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Unhealthiest Fast-Food Fries in America

Unhealthiest Fast-Food Fries in America

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It's highly likely that the menu at a fast-food restaurant will include french fries, and it's also quite likely that you will order them. French fries might have a French name, but they are a quintessential fast-food staple in America. The simple recipe of sliced potatoes that are deep-fried and salted is one of the most common side dishes served in fast-food establishments. Though they're often thought of as the perfect companion to a burger, they can also be enjoyed on their own as a snack or even used to perk up another dish (like on pizza or in a sandwich — yes that exists).

Click here to see the Unhealthiest Fast-Food Fries in America (Slideshow)

People tend to have strong opinions about which fast-food chain really serves the best fries, and what a "good fry" really is — some prefer them crispy and thin, others like them thick and more "potato-y," some like them straight as a stick, and others like their fries curly. But while scooping up ketchup with a pile of those favorite fries can definitely be a feel-good moment, it might be worth remembering that — even if a potato is a vegetable — fries are not healthy.

It shouldn't be a surprise that fries are packed with fat, calories, and sodium. Deep-fried and often heavily salted, french fries might not be the best choice for a side to an already fat-oozing burger. But in the wonderful world of fast-food fries, there actually is a difference in how much calories, fat, and "bad fats" (saturated and trans) your serving of french fries will contain, depending on where you buy it.

In order to find out which fast-food restaurants serve the "worst" fries, nutritionally speaking, we dug through the nutritional information of some of America's top chain restaurants, comparing the amount of calories, fat, and sodium in a small serving of french fries. As some restaurants had the same amount of calories, we split up the ranking by the difference in amount of fat. Nutritionist Keri Glassman, M.D., of the website Nutritious Life, explains that in general, potatoes cooked with the skin on — a method used by Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A, among others — are healthier, as most of the nutrients in a potato come from the skin. But Glassman also stresses that the health benefits that might have come from skin-on preparation unfortunately get outweighed by high fat and sodium content.

It is also worth remembering that the type of fat makes a difference, Glassman says, and that one should limit their intake of saturated fats, as an excess of this fat type can lead to a rise in cholesterol levels. In order to help you make your choice, we also included the saturated fat amount in our comparison. And fries are often loaded with sodium, even if their calories and fat are on the lower end. The reason for this is often heavy seasoning, such as the flavoring on Arby’s curly fries. Besides salt, fast-food fries often contain several more ingredients that one might think, including artificial flavorings and preservatives. McDonald's fries, for example, contain a total of 17 ingredients, and most other fast-food chains show similar, long, ingredient-lists in their nutritional information profiles.

When comparing the (un)healthiness of fries, note that the serving size of a "small portion" also varies — from McDonald's' 71 grams to Five Guys' massive 227 grams. It's a good reminder that a "small" is not always so small, and that it is good to check the portion sizes if you're looking for ways to eat better. Some fast-food restaurants, like Burger King, also offer healthier fry options, with their new "Satisfries," crinkle-cut fries with 40 percent less fat and 30 percent calories. But according to a report by BusinessWeek, the fries aren't yet a permanent menu item, as the fast-food chain does not want to commit — yet — to serving the healthier fries as a long-term menu option.

Curious to see how your favorite fast-food fries ranked in terms of healthiness? Click through our slideshow of the Unhealthiest Fast-Food Fries in America to find out!

21 Junk Food Recipes We Love

We're not pointing any fingers, but it's quite possible you may or may not be looking for some serious junk food today. But whether you're observing a special occasion or just in the mood for some guilty pleasure foods, making them at home opens up a whole new world of options. Fry up some tater tots or potato chips with unique toppings and flavors for crispy carbs at their best. Homemade nachos, popcorn and hot dogs drum up memories of the ballpark and state fair but taste way, way better. Or go sweet with a sundae, milkshake, or homemade candy bar to end your indulgent feast on a, erm, high note.


