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updated: 8/23/2011 12:55 AM

Worst fast food meals pack a wallop of fat, sugar and salt

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What's the fattiest, most unhealthy restaurant meal in America? Are Lunchables a good choice for school lunches? When I crave a cool treat is there a healthful choice?

I poked around the Eat This, Not That website, a Men'sHealth affiliate, and found the answers to those questions and then some. Let's take a look.

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Carl's Jr. Guacamole Bacon Six Dollar Burger partnered with medium Natural Cut Fries and a 32-ounce cola holds the dubious honor as the worst fast-food meal, accord to the Eat This, Not That. That fast-food combo delivers -- loosen your belts -- an astounding 1,810 calories, a whopping 92 fat grams (29.5 saturated, 2 trans) and almost 1 teaspoons salt.

You'd have to consume more than two Classic Cinnabon cinnamon rolls to get a calorie count that high, or gobble up 29 bacon slices to equal the fat.

If you're out and about and find yourself at Carl's Jr. (they're mostly in the West and Southwest) don't give up hope for a somewhat healthy meal. The editors at Eat This, Not That suggest opting for the Famous Star burger (680 calories with cheese, 611 without) with a garden side salad (135 calories) and low-fat balsamic dressing (35 calories). Total calories without the cheese: 781. Total fat: 40 grams. What a difference.

When you're driving around and get the urge for a milkshake on a sizzling summer day, think twice before rolling into a Baskin Robbins for a large chocolate Oreo shake. According to Eat This, Not That, that single shake scoops up a belt-busting 2,600 calories and 135 fat grams (10 tablespoons) and the equivalent of 1⅓ cups sugar. It almost makes McDonald's large triple-thick chocolate shake (1,160 calories, 27 g fat and 13 tablespoons of sugar) seem sinless.

For something cold, sweet and virtuous, your best bet is to head to Cold Stone Creamery for a 20-ounce Sinless Strawberry Bananza Smoothie (220 calories, 1.5 g fat, and less than 3 tablespoons sugar). Keep in mind Cold Stone uses artificial sweetener to keep calorie and sugar counts low.

To quench your thirst flavored water might not be the most healthful option. Sure bottles with sleek labels promoting all-natural ingredients crowd the shelves at supermarkets and convenience stores and they seem like a healthier alternative to traditional soft drinks, but most are nothing of the sort. The worst offender, according to Eat This, Not That, is Sobe Pina Colada Liz Blizz with more than ⅓ cup of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle.

Snapple's Lemon Ice Tea may seems like a smarter choice (how bad can iced tea be?), and yes, it's better than Sobe, but it still contains more than 4 tablespoons of sugar. Minute Maid's Lemonade packs-in more than 5 tablespoons sugar.

Sobe does have a very low 15-calories (just 15) Lean Blackberry Currant drink (with a mere teaspoon sugar) that can satisfy your thirst without fear of your swimsuit not fitting in a week.

If you see Oscar Mayer's Maxed-Out Turkey & Cheddar Cracker Combo Lunchables as an alternative to packing a school lunch, look the other way. That kid-friendly meal packs an unfriendly 700 calories (give or take), 22 g fat (9 of them saturated), almost 5 tablespoons of sugar and ⅔-teaspoon salt.

Solution: take the time to put together a healthy leftover sliced chicken sandwich with fresh lettuce or tomato slices on whole grain bread. Add a small bag of low-fat, whole wheat pretzels and toss in an apple or orange for dessert. Now that's a healthy lunchable.

Even though it's been found that fewer and fewer folks read Food Fact labels or go to the trouble to head to a restaurant's website for nutritional information; be one of the smart one's who do. That's a small price for knowledge for a big, daily payoff.

Try this recipe: Over the years, my fresh, homemade salsa's always a guest favorite during the summer when I can get truly fresh and flavorful tomatoes. If you've never made salsa, give this a try, you may never buy salsa again. Breakout the baked tortilla chips!

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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