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Five Worst Fast-Food Secret Menu Items

A Report from the Physicians Committee
March 2013

Secret menus at McDonald’s, Chipotle, and other restaurants are the latest dangerous fast-food trend. But the health hazard isn’t just the extreme amount of greasy burgers, bacon, cheese, sugar, and other junk foods crammed into one dietary disaster.

Some secret menu items are created by fast-food companies and posted on their websites, such as those at Panera and In-N-Out Burger. Others are created by customers and unofficially circulated via word of mouth, such as the Monster Mac at McDonald’s. Either way, calorie counts for these items do not have to be posted in restaurants because they are technically off-menu. This leaves customers playing Russian roulette with their lives.

Based on the ingredients described in five recently revealed fast-food secret menu items, dietitians collected data from restaurant websites and other sources to conduct a nutritional analysis resulting in the following nutrition estimates.

Secret Menu Item Nutritional Information* Shocker
McDonald’s Monster Mac Calories: 1,390
Fat: 92 grams
Sodium: 2,920 milligrams
Calories from Fat: 830
Percent of Fat: 60
Saturated Fat: 43 grams
Percent of Saturated Fat: 28
Cholesterol: 330 milligrams
Big Mac with eight burgers
Chipotle Quesarito Calories: 1,370
Fat: 63 grams
Sodium: 3,050 milligrams
Calories from Fat: 567
Percent of Fat: 41
Saturated Fat: 26 grams
Percent of Saturated Fat: 17
Cholesterol: 220 milligrams
Burrito wrapped in a cheese quesadilla
Burger King Suicide Burger Calories: 800
Fat: 53 grams
Sodium: 2,430 milligrams
Calories from Fat: 477
Percent of Fat: 60
Cholesterol: 175 milligrams
Four burgers, four slices of cheese, bacon, and special sauce
McDonald’s Mc10:35 Calories: 540
Fat: 29 grams
Sodium: 1,390 milligrams
Calories from Fat: 258
Percent of Fat: 48
Saturated Fat: 13 grams
Percent of Saturated Fat: 22
Cholesterol: 325 milligrams
McDouble burger (minus the bun) inside an Egg McMuffin
Starbucks Super Cream Frappuccino (Grande) Calories: 510
Fat: 26 grams
Calories from Fat: 245
Percent of Fat: 48
Saturated Fat: 15.5 grams
Percent of Saturated Fat: 27
Cholesterol: 90 milligrams
Sugar: 62 grams
Mocha Frappuccino with a half cup of whipped cream

*Estimates based on available data.

Commentary

A study published last year in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that damage to arteries occurs almost immediately after one junk-food meal. Study participants consumed just one meal with 15 grams of saturated fat. McDonald’s Monster Mac contains almost three times that amount. Chipotle’s Quesarito gets 26 grams of saturated fat from its cheese and sour cream. Dairy products are the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the U.S. diet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Personal accounts of the effect of one fast-food meal are equally dire. Last year, a diner was hospitalized with an apparent heart attack while eating a Triple Bypass Burger—three burgers, cheese, and bacon—at Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas. Burger King’s secret menu includes a Suicide Burger with four burgers, cheese, and bacon. Eight burgers are crammed into McDonald’s heart-stopping Monster Mac.

Processed meats, sodium, and sugar also pose imminent danger. People who consume the most processed meat have a nearly 50 percent higher risk for an early death, according to a study published this month. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed blood flow through arteries was significantly impaired within 30 minutes of eating a salty meal. The American Heart Association recommends Americans cut their average sodium intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day. And recent study published in PLoS One links increased consumption of sugar with increased rates of diabetes.

Conclusion

The lack of precise nutrition information available for meals on secret menus makes it hard for consumers to make informed choices. But multiply the staggering fat, cholesterol, and sodium of a typical meaty, cheesy, fast-food meal and it’s easy to calculate the consequences of consuming a secret menu time bomb: obesity, heart attack, cancer, and diabetes. Fast-food restaurants found serving unregulated secret menu items should be fined as they would for any other violation that imperils customer health.

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