The Unhealthiest Item in Every Fast-Food Chain in the US

Americans spend millions of dollars a year eating and drinking at fast food establishments. The biggest chain, in terms of sales, is McDonald’s, where people spent more than $36 billion in 2016, followed by Starbucks with nearly $15 billion, and Subway with $11 billion.

These numbers are not surprising, considering that almost 40% of people in the United States eat at a fast food restaurant at least once a day. And adults between 20 and 39 years old are most likely to choose junk food over other options.

Perhaps it’s no surprise also that the biggest health issues in the country include obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, all of which are associated with foods that are high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar.

So why is fast food so popular? It’s cheap, readily available everywhere, filling, and you don’t have to wait long for it.

Many of the least healthy items on fast food menus contain nearly the entire daily recommended intake of calories, sodium, and sugar. The estimated daily calorie need for moderately active adult men is 2,800 and 2,200 for women . The recommended daily limit for salt is 2,300 mg (ideally 1,500 mg), and that of sugar is 25 grams (six teaspoons) for women and 38 grams (nine teaspoons) for men, according to the American Heart Association.

To identify the unhealthiest food at every major fast food chain in the United States, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nutritional contents of every item on their menus. To compare each item, we created an index of calories, fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Foods with a lot of calories, sodium, sugar, and fat relative to other items offered by the same restaurant received worse scores. Only food items intended for single individuals were considered. McDonald’s 40-piece Chicken McNuggets, for example, was excluded.

Where To Find The 'Healthiest' Fast Food Fries

Burger King's lower calorie french fry offering -- the Satisfry -- is now a delicacy of the past. The crinkle-cut potato strip, which the fast food joint is nixing from its menu, boasted 190 calories and 8 grams of fat in its "value" size, or 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than McDonald's' original French Fries.

With the skinny version gone for good, what are health-conscious fry enthusiasts to do? Foremost, consumers should remember that french fries are hardly a health food. The snack -- particularly when served at a quick-stop burger joint -- is typically laden with, among other, less identifiable ingredients, fat and sodium.

Even still, if you're mourning the loss of the low-cal Satisfry and are searching for a replacement, take a look at the list below to see how America's most popular fast food restaurant fries (or fry-variations) stack up. Organized by highest-to-lowest calorie count, Burger King's offerings now appear higher in calories than McDonald's'. So much for frying the competition, BK.

The dishes are ranked on a combination of factors: calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. CSPI doesn't judge every restaurant in America it works from a list of the top 200 restaurants in America according to Nation's Restaurant News, a trade publication that covers the restaurant industry.

Say you are able to exercise superhuman restraint and refrain from eating the free chips and salsa and instead opt to eat only your meal.

• either the bacon refried beans or the vegetarian black beans

TLDR: This plate is the equivalent of 11 Taco Bell Crunchy Tacos.

6. Domino’s Three Cheese Mac-N-Cheese Breadbowl Pasta

This awkwardly named “pasta” from Domino’s has 1460 calories. For that impact we have to hope it tastes a lot better than it looks.

How is That Even Possible?

It’s pretty obvious what went wrong here this isn’t so much pasta as it is a big slug of melted cheese that’s been poured into a loaf of bread. Look, bowls shouldn’t be edible. Bread was doing a fine job as a staple food, it doesn’t deserve to be shanghaied into a secondary role. And while we won’t deny that cheese is delicious, it probably shouldn’t be the focus of your meal, assuming you want to eat more than one a day without packing on the pounds.

2. Five Guys- Large French Fries

It is no secret that French fries are unhealthy. An order of large fries from Five Guys might be some of the unhealthiest French fries out there. A large order of fries has a whopping 1475 calories on average. That is 75% of the daily recommended calorie intake!

These French fries also have 71gs of fat, 14gs of which are saturated fats. The daily recommended fat intake is between 44g-70g so these fries have more fat than you should consume in a full day. If you absolutely must have five guys fries (I understand because they are quite tasty) then you will be much better off getting a small order. If you are a big French fry fanatic, you might want to try sweet potato fries. They are way healthier.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, chili powder, smoked paprika (if using), and salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until deep brown and crispy on the outside.
  4. Top with the cheese, bacon, and scallions, and return to the oven.
  5. Bake until the cheese is fully melted and beginning to brown.
  6. Garnish with pickled jalapeños.

