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The Five Most Unhealthful 'Gourmet Burgers': Results

A Report from PCRM's Cancer Project
Winter 2009

Findings | Key Factors | Rating System/Detailed Results

Rating System

With these health-based criteria in mind, PCRM's Cancer Project ranked all "gourmet burger" offerings at each of the five national chains surveyed in this report. Items with the most points were ranked as the least healthful. 

Points were given if the menu item had the following:

  • Processed meat: 1 point

  • High-fat dairy: 1 point

  • More than 700 calories (1 point); 800 calories (2 points); 900 calories (3 points); or 1,000 calories or more (4 points)

  • More than 30 grams of fat (1 point); 40 grams of fat (2 points); 50 grams of fat (3 points); or 60 grams or more (4 points)

  • More than 10 grams of saturated fat (1 point); 15 grams (2 points); 20 grams (3 points); or 25 or more (4 points)

  • Cholesterol: 100 milligrams (1 point); 125 milligrams (2 points); 150 milligrams (3 points); or 175 milligrams or more (4 points)

  • Less than 3 grams of fiber: 1 point

  • More than 1,000 milligrams of sodium (1 point); 1,500 milligrams (2 points); 2,000 milligrams (3 points); or 2,500 milligrams or more (4 points)

  • Trans fat (trans fat must be reported on nutrition panels if the product contains more than 0.5 grams per serving): 1 point

Using these scores, Cancer Project dietitians selected the most unhealthful "gourmet burger" from each fast-food chain. These items were then compared and ranked to establish the final list of the five most unhealthful "gourmet burgers."

Detailed Results

Ranked from worst to least bad, the least-healthful "gourmet burgers" are:

Bacon Deluxe Triple (Wendy’s)
Rating: Worst "gourmet burger"
Overall score: 23
Price: $6.67
1,140 calories, 71 grams of fat, 31 grams of saturated fat, 3.5 grams of trans fat, 290 milligrams of cholesterol, 2,470 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of fiber, processed meat, high-fat dairy
The newest fast-food "gourmet burger," released in October of 2009, is also the most unhealthful. The Bacon Deluxe Triple, which has 12 ounces of beef, cheese, and mayonnaise, contains more fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium than a person should consume in an entire day. This sandwich also contains four strips of bacon, a processed meat linked to increased colorectal cancer risk.

The Guacamole Bacon Six Dollar Burger (Carl’s Jr.)
Rating: Second-worst "gourmet burger"
Overall score: 19
Price: $4.99
1,040 calories, 70 grams of fat, 25 grams of saturated fat, 145 milligrams of cholesterol, 2,240 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of fiber, processed meat, high-fat dairy
This burger—half a pound of Black Angus Beef, guacamole, two strips of bacon, two slices of cheese, and Santa Fe sauce—derives more than 60 percent of its calories from fat. Scientific research has linked diets high in fat to an increased risk of cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. The Guacamole Bacon Six Dollar Burger also contains 2,240 milligrams of sodium—more than 90 percent of the recommended maximum for an entire day.

Steakhouse XT Burger (Burger King)
Rating: Third-worst "gourmet burger"
Overall score: 16
Price: $5.69
970 calories, 61 grams of fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,930 milligrams of sodium, high-fat dairy
This steakhouse burger is topped with high-fat mayonnaise, cheese, and fried onions. It contains more artery-clogging saturated fat than a person should consume in an entire day, and it also has an astonishing 1,930 milligrams of sodium—more than three-fourths the recommended daily maximum. The high levels of sodium commonly found in fast food can contribute to high blood pressure and calcium loss from bones and may increase the risk of stomach cancer. 

Sirloin Cheeseburger (Jack in the Box)
Rating: Fourth-worst "gourmet burger"
Overall score: 15
Price: $4.64-$5.29
941 calories, 59 grams of fat, 18 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 143 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,890 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams fiber, high-fat dairy
Jack in the Box was the first fast-food chain to offer a sirloin burger. This sirloin patty topped with American cheese and peppercorn mayonnaise also offers a whopping 941 calories and 59 grams of fat. It also includes almost half of the daily recommended maximum of cholesterol.

Angus Bacon and Cheese (McDonald’s)
Rank: Fifth-worst "gourmet burger"
Overall score: 12
Price: $4.23
790 calories, 39 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 145 milligrams of cholesterol, 2,070 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of fiber, processed meat, high-fat dairy
After two years of test marketing, McDonald’s released its first new burgers since the Big N’ Tasty in 2001. All three Angus burgers—a line of six-ounce burgers made with Angus beef—are high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. But the Angus Bacon and Cheese also features bacon, a processed meat product linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer. The sandwich, which contains Angus beef and processed American cheese, has a whopping 2,070 milligrams of sodium and 17 grams of artery-clogging saturated fat.

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