The Ultimate Fast Food Comparison

image descriptionPosted by ACalorieCounter image descriptionNovember 6, 2007 image description78 Comments

You know that really big fast food project that I mentioned I’ve been working on? Well, it’s done… and it’s F’ing awesome!

What it is, is a side-by-side comparison of the most popular foods from over 20 popular fast food restaurants to see how each restaurant’s version of the same food stacks up against all of the others.

I call it Fast Food Restaurants and Nutrition Facts Compared.

So, for example, you’ll see the nutrition facts of the French Fries from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, White Castle and a dozen more side-by-side to compare which has the most/least calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, carbs and sodium.

Like I said… it’s quite awesome. Go check it out.

Have any questions or feedback about it? Leave it in the comments here. Also, if you have suggestions for other fast food items you would like to see added to the comparison, feel free to leave them in the comments as well. I can’t make any promises, but if you know of a similar type of food that is sold at 2 or more fast food restaurants, I’ll do my best to put it all together and add it to the comparison.

Hope you guys like it. My eyeballs almost exploded while putting it all together. ;-)

image description Comments (78)

Leave Reply
  • Sean November 06, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Holy crap… that’s crazzzzy! Great job!

    Reply
  • Ross November 06, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    How about KFC crispy chicken dinner and KFC original dinner. Both white and dark meats?

    Also, the subs from Subway, Quiznos, Hungry Hobo, those types of sandwiches that we see all the time touted on TV as the best to eat?

    Thanks a really great article and comparison. I’ve already sent it to 5 different persons.

    Ross

    Reply
  • Jen November 06, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Definitely include Chik-fil-A in the next version, if you can. They’re a not-entirely-evil company, as far as fast food goes, and at the very least they’re good about publishing their nutrition info (I’d link to it here, but they’ve gone to an obnoxious flash-based website).

    Reply
  • peter November 06, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Phenomenal job on the charts – well done, thanks.

    Reply
  • anne November 06, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    This is incredible. Thank you!!

    Reply
  • aCalorieCounter November 06, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Sean: Glad you liked it.

    Ross: I’ll add those foods to my to-do list. And about the restaurants you mentioned, Quiznos does not provide any nutritional info, and, this is the first time I’ve ever even heard of Hungry Hobo. :-) Glad you liked it though, and thanks for sending it around.

    Jen: Thanks for the suggestion. Chik-fil-A is another place I don’t think I’ve ever heard of (I’m in NY, I don’t think we have any here) or else I definitely would had already included them. Consider it added to my to-do list.

    Peter: Thanks a lot, glad you liked it.

    Anne: Incredible is exactly what I shoot for. ;-) Glad you liked it.

    Reply
  • Jason November 07, 2007 at 3:30 am

    Wow, amazing job! I’ve been looking for something like this!

    Reply
  • kelly November 07, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Great job! This will save me so much time when I know I’m going to run out and grab a quick bite to eat. Now I can take a look at whatever I’m craving and then decide to grab a veggie sandwich from the local sub shop instead.

    Here’s another vote for Chik-fil-a too!

    Reply
  • Paula November 07, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for all the hard work that went into this! I am trying to gain weight and find here, that the sodium and trans fat excess will still keep me away from “fast foods”. The only thing I buy is the occasional milkshake from Carl’s with a whopping 30 something grams of fat. The sugar content makes me too crazy, so that one’s history now too. Thank you for the awareness this brings to the subject.

    Reply
  • B November 07, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    OMG.. I don’t think I will eat any FAST FOOD after this list… =P
    Thanks for the great post. Keep it up!

    Reply
  • Stefan November 07, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Beautiful chart! I don’t eat much fast food but I was pretty well horrified at that fact that my most favorite foods are all well over 1000 calories! Ugh!

    As a suggestion, didn’t see it in the other comments but how about mexican places (High Tech Burrito, Taco Bell, what have you).

    Reply
  • aCalorieCounter November 07, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Jason: Thanks man. Glad you found it useful.

    Kelly: Thank you as well. Consider an asterisk placed next to Chik-fil-a on my to-do list.

    Paula: You are quite welcome. And you are definitely doing the right thing not using fast food as a quick and easy high calorie source. For weight gain, you really want to eat the same type of foods you’d eat if your goal was weight loss… just more of it.

    B: You are welcome as well, glad you liked it.

