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The 5 Worst Items at Jack in the Box

In the ninth part of our 10-part series on eating at chain restaurants, we take a look at Jack in the Box. Check out part seven, where we examine P.F. Chang's.

Ahh, Jack in the Box. A familiar fast-food favorite with a little bit of everything--including their two-for-a-dollar tacos, which tend to be a dietary staple among cash-strapped college students. Jack in the Box offers up the typical fast-food fare, including burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, milkshakes, etc. But Jack in the Box also has a variety of snack-type foods that appeal to those with "late-night munchies." Jack in the Box also serves breakfast all day.

Let's take a look at the most unhealthy items on the Jack in the Box menu and also see what healthier options are available.

DON'T EAT: Sirloin Cheeseburger with Bacon or Sirloin Swiss & Grilled Onion Burger

Both of these burgers rack up an astonishing 1,020 calories and (respectively) 70 to 71 grams of fat and 1,980 to 2310 milligrams of sodium. That is more than half a day's worth of calories (if you are on a 2000 calorie/day diet), more than your entire day's worth of fat, and the maximum amount of sodium you should limit yourself to in one day.

INSTEAD EAT: If you really want a burger, opt for a plain Hamburger (280 calories, 11 grams of fat) or a Jr. Jack (320 calories, 15 grams of fat). To amp up flavor without adding a ton of calories, ask them to hold the mayo and ask for lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mustard on your burger. To slash calories even further, request it "bunless."

DON'T EAT: 20 Piece Chicken Nuggets

At 950 calories, 66 grams of fat and 2,420 milligrams of sodium, this is one of the menu's worst nutrition offenders--and this is before you add any dipping sauces, which will up these numbers even further.

INSTEAD EAT: You can still enjoy chicken by selecting the Grilled Chicken Strips with Teriyaki Dipping Sauce (310 calories, 8 grams of fat), Grilled Chicken Salad (250 calories, 9 grams of fat) or the Chicken Fajita Pita with Whole Grain (360 calories, 13 grams of fat).

DON'T EAT: Steak & Egg Burrito

Although breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it's important that you skip this menu item, which stacks up at 780 calories, 48 grams of fat and 1,740 milligrams of sodium.

INSTEAD EAT: Start your morning off right with the Blueberry Muffin Oatmeal with Blueberry Blend & Crumble at 250 calories and 4 grams of fat. Bonus: 6 grams of hunger-squashing fiber.

DON'T EAT: The Brunch Burger (Munchie Meal Item)

You'll regret this late-night option the next morning when you realize it has 870 calories and 59 grams of fat.

INSTEAD EAT: The Egg White & Turkey Breakfast Sandwich only has 250 calories and 6 grams of fat. Tasty and totally reasonable.

DON'T EAT: Large Shake with Whipped Topping (Any Flavor)

A large shake, which is 24 fluid ounces, can run you anywhere from 980 to 1,150 calories, 54 to 61 grams of fat, and a whopping 107 to 130 grams of sugar. That amount of sugar could fill your waist with extra inches while filling your dentist's pockets with lots of money from all of those cavities.

INSTEAD EAT: If you're craving something sweet with your meal, order the Chiquita Apple Bites with Caramel from the Kid's Menu. This sweet treat will only set you back a mere 70 calories while also providing 2 grams of fiber.

Jack in the Box does try to help you make better choices at their establishments by providing tips on the "Nutritional Facts" section of their website. I was pleasantly surprised at the information provided on this portion of their website, including general tips on ways to cut calories, fat and sodium by swapping out certain ingredients or omitting certain things, such as cheese or mayo. They also provide specific menu suggestions on lower-fat meal options, lower-calorie meal options and lower-sodium meal options.

The 5 Worst Items at P.F. Chang's

Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children.

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