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12 Fast-Food Items You Shouldn’t Order, According to Employees

Before you coast up to that drive-through, find out which menu items fast-food employees think you should skip and why.

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Tuna salad with tomatoes, black olives, rice, feta cheesse and greens on rustic wooden background with copy spaceOksana Mizina/Shutterstock

Gimmicky food

Within the past decade, fast-food chains made a conscious effort to include lighter fare on their menus, like more salads and the option of apple slices or yogurt instead of fries. More recently they’re touting newer menu items as hand-crafted or even artisanal, but don’t believe the hype. “There might be a few extra toppings on the burgers or sandwiches we call hand-crafted, but they aren’t any better quality than the stuff you’ve been eating for years,” says Tricia, who has worked at two popular fast-food establishments as she attends college. Here are some new items coming to fast food menus this year.

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Tasty french fries on cutting board, on wooden table backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock


Just because the so-called value menu might mean more food for little money doesn’t mean you should order the largest size meal available. “After working in fast-food I’ve realized no one needs that much fried food,” says Nicky, who has worked at McDonald’s for two years. “It’s tempting when you think you’re getting more for less, but you’ll end up feeling a little sick after you eat all of those fries.” Check out which state has the most fast food restaurants in it.

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macaroni with cheese and bacon on table;gowithstock/Shutterstock

The mac and cheese

Macaroni and cheese is pure comfort food, and sometimes the craving is too strong to resist. But a Panera employee responding to a thread on Reddit recommends skipping their take on the classic dish. “The pasta, it’s all microwaved. This includes the mac and cheese,” says commenter President Pancake. “The best items are the real sandwiches and salads. They use real ingredients and are usually fresh.” Here are some things you might not know about Panera Bread.

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Crunchy tuna saladTaste of Home

Tuna salad

You might want to avoid the tuna fish salad or anything similar that can be prepared ahead of time. “I worked at Friendly’s and they made the tuna fish once a week!” says Colleen of her time at the quick-serve restaurant. Find out some secrets fast-food workers wish they could tell you. 

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Lemon wedges in a white dishChristopher Elwell/Shutterstock

Beware of garnishes

You may be thinking that the parsley and lemon look decent, but at a fast-food place you may want to think again: Jaime, who worked at a Florida-based fast-food restaurant, advises: “Never eat any garnishes or pickles. The place I worked at would wash them and reuse them if you did not eat them. They also instructed us to pull uneaten cups of coleslaw off of plates and re-serve them. Thankfully this place is long closed.”

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Breaded fish sandwichTaste of Home

Don’t order the fish sandwich

While ordering the fish or other seafood may be a healthy option at a regular restaurant, it isn’t in fast-food joints. “People don’t pay attention, but the Filet-O-Fish is one of the unhealthiest things on our menu,” says Charity, who works at a location in North Carolina. There’s another reason to avoid the fast fruits de mer: “I’ve worked at quick-serve places like Panera and at fast-food spots like McDonalds—do not order anything that is advertised as seafood,” says Michael. “There’s no way it’s fresh, and even if you’re aware of that, it has also been sitting around for a while. Go with something on the menu that you know people are ordering all the time.” Check out the most popular fast food place in each state.

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Mc Donald's french friesBORIMAT PRAOKAEW/Shutterstock

Don’t ask for “fresh” fries

Across the board, the fast-food employees we interviewed rolled their eyes at folks who insist on ordering fresh french fries. One worker explains why: “When a customer orders fresh fries they usually end up complaining about how long it takes,” says Stephanie, who worked at a Burger King in Ohio. “Also, depending on how busy we are, we’re not making a special batch special for you, so you may walk away with the same fries you’d get without the request.” Find out which fast-food “facts” are actually false.

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Chicken nuggetsgowithstock/Shutterstock

But you may want to order chicken nuggets fresh

On a Reddit post about items fast-food employees recommend you avoid, Ritch88 says: “If you order chicken nuggets, just ask for them fresh. Otherwise, they’ve been just sitting in their container in the heat. They have a timer, but nine times out of ten when that timer goes off, people just reset the timer instead of making new ones. This could go on until all the nuggets are sold.”

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McDonald's drive-thruSeika Chujo/Shutterstock

Watch the clock at the drive-through

Reddit member and former Panera worker Meganoli recommends being aware of the time you decide to pull through the drive-through. “Please, please, please don’t come through the drive-through at 8:30 p.m. and order three paninis and five salads and then get mad because it takes so long. The drive-through is excellent for people who want to get a quick coffee or bakery item, but even though our food is fast, we are not fast food. These things take time and it’s easier for everyone if you just come inside.”

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Loaded grilled chicken sandwichTaste of Home

Pass on grilled chicken at burger joints

If you’re hitting a place that’s largely known for burgers, you’re probably going to want to avoid the grilled chicken sandwich. “At least at our location, we didn’t sell many grilled chicken sandwiches. So it sits around a lot longer than other menu items and the texture gets rubbery,” says Stephanie.

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Close up female hand holding a cup of hot Starbucks coffee.TY Lim/Shutterstock

Don’t ask for the “secret” Starbucks menu

Customers constantly ask Starbucks employees for the secret menu—but there isn’t one. The notion that there’s an alternative menu comes from the fact that some creative customers have come up with popular concoctions. But if you want a special drink, tell your barista the ingredients: “I constantly get questions about the ‘secret’ menu but I swear we don’t have one. Just tell me what you want!” says Amelia, who works at a Starbucks in Chicago, Illinois. Check out healthy fast-food options at the most popular restaurants.

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The best ever chiliTaste of Home

The chili is a no-go

The chili at Wendy’s may look like a comforting menu option, but not when you find out what it’s made from. “[It’s] not really a health concern but most people are surprised when I tell them about Wendy’s chili,” says Reddit user Cozmo23. “The meat comes from hamburger patties that sat on the grill too long to serve to customers. They take them and put them in a bin and then throw them in the fridge. When the chili is made they take it out, boil it, chop it up and dump it in the chili.” With fast food inflation raising Wendy’s prices more than 35%, your dollar will surely go farther on alternative Wendy’s items. Next, find out the customer habits that annoy fast-food workers the most.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest