Americans love a good burger. So, it's no surprise that most restaurant chains have at least one on their menu to please the masses. After all, there are few things better than ordering a big, juicy burger at your favorite restaurant.
Unfortunately, most are packed with calories, fat, sodium and sugar (yes, sugar!), decadent toppings, and buns full of refined carbohydrates. These factors mean that many of your favorite restaurant burgers are quite unhealthy.
Curious how your favorite burger stacks up? Here are the unhealthiest burgers at each of the major restaurant chains, according to dietitians. Then for more tips on making healthy choices when you're dining out, check out The Worst Appetizers To Avoid at 15 Restaurant Chains.
Chili's: The Bacon Rancher Burger
If the bacon didn't give it away, it's all the other additions that put this burger over the edge nutritionally.
"The Bacon Rancher Burger contains 2 beef patties, 6 slices of bacon, ranch dressing, cheese, and sauteed onions. It contains the highest number of calories amongst the other burgers on the Chili's menu and packs almost a full day's worth of calories just in one burger," says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics. "The average person may only need between 1,800-2,200 calories a day. This burger is also very high in sodium, above the daily recommended amount of 2,300 mg a day, and packs 2,660 milligrams in just one burger."
Outback Steakhouse: The Bloomin' Burger
Who doesn't love Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion? But on top of a burger, it's a nutrition nightmare.
"This burger is topped with big fried onion rings, which have been breaded (likely with lots of salt), then deep fried, making it high in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium. It packs 1,140 calories, which is equal to about 2 meals worth of calories for most people," says Ehsani. "Plus if you have it with a side of fries (or potatoes, mac & cheese, or more bloom petals), that will increase total calories, total fat, and sodium even more!"
IHOP: Jalapeño Kick Burger
While IHOP is known for its breakfast menu, they also have stacked burger options. And this one is the worst.
"Any spicy burger lover will love this burger loaded with jalapeños, serrano peppers, pepper jack cheese, and bacon. However, once you look at the nutrition information, you might change your mind. It's well above the daily values for total fat, saturated fat, and sodium," says Ehsani.
"Saturated fat should be no more than 10% of your total calories you consume each day per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), and no more than 5-6% per the American Heart Association (AHA). For most people that is less than about 20 grams of saturated fat per day, and this burger is well above it in just one meal!"
Ruby Tuesday: Smokehouse Cheeseburger on Brioche
If you order this burger at Ruby Tuesday, you can expect a ton of calories and very few nutrient-dense ingredients.
"This burger is fully loaded with cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce, and fried onion rings, but it's also fully loaded with calories—and not the good kind," says Ehsani. "It's one of the highest-calorie burgers on the menu at Ruby Tuesday and really doesn't pack any necessary nutrients in it, aside from the piece of two of lettuce, onion, and tomato–meaning it's still not providing you with many helpful nutrients from fiber-rich ingredients or lean source of protein."
Texas Roadhouse: Smokehouse Burger
If you struggle with high blood pressure, stay away from this burger at Texas Roadhouse.
"This burger contains sautéed mushrooms, onions, BBQ sauce, LTO, with two types of cheeses, and is served with steak fries. It's high in sugar, likely due to the BBQ sauce, packing 20 grams per burger," says Ehsani. "It is also very high in sodium, almost hitting 2,500 milligrams per burger, which is well above the daily recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams. It's way above the sodium recommendation for anyone with high blood pressure, which is no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day."
Golden Corral: 8 oz Cheeseburger
While this burger is lower in calories compared to other burgers, you also have to consider everything else you're piling on your plate at Golden Corral.
"The problem with Golden Corral is you might get the burger, but also want to try a lot more things, as it's an all-you-can eat buffet and grill. So it might not just be the calories from the burger you are eating, but many more things with it," adds Ehsani. "This burger contains 0 grams of fiber too, which is essential to include at meals, as it promotes satiety and fullness and a healthy gut!"
TGI Fridays: Loaded Cheese Fry Burger
It should be no surprise that this burger topped with cheese fries from TGI Fridays is one of the unhealthiest on the list.
"This one should be avoided at all costs, especially if you'd like to keep your heart healthy! It's so sky high in sodium, packing 3,660 milligrams of sodium per burger! Eating too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease or even stroke," says Ehsani. "It may sound really delicious to a fry and burger lover (as it's a burger topped with cheeses and fries), but it's best to make your own burger at home and bake your own fries instead."
Cheesecake Factory: Bacon-Bacon Cheeseburger
With the word 'bacon' twice in its name, you know this burger from Cheesecake Factory is going to be unhealthy.
"It's the highest-calorie burger on the menu, and one of the highest in sodium as well," says Ehsani. "It's also quite high in added sugar, packing 29 grams. It's best to avoid this burger when dining out, as it's not providing you with high-quality nutrients. It likely will leave you super thirsty too after ingesting a mega amount of salt!"
Cracker Barrel: The Barrel Cheeseburger
Although it's a pretty simple burger, if this is your go-to order from Cracker Barrel, you will be eating a massive amount of saturated fat.
"Despite its high protein content of 65 grams, this burger has over 1,000 calories and over 70 grams of fat, with about a third of that fat being the saturated kind," says Charlotte Martin, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CPT, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Shaped by Charlotte, LLC. "Excess saturated fat intake has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and elevated cholesterol levels. Additionally, it provides over half of the recommended daily sodium limit of 2,300 milligrams."
Applebee's: Whisky Bacon Burger
Applebee's created a nutrition monster with this burger in all nutritional aspects.
"This burger provides a day's worth of calories for most people in just one meal. Additionally, the burger contains a staggering 102 grams of fat, with 35 grams being saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease when consumed in excess," says Martin.
"Plus, the sodium content of this burger greatly exceeds the daily recommended sodium limit. High sodium intake can contribute to elevated blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Lastly, this burger provides 19 grams of sugar—most of which likely comes from the Whisky Steak Sauce.
LongHorn Steakhouse: The LH Burger
Skipping steak and ordering this burger at LongHorn Steakhouse is a major red flag in the sodium department.
"The alarming sodium content of 2,680 milligrams, which exceeds the daily recommended sodium limit, poses a significant health concern, as high sodium intake can contribute to elevated blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke," says Martin. "Additionally, the burger contains 86 grams of fat, including 22 grams of saturated fat, which can elevate cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease."
Denny's: 20 oz. Flamin' 5-Pepper Burger
This spicy pepper-filled burger from Denny's contains high-fat ingredients like white cheddar cheese, bacon and mayo.
"Despite its impressive 78 grams of protein, this burger has an alarmingly high saturated fat content of 38 grams," says Martin. "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend your saturated fat intake not exceed 10% of daily calories, due to the negative health effects of excess saturated fat intake. Consuming this burger is sure to put you well over that limit. Additionally, its high calorie, sodium, and total fat content are concerning, especially since these nutritionals do not include a side item."
Red Robin: Cheesy Bacon Fondue Burger
Red Robin is all about extravagant burgers, and this one tops the list for poor nutrition.
"This burger has an extremely high calorie content of 1,670 calories, which significantly exceeds the recommended intake for a single meal and can contribute to weight gain and related health issues," says Martin. "Additionally, the burger contains 108 grams of fat, including 39 grams of saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. The excessive sodium content of 2,420 milligrams can contribute to high blood pressure and negatively impact cardiovascular health."