Eat This Tip

Don't limit these chiles to Mexican food try them on sandwiches and burgers, stir-fries, pizzas, or anything that would benefit from a sharp, spicy-sweet kick. This basic pickling technique can be applied to a variety of vegetables and fruit, from sliced red onions to parboiled green beans to sweet hunks of cantaloupe and watermelon.

There are 320 calories in Secret Recipe Fries from KFC. Most of those calories come from fat (42%) and carbohydrates (51%).

Updated: 6/9/2020
Serving Size ?
Calories 320
Calories From Fat 135
Amount Per Serving % Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 23%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1100mg 46%
Total Carbohydrates 41g 14%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 0g
Protein 5g 10%
Vitamin A ?
Vitamin C ?
Calcium ?
Iron ?

*All percent daily value figures are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

10 worst fast food meals in the nation

Love it or hate it, it's a facet of life that we're not shaking any time soon.

The good news? It's entirely possible to eat the occasional drive-thru meal without inflicting too much bodily harm. The challenge is avoiding the kind of foods that wreak havoc on your wasteline.

Chain restaurants will try to convince you that a bacon-gravy-sausage sandwich is a slight indulgence, when in truth it's a severely dangerous way to spend a lunch break.

Here we've uncovered the country's 10 worst fast food meals. You'd be wise to avoid them at all costs.

Domino's Chicken Carbonara Breadbowl Pasta

56 grams fat (24 grams saturated fat)

Basically, what we have here is a big wad of pizza dough hollowed out and stuffed with noodles, cream and cheese. That’s why half of these calories come from refined carbohydrates and another third come from fat. This leaves little room for healthy nutrients such as protein and fiber. Three slices of pizza with chicken, peppers and parmesan cheese will give you the same basic flavor profile while saving you more than 900 calories.

Eat this instead: Domino's medium hand-tossed pizza with grilled chicken, green peppers, and shredded parmesan (in place of regular cheese blend) (three slices)

15 grams fat (5.5 grams saturated fat)

McDonald’s Big Breakfast with large biscuit, hotcakes, margarine, and syrup

64.5 grams fat (21.5 grams saturated fat)

First off, this meal has more than two-thirds of the calories you should eat in a day. Secondly, it has more than a day’s worth of saturated fat and, with the pancake syrup, more sugar than two packages of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Really, there’s only one decent item on this plate, and that’s the eggs. Everything else — the pancakes, biscuit, sausage, and hash brown — is the sort of food that gives you a body more like Grimace than Ronald.

Eat this instead! Egg McMuffin with hash browns

121 grams fat (6.5 grams saturated fat)

KFC Half Spicy Crispy Chicken Meal with macaroni and cheese, potato wedges and a biscuit

104 grams fat (27.5 grams saturated fat)

Half a deep-fried chicken is bad news, especially considering the half KFC gives you: the bottom half. That means two drumsticks and two thighs — all dark meat. Not only are these the cheapest cuts, but they're also the fattiest. All told this meal has close to 85 percent of your day’s calories and more fat and sodium than you should eat in an entire day.

Eat this instead! Two Honey BBQ Snackers with mashed potatoes and gravy

10 grams fat (3 grams saturated)

Burger King Large Triple Whopper with Cheese Value Meal with fries

111 grams fat (38 grams saturated fat, 3.5 grams trans fat)

Never eat foods that are named for their oversized dimensions. Take the Triple Whopper with Cheese: You know it’s big, but you still probably don’t realize that it’s packing 1,200 calories and 80 grams of fat. A side of fries adds almost 600 more calories, and if you opt for a Coke, you’re at nearly 2,200 calories! Eat one of these meals a week for one year and you’ll put on more than 30 pounds.