    Stefan: Thanks. I too was surprised at the number of foods with 1000+ calories. Also, good suggestion. High Tech Burrito is another place I’ve never even heard of. I don’t know where it’s food would rank nutrition-wise yet, but I think it easily takes first place for dumbest restaurant name. :-)

    Reply
  • Steven November 09, 2007 at 11:43 am

    One thing I wonder is a Value Per Gram comparison. Take the hamburgers. Sure, White Castle wins but that’s because they’re smaller. It’s not really a fair comparison to the other burgers, because it’s not a realistic purchasing scenario. If I’m hungry, I’m going to get a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s or 3 burgers from White Castle. Sure, sure, I’m not saying it’s healthy, but my point being is that for me and most situations I’ve seen, a person is going to eat X grams of food, and that may be multiple orders of an item, or even half an order of an item. So, I think a Value Per Gram ratio would be more enlightening than just a raw comparison. Could you put that in?

    Reply
  • aCalorieCounter November 09, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Steven: A couple of people have brought this up to me. Here’s the reply I gave to one of them…

    “The idea was to compare similar products rather than products of similar weight. One restaurant’s burger VS another’s, and one restaurant’s burger VS another of that same restaurant’s burgers.

    When people get fast food, they usually think in terms of “Should I get this burger or this burger?” rather than “Should I get this 100 gram burger, or should I get this 300 gram burger and eat 1/3 of it?”

    People tend to only buy fast food in terms of Burger A vs Burger B, Chicken Nuggets A vs Chicken Nuggets B, etc. and this comparison was done with that in mind.

    I included weight so people could still see the difference in serving size. But to me, comparing them in terms of X grams of each product wasn’t going to be much use to anyone who was just going to eat 1 full order of whatever they ended up ordering, which I felt was most often the case.

    Unless people are bringing their digital food scales to McDonald’s, the only real level playing field for a comparison like this is burger vs burger, fries vs fries, etc.”

    With all of that being said though, I still actually agree with you and see how a per-gram comparison could also be useful. Rather than add it in, I may just put a whole second separate per-gram comparison together at some point in the future.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

    Reply
  • aw November 12, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    How bout Arby’s Sandwiches.

    Also, I think you need to take on the sub sandwiches found at Arbys, Subway, Jimmie Johns, Panera etc… I think people think they are being good by eating “non-fried” food. But those sandwiches with the works, potato chips, soda, end up being no better than their fried counterparts.

    Sad but true…

    Reply
  • metoo November 12, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    The first thing I thought when I saw the tables is “why are they comparing total weight instead of per unit weight?”

    The I realized you don’t buy fries by the gram. And it’s really hard when you sit down with a bunch of food in front of you to figure out how much you should leave on the plate (to say nothing of the resolve necessary to actually leave it on the plate and not eat it.)

    But I will second the request to break these tables down by gram because it would be very interesting to see if DQ really has worse food than everyone else or if their terrible results are a side effect of their enormous serving sizes.

    Reply
  • metoo November 12, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    …Without having to import the tables into excel and do the work myself, that is.

    Reply
  • Dan November 12, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    This is a great list. I’m almost surprised that going to some of these places might not be that bad. How about adding ice cream and milkshakes to this list?

    Reply
  • BP November 12, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    As a southerner who could stand some better eating habits, I’d like to see more fried chicken comparisions. I don’t know if it is common everywhere but where I live there are a lot of fast food-style chicken finger places, a la Zaxby’s, Guthrie’s, Jim Bob’s, that all serve literally the same meal, french fries, fried chicken fingers, and a piece of toast so coated in butter that it is essentially itself fried. Anyway, you said you were looking for suggestions.

    Reply
  • Jerod November 12, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    I really appreciate all the work you’ve put into this–SUPER helpful. Thank you very much.

    One thing I would like to see, though, is a comparison of a typical meal any one of us would make at home. It’s great to know how terrible the fast food is for us but it doesn’t mean as much unless I can compare that to a dinner of grilled steak, baked potato, and salad (for example).

    One way this might be accomplished (if the information is even available) is to compare an 8oz grilled chicked breast with an 8oz grilled steak with an 8oz grilled fish filet with etc. Then maybe do the same with broiled, pan fried, deep fried, baked, etc.

    Then come the veggies…

    Yes, I’m making a ton more work for you. Why don’t I just stop talking and appreciate the work you’ve already done. ;-)

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • Jason A Clark November 12, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Incredibly cool and comprehensive list. I can’t imagine how much time that must have taken to compile. Good work.

    Reply
  • iamsofaking November 12, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    This is awesome. Thank you.
    Since you are taking requests, I would love to see Whataburger on here. I know they don’t exist where you are, but down here they are everywhere.

    Reply
  • Rae November 12, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Have you considered adding Wendy’s Breakfast? They are pretty new, and I am not sure if they are everywhere yet.

    Reply
  • Leonardo November 12, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Could you add information on Marco’s pizza> http://www.marcos.com/?

    Reply
  • tablespork November 12, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Suggestions to add: Chipotle, Taco Bell, Subway.

