Skip to content

10 Worst New Fast-Food Menu Items of 2021

Avoid these at all costs!
FACT CHECKED BY Meghan De Maria

Fast-food fans have a lot to celebrate as 2021 gets underway. Many of the country's most beloved fast-food chains have added multiple new items to their menu, including Dunkin', Del Taco, and Shake Shack. While some new items are considered healthier options, there are a few new fast-food menu items you might want to stay away from if you plan to stick to any sort of healthy diet as part of your New Year's resolution.

We got some insight on some of the new menu items coming to fast-food menu boards across the country from two registered dietitians: Hannah Cooper, MS, RD, LDN, from Houston, Texas, and Krista Jensema, MS, RD, CSP, LDN, from Dallas, Texas. They let us in on which dishes to steer clear of this year.

And for more, don't miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.

1

Caribou Coffee Ham, Egg, and Swiss Croissant

ham and egg croissant sandwich

Unfortunately, the new Ham, Egg, and Swiss Croissant from Caribou Coffee makes the unhealthy list. "Its high saturated fat content and low calories will leave us reaching our maximum saturated fat intake for the day while feeling hungry again in a few hours," Jensema says. She recommends trying the Turkey Bacon Mini Breakfast Sandwich for a healthier alternative.

RELATED: Sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!

2

Caribou Coffee Nitro Turtle Mocha

caribou coffee turtle mocha topped with whipped cream

Many Americans pick up a cup of coffee through a drive-thru window every day. And while some are OK choices, others, like the new Nitro Turtle Mocha Coffee from Caribou Coffee, are not. According to Jensema, the coffee goes well over the maximum intake of sugar for men and women. "Not only does it exceed these guidelines, but it also is higher in saturated fat," she says. If you still want to indulge without all of the extra sugar and calories, consider ordering your coffee with skim milk, sugar-free caramel, and light whipped cream.

3

Del Taco Honey Mango Crispy Chicken Taco

del taco honey mango crispy chicken taco

Per 1 taco (104 g): 220 calories, 11 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 500 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar)

Del Taco has quite a few new menu items debuting this month, including the new Honey Mango Crispy Chicken Taco. This taco doesn't get the stamp of approval from Jensema, though. "Although its nutritional profile is not terrible, it is low in calories and high in saturated fat for one small taco," she says.

4

Del Taco Honey Mango Crispy Chicken & Churros Box

del taco chicken and churros box

Per 1 box (234 g): 550 calories, 26 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 870 mg sodium, 60 g carbs (1 g fiber, 30 g sugar)

Along with the new Honey Mango Crispy Chicken Taco, you can also get the new Honey Mango Crispy Chicken and Churros from Del Taco. "After seeing the 30 grams of sugar in this food item, this immediately got added to the unhealthy list," Jensema says. "This exceeds the recommended amount of sugar per day for women and almost reaches the maximum for men. In addition, this meal item has minimal nutritional benefits."

5

McDonald's Crispy Chicken Sandwich

mcdonalds chicken sandwich
Courtesy of McDonald's

The newest addition to the chicken sandwich wars is the McDonald's Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which will launch on Feb. 24 nationwide. (Yes, it's different from the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken that's currently on the menu.)

This menu addition lands on the unhealthy list from Cooper due to the high calorie count and fat content. "It is okay to have the foods you love occasionally, but I would not recommend eating something like this every day. What you could do to balance this meal out would be to skip the fries and get apple slices instead," Cooper says.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

6

McDonald's Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich

mcdonalds chicken sandwich with fries and drink
Shutterstock

Spicy chicken sandwiches are just as popular as traditional chicken sandwiches, and McDonald's will have both on the menu soon. Cooper put the new Spicy Chicken Sandwich on the unhealthy list. The nutritional info was not out for the new sandwiches as of writing, but Cooper looked at the other chicken sandwiches currently on the menu and deducted the sandwich would likely be close to almost 600 calories. No, thank you!

7

McDonald's Deluxe Chicken Sandwich

mcdonalds milkshake mcfloat with chicken sandwich on tray
Shutterstock

The last chicken sandwich to join the ranks at McDonald's is the Deluxe Chicken Sandwich. This sandwich is loaded with shredded lettuce and tomatoes, which Cooper saw as a slight plus, but in the end the dish still made the unhealthy list. Because the nutritional information was not available as of writing, Cooper says, "I would guess that this sandwich also falls in the same calorie range as the others."

8

Shake Shack Korean-Style Fried Chicken Sandwich

shake shack korean fried chicken sandwich
Courtesy of Shake Shack

Shake Shack is bringing Asian-inspired menu items this month with the new Korean-Style Fried Chicken Sandwich. The new dish is high in calories and sodium, making it an unhealthy choice. "The gochujang glaze on this sandwich is going to bump up the sodium value of this sandwich quite a bit. If you want to decrease the calories and carbs for this meal, try a lettuce wrap version," says Cooper.

9

Korean-Style Gochujang Chick'n Bites from Shake Shack

shake shack korean chicken bites with dipping sauce
Courtesy of Shake Shack

If chicken sandwiches aren't calling your name, maybe Korean-Style Gochujang Chick'n Bites will. The chain's take on chicken nuggets is slightly healthier than the sandwich, but the nuggets still land on the unhealthy list. "One way to limit the added calories and fat from this meal would be to use less of the gochujang mayo sauce," says Cooper.

10

Starbucks Pistachio Latte

starbucks pistachio latte

Per grande (16 fl oz) with steamed 2% milk: 320 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 310 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (0 g fiber, 45 g sugar), 12 g protein

The latest drink trend to hit Starbucks menus is the Pistachio Latte, but the drink unfortunately makes the unhealthy list. A grande latte has 45 grams of sugar and 320 calories. Cooper mentions that the great thing about Starbucks is how customizable the drinks are. "To cut calories in this drink, try swapping the 2% milk for nonfat or a dairy-free alternative. You can also ask for [fewer] pumps of syrup or sugar-free alternatives if available," she says.

Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a food and travel journalist with bylines at Forbes, Insider, Delish, Popsugar, SmarterTravel, Travel and Leisure and more. Read more