The Most Iconic Items at America’s Biggest Fast Food Chains

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More than 36% of American adults ate fast food on a given day between 2013 and 2016, according to a report on fast food consumption by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there’s no reason to think that our intake has decreased.

However much we might claim to disdain the chains that purvey fast food on nutritional and/or aesthetic grounds, the fact is that a lot of us find it pretty irresistible.

As with most indulgences, the best game plan for enjoying it is simply not to indulge too much. Eating fast food every day is clearly not a good strategy for a long and healthy life. On the other hand, will an occasional cheeseburger or pizza or bucket of fried chicken kill you? Probably not.

If and when you do join the line at McDonald’s or pull up to the Sonic Drive-In window, what should you choose? That’s a matter of personal taste, of course, and there’s plenty of variety out there, even beyond the obvious. In addition to their core menus, pizza chains sell chicken wings; burger chains sell fish sandwiches; doughnut chains sell bagels.

But every chain has an iconic offering or two — foods that pretty much define them, and that few people can resist when they place their orders.

24/7 Tempo has chosen the single most iconic food item at each of the nation’s top 20 fast food chains in annual sales as determined by the restaurant industry trade publication QSR. These are the chains whose units are apt to be most accessible to the largest number of us, even though they may sometimes be less interesting or unusual than America’s favorite regional fast food chains.

The iconic items on this list are often the things most often ordered, but sometimes they’re the original offerings that helped make the chain’s reputation — or just the ones that people are most likely to bring to mind when the name of the chain is mentioned.

All these iconic foods (and in two cases drinks) are items that the operations in question do particularly well. That certainly doesn’t mean that that they’re among the choices health experts would recommend — these are the healthiest food options at every fast food restaurant