Fast-Food Disasters: The 5 Worst Lunch Foods

Fried chicken

Your healthy breakfast is long gone. Your stomach is starting to growl loudly enough for coworkers to hear. You have an hour for lunch. What shall it be? The No. 3 combo at your favorite burger joint? A combo at your favorite sandwich shop? Three slices of pizza from the cafeteria?

Not so fast. Lunch fuels the rest of your day, so making the right choice is crucial. The high-calorie, high-sodium lunches below may taste good, but they also leave you bloated, give you heartburn, and add up to weight gain and disease risk in the long term. For a healthy lunch hour, avoid the following five foods.

  • Pizza

    1. Pizza: Sodium supreme

    The average slice of pepperoni pizza contains about 680 mg of sodium, 12 g of fat (5 g saturated fat) and 300 calories. But who eats just one slice? Three slices from a large pie provide more than 2,000 mg of sodium — almost the daily limit for average Americans (2,300 mg/day) in just one meal. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of disease and death in the country. Leave the pizza for an occasional Friday night out — and give your blood vessels a break.

  • burgers

    2. Burgers and fries: Now you’re supersized!

    If your favorite lunch meal contains the words “combo” or “meal deal,” take a step back from the counter. A typical double cheeseburger and large fries have more than 900 calories. Make it a combo with a large soda, and you’ll top 1,200 calories. Unfortunately, consistently eating high-calorie, high-fat and high-sodium foods wreaks havoc on your body — upping your risk for weight gain, hypertension and type II diabetes.

  • cold cuts

    3. Cold-cut combo: A killer trifecta

    Lunch meats tend to be loaded with sodium, saturated fat and carcinogenic agents known as nitrates and nitrites, which are known to increase the risk of certain cancers. Three ounces of bologna, ham, turkey or salami has 900–1,100 mg of sodium. That’s before you add cheese, condiments and bread. The saturated fat content is as high as 9 g for one 3 oz serving of a cold-cut sandwich; that’s about 50 percent of the recommended daily limit. Don’t just hold the pickles — skip the sandwich.

  • hot dog

    4. Hot dog: Bad fat on a bun

    There is nothing hot about what’s in that hot dog. A typical frankfurter contains as much as 35 g of fat — 15 g of which is “bad” saturated fat. One hot dog provides more than half of your daily recommended fat intake and a whopping 80 percent of your saturated fat intake. High cholesterol increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Cool down that hot dog and try a grilled chicken sandwich or salad instead.

  • fried chicken

    5. Fried chicken: Cross it off your “bucket” list

    Just one fried chicken breast from your favorite chicken place packs 500-plus calories, 34 g of fat, and 1,200-plus mg of sodium. Those beak-dropping numbers should scare any fried chicken lover away. Fried foods are often loaded with fat and sodium, a deadly tag team when you consider that every 40 seconds an American dies from a cardiovascular-related disease. Ditch the fried chicken — and the other foods above — or at least make them rare treats rather than daily habits. Your body will thank you.

Andrew Ruebensaal contributed to this article.

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
  • Beth Vavra

    This information needs to be updated

  • Jerry

    Nuts need to be soaked and dried before consumption

  • Optimistyc

    I enjoy this topic as there are natural cures to the many ailments and/or diseases, in which, doctors claim that there’s no cure for or here take this medicine.

  • Nancy Kilburn Brosius

    Wow my husband drinks diet soda all the time,I didn’t know the facts about it, he will stop drinking them or slow down on them.thanks for the info.