb when you add bacon to a meal. This burger is no exception and comes in at 1,340 calories with a staggering 93 grams of fat. Although some of this fat is a healthy source from the avocado, 93 grams is more than most people need in an entire day, let alone one meal.

Drop to one patty and skip the cheese to make this a healthier option, although it will likely still have a hefty calorie number.

Worst: Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger

Carls Jr. double western bacon cheeseburger
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 1,040 calories, 56 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat), 2,050 mg sodium, 78 g carbs (4 g fiber, 16 g sugar), 58 g protein

Another bacon-y burger, this option also has a layer of onion rings. At over 1,000 calories, it is one of the higher calorie options on the burger menu and also has one of the highest saturated fat contents. Four grams of fiber and 58 grams of protein without a doubt make this a filling meal, but the 56 grams of fat and over 2,000 milligrams of sodium make it a less healthy option.

Skip this one altogether and instead go with a plain burger topped with some BBQ sauce for a healthier alternative.

Chicken

Best: Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Carl's Jr. Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 400 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1,330 mg sodium, 57 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 33 g protein

A simple grilled chicken sandwich is usually one of the healthiest options on a fast-food menu. This is true for this BBQ Chicken Sandwich that provides only 400 calories. Although this may take up the majority of your meal calorie budget, it is a healthier source of calories with only 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 33 grams of protein. It is also lower in sodium than many of the chicken options on the menu.

Best: Hand-Breaded 3-Piece Chicken Tenders

Carl's Jr. Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 260 calories, 13 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 770 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 25 g protein

Fried chicken wouldn't generally make a "best" list. However, these tenders pull it off at only 260 calories and an impressive 25 grams of protein.

This is a much better calorie-to-protein ratio than most other options on this list, making it a good selection for those wanting a lighter option.

Watch out for dips and sauces, as they can add significant empty calories. If you want a boost of flavor, dip into mustard for a low-calorie option. If you can, serve over lettuce and vegetables from home for a simple salad.

 8 Best & Worst Fast-Food Chicken Tenders

Worst: Hand-Breaded Bacon Swiss Chicken Sandwich

carl's jr. bacon swiss hand-breaded chicken sandwich
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 780 calories, 42 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 3,100 mg sodium, 61 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 41 g protein

Fried chicken, bacon, cheese, and mayo make this one of the worst chicken options on the menu. Not only is it one of the highest calorie options, but it has the highest fat content of the chicken sandwiches.

A whopping 3100 milligrams of sodium and only 2 grams of fiber also make this sandwich a less desirable option. Skip the cheese and mayo to improve the nutrition a bit, but the best options are still the other chicken choices on our list.

Worst: Charbroiled Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich

Carl's Jr. Charbroiled Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 670 calories, 35 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,770 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (3 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 36 g protein

Although this sandwich includes grilled chicken breast, the American cheese and Santa Fe sauce it comes with make it a less healthy option.

Choose just one of those toppings to lower your calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium. The Charbroiled Santa Fe Sandwich also comes with mild green chile, which is sure to provide plenty of flavor to make up for less sauce and cheese.

Sides

Best: Fried Zucchini

Carl's Jr. Fried Zucchini
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 330 calories, 20 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 850 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 5 g protein

Side items can add a surprising number of calories to your fast-food meal. Although these Fried Succhini Bites pack 20 grams of fat, they also contain an impressive 7 grams of fiber and only 2 grams of sugar. This makes them more nutritious than most other options.

If you are looking for another side option, the small fry provides only 100 calories and comes along with 4 grams of fiber, making it a decent choice, too.

 The 15 Best High-Protein Fast Food Meals

Worst: 9-Piece Jalapeno Poppers Bites

Carl's Jr. Jalapeno Poppers Bites- 9 Piece
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 750 calories, 51 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,070 mg sodium, 64 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 14 g protein

At 750 calories, this side provides more energy than many of the entrées in our best category. With 51 grams of fat and zero grams of fiber, you are better off skipping this side. The 6-piece contains 470 calories, making it slightly better, but the nutrition profile is still very high in fat and sodium with very little value.

Worst: Onion Rings

Carl's Jr. Onion Rings
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 560 calories, 30 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 650 mg sodium, 66 g carbs (4 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 9 g protein

Crunchy and full of flavor, onion rings are a favorite side item for many. Unfortunately, they don't pack much in the way of nutrients.

One order will cost you 560 calories and more fat than is necessary for a single meal, let alone a side item. If you simply can't pass them up, share an order with a few other people to reduce your portion of calories and fat.

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Desserts

Best: Chocolate Chip Cookie

Carl's Jr. Chocolate Chip Cookie
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 170 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (1 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 1 g protein

All of the desserts at Carl's Jr. contain added sugar, an ingredient we are all better off limiting. However, the Chocolate Chip Cookie provides the lowest amount of this worrisome nutrient compared to the other dessert options.

A single cookie contains 170 calories, which will take a chunk out of your meal budget. To lessen the impact, enjoy only half of the cookie and save the other half for a treat the next day.

Worst: Vanilla Hand-Scooped Ice-Cream Shake

carls jr milkshakes
Carl's Jr.
Per serving (vanilla): 740 calories, 36 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 87 g carbs (0 g fiber, 70 g sugar), 13 g protein

Coming in at 70 grams of sugar, this shake definitely makes our worst list. This is more added sugar than an adult should save across several days, let alone one dessert.

It does provide 13 grams of protein, which is a plus, but does not make up for the jaw-dropping sugar, fat, saturated fat, and calorie count. The OREO shake provides the least amount of sugar at 58 grams, but you are still better off skipping all of the ice cream shakes.

Worst: Cinnamon Roll

Carl's Jr. Cinnamon Roll
Carl's Jr.
Per serving: 520 calories, 16 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 1,060 mg sodium, 89 g carbs (1 g fiber, 57 g sugar), 6 g protein

At 520 calories and 57 grams of sugar, the Cinnamon Roll also makes our worst list. It contains over 1000 milligrams of sodium, which is surprising for a dessert, and has the highest carbohydrate count of all the desserts. A bite of this would be fine for a dessert, but if you don't have people to split it with, skip it altogether.

Kelsey Hampton Abdullah, MS, RDN
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey