The Worst Burgers in America 2010

Ground meat and bun, maybe a slice of cheese. Ideally there’s a pile of produce as well, but if not, so be it. The perfect burger doesn't benefit from frilly accoutrements. Those “upscale” burger places that insist on embellishing with onion rings, gourmet cheeses, and herb-infused mayonnaise? They’re just showing off, like painting flames on a muscle car. The key to quality is in simplicity, and that’s what the best burgers have in common.

Today’s restaurants have lost touch with that ideal. Instead of concentrating on better ingredients to win your business, they’re doubling up on beef paddies and stuffing in more high-fat topping. A 2002 study looked at restaurant portion sizes and found that they far exceeded what they should be: Hamburgers were 112 percent oversize! (Pasta was inflated 480 percent, muffins 333 percent.) Since then, it's only gotten worse—far worse—with the likes of the Monster Thickburger, Steakhouse XT, and Baconator hitting restaurant menus.

These sound less like foods and more like instruments of war, and in a sense, that’s precisely what they are: stealth missiles with warheads loaded full of fat and sodium, ready to inflate a mushroom cloud of flab and flop it over the edge of your belt. Don’t believe it? Just check out the caloric impact of these burger bombs our research discovered. (And remember: You can get daily food and nutrition secrets and strategies with our FREE Cook This, Not That! and Eat This, Not That! newsletters. It'll be like having your own personal weight-loss coach and nutritionist with you every day!)


#7: WORST FAST-FOOD BURGER
Wendy’s Triple Baconator
1,350 calories
90 g fat (40 g saturated, 3.5 g trans)
2,780 mg sodium

With all the relatively healthy burgers on Wendy’s menu, it’s unfortunate the chain feels the need to enter into the bigger-is-better burger competition dominated by sit-down restaurants. Worse, this monstrosity is a three-quarter-pound hamburger topped with three slices of cheese and nine strips of bacon. Gross. The only saving grace is that they’ve given it an appropriately menacing name.

Eat This Instead!
Wendy's Double Stack with 3 strips of bacon
400 calories
21 g fat (9 g saturated, 1 g trans)
990 mg sodium

Just be careful how you wash down your Double Stack. If you're like most people, you'll drink 25 percent of the calories you consume today. That's nearly 500 calories you don't really need, which can add 20 or even 30 pounds to your frame each year. Check out the brand new book Drink This, Not That! for simple ways to cut back—and eliminate belly fat for good. (With this beverage survival guide, you can lose two pounds a week without even trying.)


#6: WORST EXPERIMENTAL BURGER
Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger
1,420 calories
104 g fat (43 g saturated, 3 g trans)
3,740 mg sodium

Swapping the bun for a tortilla must have presented an immediate challenge to Applebee's chefs—namely, tortillas are much bigger than buns. But instead of just nixing the idea, they decided to just make everything else bigger as well. That means more beef, more cheese, and more of Applebee’s signature “Mexi-ranch” sauce. Even if you skip the fries and split this meal with a friend, you’ll still swallow more saturated fat than a healthy person should eat in an entire day.

Eat This Instead!
Applebee’s Hamburger
770 calories
46 g fat (15 g saturated, 2 g trans)
1,170 mg sodium

The sodium count in this "healthy" alternative at Applebee's, admittedly, is still half the recommended daily allowance. That's why healthy people know how to cook, says America's best-known doctor. Check out Dr. Oz's 25 greatest health tips for secrets on how you can look, feel and live better than ever, starting today.


#5: WORST ONION-STRAW BURGER

Red Robin A.1. Peppercorn Burger
1,433 calories
97 g fat
5,618 mg sodium

Here’s a trend that’s about as healthy as deep-fried Twinkies: cheeseburgers topped with deep-fried onions. Thank you, Burger King (Steakhouse XT, 970 calories), Applebee’s (Cowboy Burger, 1,120 calories), and Outback (The Bloomin Burger, 1,173 calories). Notice a trend here? Even the smallest of the lot still has nearly a thousand calories. But here’s why Red Robin takes the deep-fried cake: Its onion-straw iteration packs in 70 percent of your day’s energy needs and two-and-a-half day’s worth of sodium! That makes it a likely candidate for Saltiest Burger in America.

Eat This Instead!,
Red Robin Natural Burger
569 calories
24 g fat
989 mg sodium


#4: WORST “GOURMET” BURGER
Ruby Tuesday Triple Prime Havarti Burger
1,465 calories
116 g fat
2,404 mg sodium

“Triple” refers to the fact that this burger is made with three cuts: tenderloin, sirloin, and rib eye. “Prime” refers to the fact that it’s the fattiest versions of those cuts on the market. “Havarti” is the gourmet cheese Ruby Tuesday uses to crank up the pretentiousness and justify a bigger price tag. So does it taste good? Probably. Does it taste better than the 400-calorie ground-chuck-and-American-cheese burgers you make on the grill at home? Probably not.

Eat This Instead!
Ruby Tuesday Peppercorn Mushroom Sirloin
490 calories
20 g fat
1,878 mg sodium

Think these burgers are bad? Check out our new must-know roundup of the 20 Worst Foods in America. Read how there could be more than a day's worth of calories, sugar, and heart-harming trans fats—in a single fast-food or chain-restaurant meal! (More importantly, learn what you should eat instead.)


#3: WORST SPICY BURGER
Chili’s Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Burger
1,750 calories
123 g fat (40 g saturated)
5,250 mg sodium

The average healthy adult should eat about 2,000 calories each day. That means if you eat this burger, you have only 250 left to sustain you for the next 23 hours 45 minutes. So skip the 380-calorie fries that come with this gut bomb. And look for a burger-and-fries alternative that doesn't contain as much sodium as 114 Saltine crackers! 

Eat This Instead!
Chili’s Steakhouse Sandwich
700 calories
35 g fat (17 g saturated)
2,570 mg sodium

Better, but still a salt mine. Learn how to cook restaurant meals at home—and save up to 3 pounds a week!—with these 15 simple and delicious meals that can help you lose weight...fast! Discover favorite foods that can whittle your middle in just minutes a day.


#2: WORST MUSHROOM BURGER

Cheesecake Factory Ranch House Burger
1,941 calories
48 g saturated fat
2,877 mg sodium

The scary part about this burger is that it really doesn’t sound that bad. Sure it comes topped with bacon and cheddar, but beyond that it’s just sautéed onions and mushrooms. But such irregularities are to be expected at Cheesecake Factory. Another burger on the menu—The Factory Burger—sounds similar by description, yet it squeaks by as one of the lightest entrees the restaurant offers. Make the switch from Ranch House Burger to Factory Burger and you’ll lose the bacon and mushrooms but shave off a whopping 1,200 calories. (Make the kind of Eat This, Not That! smart swap a few times a week and lose 52 pounds in a year!)

Eat This Instead!
Cheesecake Factory The Factory Burger
737 calories
15 g saturated fat
1,638 mg sodium


#1: THE WORST BURGER IN AMERICA
Denny’s Smokin’ Q Three Pack
2,020 calories
110 g fat (22 g saturated, 3 g trans)
3,570 mg sodium

To be fair, this plate is actually three burgers, but it's one meal—and, thus, fair game. Here's our question: Aren't sliders supposed to be a lower-calorie alternative to a full-size burger? Apparently, Denny's didn't get the memo. They top these mini mega-burgers with both bacon AND onion crispers, and serve them with a greasy pile of onion rings on the side. Those embellishments ensure that this meal obliterates every nutritional guideline in the book—that means excessive numbers for fat, sodium, and calories. Order this meal and the only thing likely to slide is your health.

Eat This Instead!
Denny’s Classic Burger
790 calories
40 g fat (14 g saturated, 3 g trans)
1,010 mg sodium

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