    Reply
  • Eddie November 12, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    What about milkshakes? A standard vanilla, chocolate. or strawberry milkshake is found at nearly every fast food store.

    Reply
  • Marie November 12, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Hi there,
    What about fish burgers? I often try to get these if I get stuck for food and need somethign half-way ‘healthy’. I often go for a McDonalds Fillet of Fish (minus the tartare sauce), how ‘good’ is that really, I’d love to know.

    Reply
  • Cesar November 12, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    One thing that should be added to the list is salads. People always think of these as good alternatives at fast food restaurants, but they can be deceiving in the size and the toppings that are presented as choices (and don’t get me started on the dressings).

    Great article (came here via Digg, like most people). Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Justin November 12, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Nothing more shocking than facts. Great job! I would love to see some numbers on the so-called “healthy alternatives” to fast food such as Quizno’s, Samurai Sam’s and all the sandwhich shops.

    Reply
  • Brandon November 12, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    This list is phenomenal! Thank you so much!

    A few suggestions for your next list. Feel free to use or ignore at your discretion, I’m just throwing stuff up against the wall here to see if anything sticks:

    Quiznos, Togo’s, Blimpie, Schlotzsky’s and Subway sandwich shop comparisons. Many people are on the Subway diet bandwagon and it’d be interesting to see how other sandwich shops stack up.

    Taco Bell, Del Taco, Chipotle, and Green Burrito comparison. Many of them have the same, or similar items. Out here in Cali, it’s almost impossible to go longer than 2 weeks without some sort of Mexican foodstuff, and such a list would be a big help.

    KFC, El Pollo Loco, Popeye’s, Church’s and Albertson’s (or similar grocery store) chicken comparison. I get the idea that El Pollo Loco would win in most of the categories, but it could be surprising.

    Reply
  • Jordan November 12, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    you should really add salads as that is a very popular alternative to most foods at a fast food resteraunt. Many salads, such as the salads at mcdonalds, arent too bad nutrition wise but when you get to the dressing and additional toppings it becomes just as bad, if not worse than many other foods on the menu.

    Reply
  • Ryan November 12, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Awesome work with the charts. I appreciate that you took the time to put this together!

    You have made me curious about some of the other chains out there. For example: Taco Bell or Panda Express (huge out west)…

    Is it possible to check out some of the sit down restaurants, i.e. Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, T.G.I. Fridays, Chili’s etc.?

    Thanks again! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Kevin November 12, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Great job, I will be sending this out to all my friends. I have to suggest one thing that all my friends from NC (and the southeast) will want to have compared. It might be to regional, but bojangles are every where down here.

    p.s. please put another * by Chik-fil-a

    Reply
  • richard November 12, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I’m not sure what depresses me more: the apathy America seems to have about what it eats (and how that is done: as quickly as possible), or that more of the ‘disnutrition’ — yes, I made that up — is showing up here in Paris, where I moved to escape all of that madness. It seems like another Starbucks pops up every day. Compared to a ‘normal’ Parisian cafĂ©, it’s like entering a damn pharmacy: triple non-fat vente sugar-free mocha pumpkin soy latte, no foam, and please make it glow in the dark while your are at it. :(

    Reply
  • Jimbo November 12, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Am very surprised that you didn’t have Chick-Fil-A in your original lists, but am looking forward to the updated lists that include Chick-Fil-A, whose nuggets and sandwiches are fried in peanut oil.

    Someone has suggested salad comparisons, and I think that would be excellent. Please don’t forget Chick-Fil-A’s salad options; they’re the only salads I ever eat.

    Reply
  • nano November 12, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    I can understand your rationale in expressing values per-serving as opposed to per-gram. As you said, people choose between different meals, not between 100g of different meals.

    But it’s not a complete comparison. The problem is clear with the cheese sticks. This example sticks out (apologies for the pun) as a pretty clear sign that you’re sticking (I’m sorry!) too close to your per-serving methodology at the expense of a comparison that actually makes sense. I mean, I don’t need your table to know that two cheese sticks are more than one cheese stick.

    A table with all values expressed as ratios of the total weight would be the most useful. All your current comparisons are basically saying is that a Whitecastle burger is healthier than a Triple Whopper. Well, this is certainly true. But when I’m hungry at Whitecastle, I’m going to be ordering more than one minuscule burger. Since presumably it’ll take the same amount of grams of either food to satisfy my hunger, so I want to know which one I should be stuffing my face with with, per gram. Therefore the ratios are very relevant. They could be simple as additional columns using a divide-by-serving-size formula in the spreadsheet.

    Your research and work here is really amazing, and I really applaud it. Which is why I felt compelled to urge you to consider to make it even more informative.

