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The Worst Fast-Food Chain in America, According to a Dietitian

It's the one drive-thru you're going to want to drive on by.

Fast food may not be the healthiest option, but sometimes you're pinched for time and need to grab something on-the-go for convenience. Yet, there are some chains that are better than others based on their menu items. You don't want to end up eating at the worst fast-food chain, especially if you're trying to stay on course with any weight-loss goals. (And any of the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time can help you with that.)

So if you are stopping by because you're in a rush, or you're just in the mood to indulge in some fries and chicken nuggets, you can make your trip a bit healthier. And that's by choosing a chain that has better-for-you menu items or one that lets you easily create a slimmed-down meal that's more in line with your diet or lifestyle. (Taco Bell and its many customizable options, we're looking at you.)

So which fast-food chain is really the worst of the bunch? Well, according to dietitian Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN, the worst fast-food chain is…

Burger King

exterior of burger king restaurant
Ken Wolter/Shutterstock

We know—Burger King is truly a beloved option so this might be tough to see. But let's break down exactly why it's the worst fast-food chain.

Putting it simply, BK just has tons of unhealthy items on the menu, Schapiro says, much like most chains. Yet, they don't have too many solid, alternative options that would result in a wholesome, balanced meal. For example, the classics are exceptionally high in calories, saturated fats, sodium, and carbs.

Take the Triple Whopper with Cheese. At a first glance at its nutrition profile, you'll immediately see it has 1,220 calories, 82 grams of fat, and 1,470 milligrams of sodium. That's just high in everything!

"This burger has 4.5 grams of trans fat, plus 32 grams of saturated fat, both of which can clog your arteries," Schapiro explains. "This burger is more than half the calories you need in a day, plus the sodium is very high." Nothing really redeeming here. And if you are going to Burger King to grab a burger, you're likely going to stick with this one. It is a menu staple, after all!

Truthfully, a majority of the sandwiches are pretty bad, with few being healthy enough to qualify as a clean meal. Schapiro uses the Bacon King Sandwich as another prime example. It's packing more than 1,000 calories, 79 grams of fat, 31 grams of saturated fat, 3.5 grams of trans fat, and 2,150 milligrams of sodium. Keep in mind The American Heart Association recommends the average person should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams per day of sodium, so this one burger almost completely knocks out your daily allotment.

"Too much sodium can lead you to crave more salty foods and overeat," Schapiro says. "Plus, the saturated fat and trans fat are awful for your heart."

Burger King does offer up salads, but you'll need to look closely at these options, too. The Crispy Chicken Garden Salad? It's a menu item you might instantly deem as a better option when it's actually not. The problem is the chicken. It's crispy, which means it's fried and greasy.

"You may think getting a salad is healthy, but this salad is deceiving. At nearly 900 calories, some burgers may be a better choice," Schapiro says. It also contains 14 grams of saturated fat and 35 grams of carbs, which you wouldn't ever expect in a "garden salad."

The bottom line about Burger King?

You are better off going with a different chain that overall has healthier salads, sandwiches, burgers, and side dish options. And as Schapiro points out about the food, "it's not fresh, and not high quality."

But in case you find yourself in a situation where BK is your only option, Schapiro suggests ordering the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. It's actually lower in sodium and saturated than the Garden Chicken Salad and coming in at 430 calories with 870 milligrams of sodium, it's not a total diet disaster.

Looking for more helpful tips? Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

Isadora Baum
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. Read more about Isadora