May 20, 2015

Some food wrecks are hard to look away from. Today Hardee's and Carl's Jr. began serving their Most American Thickburger, a gargantuan meaty concoction that combines a hotdog, a cheeseburger, potato chips, condiments, lettuce, and tomato all on a fresh-baked bun. The 1/2-pound version (it also comes in 1/3- and 1/4-pound variations) checks in at 1,190 calories, 29g of saturated fat, and a whopping 3,170mg of sodium. As Cooking Light's resident fat man, I felt like it was my patriotic duty to test this behemoth so that you don't have to …

… and now I'm lying in a puddle of fat on the floor of my office dictating this post. I ache. My diabetes aches. My fat aches.

I can't say that I wasn't properly warned. In fact, I printed out the nutritional information before I went to my local Hardee's and shared it with Cooking Light's in-house nutritionist Sidney Fry, MS, RD. "You know, Sean, you don't have to eat it. You certainly don't have to eat the whole thing."

Well, I didn't. Because after eating about 1/3 of the sandwich I was stuffed. After eating 1/2, signals were coming from my gut that I may not be man enough to eat the entire sandwich—and when just 1/4 was left, those signals were confirmed. I stopped.

For the record, I like Hardee's. In the small Southern town in which I grew up, the Hardee's was the only breakfast spot, and their steak biscuits apparently failed to stunt my growth.

Their Thickburgers, launched in 2003, are better burger fare than most fast-food restaurants and many specialty burger joints. But their message clearly is about excess, and I need a little less excess. If healthy eating is all about making good choices, the Most American Thickburger is the wrong choice every time.

Make your own homemade hamburger buns

Consider what I could have eaten in its place:

• At least three of these cheddar cheeseburgers with caramelized shallots• Five of these bacon cheeseburger sliders• Half of this key lime pie

(And I do love me some key lime pie.)

Of course, none of these decisions are good because the portion sizes are all out of whack, they don't conform to any health standards, and they lack a diversity of flavors and nutrients that a healthy diet encourages. But let's just focus on the nutrition angle: In eating this burger, I've eaten more than half my daily allowance of calories (2,000) and more than my daily allowance of saturated fat (20g). My sodium intake alone is one and a half times my recommended daily intake (2,300mg).

Spice up your hamburger patties

Ironically, I could have chosen something worse: The Most American Thickburger isn't the highest calorie burger on Hardee's menu. That award goes to the 1/2 lb. Thickburger El Diablo, which has 1,380 calories, 32g of saturated fat, and 3,830mg of sodium, and the 2/3 pound Monster Thickburger, which has 1,330 calories, 35g of saturated fat, and 2,820mg sodium. Just think of what that choice will cost you.

Want to check out Hardee's new burger? Before you go, use their online calculator to determine what you'll be eating—and ultimately what you'll be giving up.

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