10 Low-Cost Foods You’ll Pay a Price For

Sure, these fast food meals are dirt cheap, but you’ll likely get a bigger gut as part of the bargain

January 12, 2012
woman eating a burger
1/11 Thinkstock

Somehow fast food has managed to get even cheaper. To attract customers in a hurting economy, restaurant chains have been rolling out budget deals, offering $10 pizzas, $5 meals--even $2 sandwiches. (Search: How can I eat healthy on a budget?) But while these new offerings are light on your wallet, they hit you where it hurts in terms of calories, fat, and sodium content.

Not quite the bargain you were looking for, huh? Read on to discover 10 of the nation's worst cheap eats.

Try These Ready-to-Eat Foods Instead

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Taco Bell $2 Meal Deals

The price: $2
The hidden cost: Cash in on one of Taco Bell's $2 Meal Deals and get a main dish, bag of Doritos, and a medium soda, all for less than a latte. But buyer beware: Wash down a grilled chicken burrito and bag of chips with a Mountain Dew and you'll be set back 960 calories, 20.5 g of fat, 18 g of saturated fat, and 1270 mg of sodium.

Cut 500 Calories from Your Diet

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McDonald’s Dollar Menu

The price: $1
The hidden cost: Straight off the Golden Arches' Dollar Menu, the McDouble features a double patty with American cheese, or 390 calories, 19 g of fat, and 920 mg of sodium. If you're hankering for a snack, you're better off eating a small fry (230 calories) or an apple pie (250 calories) for the same price.

Video: A healthy meal you can whip up in minutes. Now that's fast food.

KFC chicken
4/11 Mitch Mandel
KFC $2 2-Piece Meal

The price: $2
The hidden cost: In honor of Colonel Sanders's birthday in September, KFC joints in Southern California offered this value meal for a limited time. For $2, you could get two pieces of chicken and a biscuit. While your meal would be cheap, your body would pay for it on the order of 550 calories, 32 g of fat, and 1,570 mg of sodium.

Make smarter choices at the drive-thru when you pick up a copy of Eat This, Not That!

5/11 Mitch Mandel
Burger King BOGO

The price: $6
The hidden cost: This past December, Burger King offered a 3-day buy-one-get-one deal of two Whoppers, two small fries, and two drinks for just $6. Too bad the deal only stretches the monetary--not nutritional--value of your meal. Even if you go splitsies, you're taking in 1,200 calories, 55 g of fat, and 1,460 mg of sodium.

Free guide! Print out our Eat to Beat Belly Fat guide

Dairy Queen blizzard and burger
6/11 Mitch Mandel/Thomas MacDonald
Dairy Queen $5 Mini Blizzard Meals

The price: $5
The hidden cost: DQ may call its 4-for-$5 Mini Blizzard Meals a "sweet deal," but your waistline might say otherwise. Polish off a quarter-pound GrillBurger with cheese, fries, a medium Coke, and an Oreo Brownie Earthquake Mini Blizzard for a gnarly 1,500 calories, 58 g of fat, and 1,975 mg of sodium.

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7/11 Mitch Mandel
Pizza Hut $10 Any Pizza

The price: $10
The hidden cost: For a limited time, you can order any-size pizza with any toppings for the fixed price of 10 bucks at Pizza Hut. Sounds like a bargain, but two large slices from a 14-inch Meat Lover's pizza tallies up to an eye-popping, gut-wrenching 960 calories, 56 g of fat, and 2,360 mg of sodium.

Search: How can I make pizza healthy?

chipotle burritos
8/11 Mitch Mandel
Chipotle “Boorito”

The price: $2
The hidden cost: If you stopped by any Chipotle dressed in a farm-themed costume on Halloween night, you were eligible for a $2 burrito, bowl, or salad. While the proceeds went to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation and Farm Aid--two nonprofits supporting family farms--the only thing scarier than your zombie-farmer costume was the sodium content in your burrito. A Carnitas burrito with all the fixings contains 2,360 mg of sodium--almost 1,400 mg more than your daily recommended intake--as well as 960 calories and 56 g of fat.

Video: Fast food salt bombs

bacon cheddar burger
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Bacon & Cheddar BK Toppers Burger

The price: $1.99
The hidden cost: Marketed with the slogan "More beef, more value," Burger King's new BK Toppers line offers a 3.2-ounce flame-broiled patty for just under two bucks. What's not mentioned is that you could eat almost twice the calories found in the regular burger in the bargain. Clocking in at 500 calories, 34 g of fat, 11 g of saturated fat, and 1,040 mg of sodium, the new Bacon and Cheddar version is the worst of the bunch.

Build a Better Burger

meatball sub
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Subway $2 6-Inch Sub

The price: $2
The hidden cost: Long known for its $5 foot-long deals, Subway decided to venture out into the $2 meal space. In the month of December, you could get a 6-inch cold cut or meatball sub for $2, but your cheap lunch could cost you up to 480 calories, 16 g of fat, and 1,300 mg of sodium.

8 Ridiculously Cheap (and Healthy!) Foods

bacon egg breakfast sandwich
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Subway $3 Breakfast Combo

The price: $3
The hidden cost: Subway's discount breakfast meals are not any better for you than what you'd find at a burger joint, but also a better bargain. Three bucks can get you a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and a 21-ounce fountain soda, or 730 calories, 16 g of fat, and 1,080 mg of sodium

Next up: The Worst Fast Food Meals

Tags: fast food