Eat this instead! Whopper Jr. with no mayo and a 6-piece Chicken Fries

26 grams at (6.5 grams saturated fat)

Quiznos Tuna Melt (large) with Cheetos

145 grams fat (29 grams saturated fat, 2 grams trans fat)

This tuna got taken from one sea and stuck into another: A sea of mayonnaise. Eating this sandwich is the caloric equivalent to eating one whole bag of Chewy Chips Ahoy! Cookies, which makes it one of the absolute worst sandwiches in the country. Even if you order it without chips, you’re looking at 1,740 calories and 27 grams of saturated fat. No thanks.

Eat this instead! 2 Roadhouse Steak Sammies and Baked Lays

14 grams fat (8 grams saturated)

Wendy's Triple Baconator Combo Meal with small fries and small Coke

106 grams fat (43 grams saturated fat, 4 grams trans fat)

Three slices of cheese, three hamburger patties and three strips of bacon? It doesn't take a nutritionist to see the problem here. It's a shame too, because the Baconator is a serious blemish on Wendy's otherwise decent menu. Not only is it loaded with sodium and saturated fat, but it's also one of the trans-fattiest burgers on any big-chain fast food menu in the country.

Eat this instead! Wendy's Jr. Hamburger, small chili, and medium iced tea

15 grams fat (6 grams saturated, 1 grams trans)

Dairy Queen Chicken Strip Basket (6-piece with country gravy)

74 grams fat (12 grams saturated fat, 1 grams trans fat)

This basket embodies everything wrong with America's eating habits. Dairy Queen has taken an already unhealthy meal of deep-fried chicken strips and french fries and made it worse by adding Texas Toast and a side of gravy. Nevermind that this meal takes up almost 80 percent of your daily calories or that it far surpasses your day's sodium. Heck, you could eat two large Butterfinger Blizzards and still not consume the fat load of this meal.

Eat this instead! Dairy Queen Classic Grillburger and side salad with fat free Italian dressing

19 g fat (7 grams saturated, 0.5 grams trans)

Hardee's Loaded Biscuit and Gravy with large Hash Rounds

110 grams fat (26 grams saturated)

Breakfast at fast food restaurants can be dangerous. Fried sides, gravy, fatty meats and empty carbohydrates can account for half of your day's calories in just one meal — especially when that meal contains all of the above. The 32 grams of protein in these biscuits don't make up for the fact that nearly 1,000 of these calories come from fat. Switch to the Sunrise Croissant and you'll cut your caloric intake by two-thirds and still earn 21 grams of protein. The choice should be easy.

Eat this instead! Hardee's Ham Sunrise Croissant and grits

28 grams fat (11 grams saturated fat)

Long John Silver's Fish Combo Basket

42 grams fat (10.5 grams saturated fat, 12 grams trans fat)

Notice the staggering amount of trans fat in this meal? That's a testament to Long John Silver's unflagging commitment to keeping partially hydrogenated oils in its fryer. While other fast food chains are working to phase out the dangerous fats, Long John Silvers is quietly stuffing America's bellies with cheap, artery-clogging grease. If you can't pass on the fried foods, you better find a better seafood shack.

Eat this instead! Long John Silver's Grilled Pacific Salmon (two filets) and Corn Cobbette without no butter oil

8 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat)

Carl's Jr. Double Guacamole Bacon Burger with large fries

98 grams fat (32 grams saturated fat)

Guacamole is a healthy condiment, but it's still high in calories. That means you probably shouldn't be eating it in a "double" portion, and you certainly shouldn't eat it off a latticework of bacon. Only one burger at Carl's Jr. falls below the 500 calorie mark, and at 460 calories even that one doesn't leave much room for a side. Go with the chicken sandwich instead of this monstrosity and you'll swap out 10 grams of fat for 10 grams of protein. Not a bad exchange by any measure.

Eat this instead! Carls Jr. Charbroiled BBQ Sandwich and a garden side salad with raspberry vinaigrette