    Reply
  • Ray Kelm November 12, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    I’d like to second that comment my nano. I most often eat fast food at lunchtime, and it’s all about getting enough to feel full. So when I go to Wendy’s, for example, I get the baconator and an order of chicken nuggets. It’s not a choice between which two burgers, but which combination works for me.

    Granted, I eat too much at lunchtime, but the example stands. If I go someplace else, I get approximately the same quantity of food.

    Perhaps a button on the page to toggle between ratios and values would work. A little javascript is all it would take.

    Other than that, I loved the table. Very informative.

    Reply
  • Jim November 12, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    I think it’d be more useful if you normalized the grams of each serving. It’s not useful to know that a tiny white castle burger has the least [whatever] because no one can eat just one of those ;)

    Reply
  • Fred November 13, 2007 at 12:52 am

    Excellant job on your work. About the only fast food I eat regularly is Taco Bells bean burrito with onions and green sauce. Thats it, no drinks,just water.

    Reply
  • beth November 13, 2007 at 4:04 am

    i was wondering something though… the first thing i thought while looking through the nutrition facts was the fact that the serving size had something to do with the high intake of crap. now i know that portion control is one of the biggest problems america has, but would the ratio of size to nutritional information be affected? meaning, if all the sizes of all the objects were the same would there be such a huge difference between everything?

    say for instance the fries, since it was first. if all the fry size and count was the same, but the recipe different, would the fat content and all the info differ?

    what i’m really trying to figure out is if there’s a mathematical equation to calculate the ratio of serving size to nutritional content? am i making any sense?

    Reply
  • m in athens November 13, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    This is great! I’d love to see the much snickered at fish sandwich family of menu items included. Also, desserts would be great.

    Reply
  • Joe November 13, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I’d like to see another set of numbers showing calories/g, fat/g, etc.

    If a 100g item has half the fat of a 300g item it should not win the prize for best.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • john douglas porter November 13, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    When looking at the Trans Fat columns in these tables, everyone should keep in mind what is explained in the Trans Fat section of the article “Reading Food Labels – Nutrition Facts Explained”. In short: any 0 (zero) in the trans fats column could be (and, imho, most likely is) a lie, on the part of the fast food restaurants.

    Reply
  • Matt November 13, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Your article was great the only problem that I could think of is normal intake. Say I go to McDonalds and order a meal thats the sandwich fries and drink. When you compare that to White Castle or KFC things get hazy because you don’t eat just one slider or snacker. The comparisons would be a lot better and more accurate if you included an average on how many of the sandwiches it would normally take to become full. At Burger King it might be just the number 1 but at White Castle it might take a sack of 10, fries, and a drink.

    Reply
  • JWW November 13, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Just a quick response about your “Carb insanity” comment. It’s important to distinguish between healthy complex carbs (fruit, whole grains, etc.), which the body can efficiently into energy from “junk carbs” (high-fructose corn syrup, processed white flour, did I say high-fructose corn syrup?), which overwhelm the pancreas and lead to a fat-generating insulin response. It drives me nuts to see so many foods advertised as “fat-free” that are loaded with unhealthy sugar replacements.

    The ‘insanity’ you mention is typical of our culture in that everyone seems to want (or need) an overly simplified explanation to what ails them: “Fat = bad” or “carbs = bad”. What’s insane is that we are all fooling ourselves – or worse – letting ourselves be fooled by food marketers (not to mention politicians), who are only interested in playing to our weaknesses and making money. ‘Nuff said…

    Reply
  • Jason Braley November 13, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Speaking as a representative of the oppressed east coast, we need to see how Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwiches fall into the breakfast sandwich list.

    Reply
  • Lance November 13, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    I would suggest Starbucks is added to your list. They are quickly becoming a fast food outlet for the yuppy set (to borrow a term from the 80’s). I quite sure their new breakfast sandwiches would be high on your list.

    Reply
  • Sandy November 13, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    Might be interesting to add fatburger to the list; I went to their site after seeing this list, and was disappointed to find that while their fries don’t have transfats, their burgers do. *sigh*.

    http://www.fatburger.com/menu/Nutrition_Facts.pdf

    Reply
  • Lance November 13, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Starbucks breakfast sandwiches (and other things)

    http://www.starbucks.com/retail/nutrition/Zone002_SBUX_Food_Nutrition.pdf

    Reply
  • aw November 13, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I this mentioned but there is no way White Castle hamburger can win anything because no one – and I mean no one – eats just one White Castle burger. The whole point of the place and their advertising is to see how many you can eat. This includes a “crave case” of 15 burgers or a “sack of 10″.

    I know for a fact that their are people that eat this amount by themselves. I just find it so ironic that your award for most healthy burger is probably eaten in a way that would make it the worst burger by far!

    Reply
1 2

Leave A Comment