The Best and Worst Menu Items at Jack in the Box
If you live in the Midwest or on the West Coast, chances are that when a fast food craving hits, you may swinging by the drive-thru at Jack in the Box. The chain is known for its vast assortment of choices including tacos, breakfast, brunch, teriyaki bowls, chicken nuggets, burgers, shakes, fries, and more. But it's not exactly an easy spot to dine at if you're trying to be mindful of your diet.
A lot of the menu options are very fattening and greasy—the menu is practically crawling with trans fat, and it's pretty sodium-packed. But if you know how to navigate the menu, it's not impossible to find a meal that doesn't trick you into consuming two day's worth of fat and calories.
To help you avoid the unhealthiest choices—and know what to pick instead—we asked registered dietitians to analyze the Jack in the Box menu for the 12 best and worst menu items.
The best orders on the Jack in the Box menu
Best: Chicken Fajita Pita
Without salsa, this pita packs 330 calories and only 4.5 grams of saturated fat per serving—one of the lower calorie and saturated fat counts you'll find on the Jack in the Box menu. If you're monitoring your sodium intake, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, New Jersey, offers a simple solution. "Skip the salsa, which would add more [sodium]. Ask for extra lettuce, tomato, and onion," she says.
Best: Southwest Chicken Salad
"This is my top pick out of the salad options since it provides protein from the grilled chicken and complex carbohydrates from the black beans," says Lisa Mikus, RD, CNSC, CDN, a registered dietitian at Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services, and co-author of Everyday Diabetes Meals Cooking for One or Two. "At 340 calories—without dressing or croutons—and 7 grams of fiber, this salad is a light lunch option if you find yourself at Jack in the Box. It's a great example of a mixed meal, which combines carbohydrates, protein, and fat; carbohydrates are provided by the beans, corn, and tomatoes, protein from the beans and grilled chicken, and fats from the cheese. Making sure our meals have these three macronutrients keeps us satiated and helps to prevent a blood sugar spike as the fat and protein help slow down carbohydrate absorption."
Best: Two Tacos
Taco Bell better watch out because it's got some competition with Jack in the Box's tacos! Order these instead of a burger to save an ample amount of calories, fat, and sodium.
Best: Breakfast Jack
Out of all of the breakfast sandwiches, this one has the lowest calorie count and one of the lowest saturated fat contents. "But since it doesn't offer any veggies or fruit, ask if you can add some tomato, lettuce, and onion to your sandwich—or consider ordering a side salad or a side of apple bites," recommends Gorin.
Best: Chicken Nuggets
If you're really wanting something that's fast food, the five or even 10-piece chicken nuggets order may be a better choice than a burger. "While all the burgers contain trans fats, the nuggets don't," says Gorin. "I recommend eating produce with every meal, so add on a side salad or apple bites."
The worst orders on the Jack in the Box menu
Worst: Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger Munchie Meal
Note that this meal includes not one but two tacos, a soft drink, curly fries, and a stacked grilled cheeseburger—which is basically your average cheeseburger with a grilled cheese sandwich on top of it. "At a whopping 1,890 calories with 44 percent of calories from fat, this calorie-dense 'Munchie Meal' is more like a meal for more than just one person," says Mikus. "The American Heart Association's recommendation for sodium is a maximum of 2,300 milligrams a day. With 3,660 milligrams of sodium, this well exceeds that max. Additionally, this meal has 2.5 grams of trans fats. The AHA recommends that we limit our trans fats intake to less than 1 percent of our daily calories. According to the AHA, on a 2,000 calorie diet, this means 2 grams of trans fat or less is recommended." We got a stomachache just by reading all that's included in this meal. Yuck!
Worst: Large Oreo Cookie Ice Cream Shake
Probably the most caloric dessert on the menu, this shake has 547 of its calories coming from fat and two full grams of trans fats. "Additionally, there are 137 grams of carbohydrates in this shake, which will likely contribute to a spike in blood sugar and subsequent sugar crash," says Mikus. Just say no to sipping on this cookie-filled shake.
Worst: Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito
"The reason I chose this as one of the least nutritious items from the Jack in the Box menu is because its 2,210 milligrams of sodium nearly hits the daily maximum that's recommended by the American Heart Association," says Mikus. "With over 1,000 calories—and 60 percent of those coming from fat and trans fats—you're better off waking up a little earlier and starting your day off with instant oatmeal."
Worst: Jack's Chicken Teriyaki Bowl
Don't be fooled by the broccoli and carrots in this bowl—it does not make up for the rest! "Yes, this is one of the only menu items that have vegetables other than lettuce and tomatoes," says Mikus. "But the sodium from the teriyaki sauce means that this meal nearly hits the American Heart Association's recommended daily sodium limit at 2,120 milligrams."
Worst: Chick-N-Tater Melt Munchie Meal
"All the Munchie Meals are poor choices because they're all well over 1,000 calories," says Gorin. "But this one reaches over 2,000 calories and has 28 grams saturated fat and 1.5 grams trans fat—a fat we want to completely avoid."
Worst: Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges
"I'm calling these out because they're listed as a snack option, yet contain 650 calories and 40 grams of fat," says Gorin. That's a lot of fat and way too many calories for a so-called snack. Try one of these snacks that fill you up instead!
Worst: Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger
Last but certainly not least is the Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger. With a whopping 3 grams of trans fat and just under 950 calories, this burger takes the cake as the worst of them all. Even the BBQ Bacon Double Cheeseburger has fewer calories at 700 and half the trans fat.