The Healthiest Fast-Food Burger


Recently I did some analysis of the nutritional content of McDonald’s burgers compared with those from various other “roadhouse”-type restaurants. I found that a Big Mac and large fries at McDonald’s is lower in calories, fat, carbs, and sodium than any of the other restaurants I looked at. Now, let’s look at just the fast food restaurants.

Here is the nutritional information that I used:

Note to Facebook readers: Facebook sometimes screws up the formatting of tables when it imports my articles. You may want to click the “View Original Post” button at the bottom of the article.

Here are the results:

Burgers

Restaurant Item Calories Total fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Carbs (g) Sodium (mg)
McDonalds Big Mac 540 29 10 44 1020
McDonalds Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese 530 28 13 41 1110
Burger King Whopper w/ Cheese 760 47 16 49 1320
Harvey’s Original Cheeseburger 460 35 11 39 1130
Wendy’s 1/4 pound single 470 22 7 70 870
A & W Teen burger 500 26 11 41 1220

I don’t go to A&W often enough to know which burger to choose (Teen, Mama, Papa, Grandpa), so I chose the Teen Burger because the numbers seemed similar to the others. The BK Whopper was dead last in every category. Harvey’s had the least calories but lots of fat and sodium. Wendy’s only had 10 more calories than Harvey’s, had way less fat and sodium, but way more carbs.

Chicken Sandwich

Restaurant Item Calories Total fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Carbs (g) Sodium (mg)
McDonalds McChicken 470 27 4.5 46 790
McDonalds Grilled Chicken Classic 390 11 1.5 46 810
Burger King Tendergrill 370 16 2.5 37 910
Harvey’s Grilled chicken 290 5 1.5 28 810
Wendy’s Ultimate chicken grill 360 7 1.5 42 1090
A & W Chicken Grill Deluxe 320 9 1.5 37 1040

Harvey’s is the best in each category except saturated fat, but all the grilled sandwiches are relatively similar in all categories. The McChicken (which is fried) is last in every category except sodium where it’s the best. McChicken has more than five times the fat of the Harvey’s grilled sandwich – this should not surprise anyone.

Fries

Restaurant Item Calories Total fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Carbs (g) Sodium (mg)
McDonalds Large 560 27 3.5 74 430
Burger King Large 440 22 4.5 57 1000
Harvey’s Large 410 16 1 61 1190
Wendy’s Large 500 24 4.5 54 610
A & W Large 520 22 1.5 76 920

McDonald’s is last in calories and fat, and up near the top in carbs, but is way ahead in sodium. I found this strange considering the reason I like McD’s fries is that they seem especially salty. Harvey’s, on the other hand, is first in calories and fat, but last in sodium.

Overall Results

You can “have it your way” at Burger King if “your way” includes more calories, fat, and sodium than anywhere else. There’s no clear winner here, but Harvey’s and Wendy’s are the lowest in most categories. If I had to pick one winner, it’d have to be Wendy’s – it’s a little higher than Harvey’s in calories and carbs, a little lower in fat, but 36% lower in sodium.

Notable stats for the burger and fries combo:

  • Lowest calories: Harvey’s. Second: Wendy’s. Highest: Burger King.
  • Lowest fat: Wendy’s. Second: A&W. Highest: Burger King.
  • Lowest saturated fat: Wendy’s. Second: Harvey’s. Highest: Burger King.
  • Lowest carbs: Harvey’s. Second: Burger King. Highest: Wendy’s.
  • Lowest sodium: Big Mac. Second: Wendy’s. Highest: Burger King / Harvey’s.

The shocking conclusion: Having a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a burger and skipping the fries results in a healthier meal. But if you simply must have a fast food burger, opting for Wendy’s or Harvey’s is a little healthier than McDonald’s or A & W, and a lot better than Burger King.

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