By Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal
The "worst" options might kill you...
If you live in the Midwest or on the west coast, chances are that when a fast food craving hits, you might consider a Jack in the Box. The chain is known for their vast assortment of choices, including tacos, breakfast, brunch, teriyaki bowls, chicken nuggets, burgers, shakes, fries, and more. But it's not exactly an easy spot to dine if you're trying to be mindful of your diet.
If the options on the menu seem fattening and greasy, that's because they totally are; the menu is crawling with trans fat and sodium-packed belly bombs. But if you know how to navigate the menu, it's not impossible to find a meal that doesn't trick you into consuming enough fat and calories for a week. To help you avoid some of the most terrifying choices—and know what to pick instead—we asked nutritionists to analyze the menu. See what they had to say below and then don't miss these other 20 Things You Didn't Know About Fast Food.
1. BEST: Chicken Fajita Pita
Nutrition: 346 calories, 12 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 36 g carbs, 1,117 mg sodium
Without the salsa, this has 340 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat per serving—one of the lower calorie and saturated fat counts you'll find on the Jack in the Box menu. "But it's still high in sodium," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. "So, skip the salsa, which would add more. Ask for extra lettuce, tomato, and onion. And keep in mind that even though this is a better item, the saturated fat content makes up 30 percent of your daily allotment for saturated fat, so just keep an eye on what you're eating for the rest of the day."
2. BEST: Southwest Chicken Salad
Nutrition: 348 calories, 15 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 26 g carbs, 1,093 mg sodium
"This is my top pick out of the salad options since it provides protein from the grilled chicken and complex carbohydrates from the black beans," says Lisa Mikus, RD, CNSC, CDN, Registered Dietitian at Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services and co-author of Everyday Diabetes Meals Cooking for One or Two. "At 348 calories—without dressing or croutons—and 7 grams of fiber, this salad is a light lunch option if you find yourself at Jack in the Box. It's a great example of a mixed meal which combines carbohydrates, protein, and fat; carbohydrates are provided by the beans, corn, and tomatoes, protein from the beans and grilled chicken, and fats from the cheese. Making sure our meals have these three macronutrients keeps us satiated and helps to prevent a blood sugar spike as the fat and protein help slow down carbohydrate absorption." Discover other good on-the-go choices in our report about 20 Nutritionists Reveal Their #1 Fast Food Pick for Crazy-Busy Days!
3. BEST: Chiquita Apple Bites with Caramel Dip
Nutrition: 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 17 g carbs, 55 mg sodium
"If you're looking for a snack, this is one of the healthier options—and provides half a cup of fruit," says Gorin. And remember—the caramel dip comes on the side, so you can always skip it!
4. BEST: Breakfast Jack
Nutrition: 350 calories, 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 30 g carbs, 840 mg sodium
Out of all of the breakfast sandwiches, this one has the lowest calorie count and one of the lowest saturated fat contents. "But since it doesn't offer any veggies or fruit, ask if you can add some tomato, lettuce, and onion to your sandwich—or consider ordering a side salad or a side of apple bites," recommends Gorin.
5. BEST: Chicken Nuggets
Nutrition: 238 calories,17 k g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 13 g carbs, 604 mg sodium
If you're really wanting something that's fast food—the five or even ten piece nuggets may be a better choice than a burger. "While all the burgers contain trans fats, the nuggets don't," says Gorin. "I recommend eating produce with every meal, so add on a side salad or apple bites." Speaking of chicken nuggets, we analyzed a mountain of them so that we could compile and reveal our exclusive report on the 46 Best and Worst Chicken Nuggets in America!
6. WORST: Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger Munchie Meal
Nutrition: 1,890 calories, 94 g fat (27 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fat), 213 g carbs, 3,660 mg sodium
Note that this meal includes not one but two tacos, a soft drink, curly fries, and a stacked grilled cheeseburger—which is basically your average cheeseburger with a grilled cheese sandwich on top of it. "At a whopping 1,890 calories with 44 percent of calories from fat, this calorie-dense 'Munchie Meal' is more like a meal for more than just one person," says Mikus. "The American Heart Association's recommendation for sodium is a maximum of 2,300 milligrams a day. With 3,660 milligrams of sodium, this well exceeds that max. Additionally, this meal has 2.5 grams trans fats. The AHA recommends that we limit our trans fats intake to less than 1 percent of our daily calories. According to the AHA, on a 2,000 calorie diet, this means 2 grams of trans fat or less is recommended." We got a stomach ache just by reading all that. Yuck!
7. WORST: Large Golden Oreo Salted Caramel Shake
Nutrition: 1,345 calories, 63 g fat (41 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat), 180 g carbs, 1,022 mg sodium
Probably the most caloric dessert on the menu, this shake has 569 of its calories coming from fat and almost two grams of trans fats. "Additionally, there are 180 grams of carbohydrates in this shake, which will likely contribute to a spike in blood sugar and subsequent sugar crash," says Mikus. Just say no to sipping on this belly bomb.
8. WORST: Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito
Nutrition: 1,044 calories, 90 g fat (20 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 68 g carbs, 2,131 mg sodium
"The reason I chose this as one of the least nutritious items from the Jack in the Box menu is because its 2,131 milligrams of sodium nearly hits the daily maximum that's recommended by the American Heart Association," says Mikus. "With over 1,000 calories—and 60 percent of those coming from fat and trans fats—you're better off waking up a little earlier and starting your day off with instant oatmeal."
9. WORST: Chicken Teriyaki Bowl
Nutrition: 688 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 134 g carbs, 1,912 mg sodium
Don't be fooled by the broccoli and carrots in this bowl—it does not make up for the rest! "Yes, this is one of the only menu items that has vegetables other than lettuce and tomatoes," says Mikus. "But the sodium from the teriyaki sauce means that this meal nearly hits the American Heart Association's recommended daily sodium limit at 1,912 milligrams."
10. WORST: Chick-N-Tater Melt Munchie Meal
Nutrition: 1,755 calories, 109 g fat (28 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat), 151 g carbs, 3,459 mg sodium
"All the Munchie Meals are poor choices because they're all well over 1,000 calories," says Gorin. "But this one reaches nearly 2,000 calories and has 28 grams saturated fat and 1.5 grams trans fat—a fat we want to completely avoid."
11. WORST: Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges
Nutrition: 679 calories, 41 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 58 g carbs, 1,251 mg sodium
"I'm calling these out because they're listed as a snack option, yet contain 679 calories and 41 grams of fat!" says Gorin. That's a lot of fat and way too many calories for a so-called snack. Try one of these 30 Snacks That Fill You Up instead!
12. Worst: Brunch Burger
Nutrition: 770 calories, 55 g fat (21 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat), 32 g carbs, 732 mg sodium
"This one has 2 grams trans fats and 55 grams of fat," says Gorin. "Enough said." And besides, there has to be a better way than this to brunch with your pals in your neighborhood on a Sunday morning.
Photos courtesy of public posts by Facebook users Jack in the Box (top), Chris Fit Las Vegas (1), Robin Fine (2), Chiquita Snacking (3), Sherri Campanale (4), Jessie Erica Rodriguez (5), Plue VU (6), Ehren Mull (7), Jack in the Box (8), Angie Marie (9), Jack in the Box (10), Eric Allen (11), Jack in the Box (12).
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