I would rather take a beating than eat fast food. I do know, however, that others enjoy it. I used to enjoy the taste of it myself even though I knew it was terrible for me, but now I’ve read so many bad things about it that I just about can’t bring myself to eat it.
While roaming through the web looking for other data I stumbled upon a blog that contains what I think is an incredibly useful load of info for anyone trying to stay on a diet of any kind and still indulge in fast food. The writer of this blog – a Calorie Counter – has undertaken a prodigious task, at least by my reckoning. He (I’m pretty sure it’s a he) has gone to the time and trouble to wade through all the nutritional information provided by the various purveyors of fast food and tabulated them all for comparison. The hamburgers compared to other hamburgers; the fries to other fries; the chicken sandwiches to other chicken sandwiches. (Click here for the charts)
Says the author:

I’ve compared the nutrition facts 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 the others. If this isn’t enough to convince you to eat less (or none) of this stuff, it will at least give you the information you need to make the better choice and avoid making the worst one. Enjoy…

Here is a sample showing the plain ol’ hamburgers from multiple fast food joints compared.
Now as if this mega load of work wasn’t enough, the author also made the comparison charts so that they could be ranked by nutrient. So, for example, if you want to see which of the hamburgers contains the most calories, you find the hamburger comparison chart and click ‘Calories’ and Voila! they will be ranked from least to most. If you want to find which of the chicken nuggets or pieces or, as the old ad says, parts (parts is parts) has the fewest carbs so you can see if it’s worth indulging, you click ‘Carbs’ and you have the chart below, arranged from fewest to most. Who would of thought Wendy’s 5 pc Chicken Nuggets contains the fewest grams of carbs? And who knew that the Arby’s 5 pc Chicken Tenders contains four times the carb of the Wendy’s? Not I.
I roamed through a couple of the fast food company nutritional information pages to do my due diligence before recommending these fast food comparison tables. I didn’t check with every one, but the ones I did check were on the money, so I’m pretty sure the author did a good job in listing the nutrients accurately.
Have fun playing with the charts and discovering just how nasty all that fast food you’ve eaten really is. There are a few other posts on this blog that are worthwhile, but, sadly, the author has bought into the idea that fat is bad, carbs are good (or at least aren’t responsible for weight gain) and that the only thing that matters is calories. Where have we heard that before?
Despite his being misguided in terms of what causes weight gain, the author has done us all a great service by making this material available. And even though I don’t eat fast foods, I appreciate his efforts. I have learned one thing, however. Whenever I take the notion to indulge in a little restaurant junk food, it seems that I always succumb to the onion rings. I always figured that they probably had a few grams of trans fats, but that the carbs weren’t all that bad. Not that bad?!?!? The lowest one of the bunch contains 45 grams of carbs, which is the equivalent of almost a quarter of a cup of sugar, not to mention 4.5 grams of trans fat. I hope this new knowledge tempers my enthusiasm the next time the onion ring demon begins to prey on my soul.


  1. I think I am one of the few who thinks fast food doesn’t taste that great at all. I love pizza, fries and burgers, but usually those made in nicer local restaurants. I’ve been in McDonald’s I think twice or three times in my life, always because of friends and personally I found the food tastes “blah”! Not only that, but I always manage to feel awful afterwards, sort of down and tired (even before I knew that sort of food is crappy, which I avoided them in the first place).
    I think not eating crap for a while makes you even more susceptible: we were getting headaches whenever we ate at my boyfriend’s mom’s place till we found out she’s cooking with cholesterol free margarine made with good old sunflower oil, the good stuff you know. Fortunately, she’s stopped using that junk and started using butter instead.

  2. I agree with you that this is one of the best of these comparisons I have seen.
    If he would add just ONE feature, it would be quite a bit more valuable. He just needs to add a button-to-click, that “removes the bun”, which would include removing the biscuit if it is a breakfast meal.
    When I have to eat fast food, I find it real easy to just throw away the outside of the sandwich and eat what’s left. It would be great to know the nutritional values for the remainder.
    Thanks for posting this.

  3. Whoa, I love onion rings. Guess they are not going to be part of my lifestyle anymore.
    Well maybe one or two onion rings once in a very great while.
    Thanks for the link to A Pinch of Health. What a great site. Wonderful stuff on the home page.
    Glad you enjoyed it. I, too, will be an ex onion ring eater after seeing the amount of carb they contained.

  4. Yeah, but Dr. Mike, we like to go to the grocery store, buy some garden or butter lettuce, then go to a fast food restaurant and get some of the biggest burgers we can find. We call it, “low carbification of fast food.” We discard the buns and ask them to skip the ketchup and we make a great sandwich! Hardees has a wonderful low carb double cheeseburger that they will make if you ask them. You just have to remember to tell them to skip the ketchup.
    If you get that burger big enough, you’ll be too full to worry with onion rings or french fries. They also serve unsweetened tea and some places even have Splenda. If not, you have to bring that with you too! In other words, please don’t toss the baby with the bath water!
    Before we got down on fast food, MD and I used to take our own low-carb bread to Wendy’s. We would buy bacon double cheeseburgers and replace the buns with our own bread.

  5. As of Nov 1st I have stopped eating junk food. Don’t ask me why I picked a Thursday to decide to bring my own food to work, but I did. I brought in some tuna salad and egg salad for thursday and friday, then cooked my upcoming lunches that weekend. Right now in the company fridge I have roast salmon, beef stew, and tuna salad. I have more than I need for one snack and one lunch monday thru friday.
    You know what happened when I stopped buying junk food? The cravings stopped! For the last five years at least, I have had a piece of sugary/starchy food nearly every day because I couldn’t seem to stop myself and now, as of today, the 20th, I haven’t had anything–this includes the cookies that my neighbors have been giving me the last week–they are all on the company kitchen table so my colleagues can eat them.
    Who knew that this is what it would take to stop the cravings? I glad I finally found out.
    I’m glad you found out, too. I wonder what it will do for your weight loss efforts, assuming you have any weight to lose.

  6. Hi Mike,
    Interesting stuff. Thanks for posting it. When I have a yen for a fast food lunch, I go to In-N-Out and get a burger “protein style,” which substitutes lettuce leaves for the bun. I would like to see the stats on that. When I’m stuck in airports andf want to eat, I go for similar bunless options; Burger king does well in this regard. It would be good to know whether my confidence in bunless options is merited or if there are hidden carbs in these options, too.
    Chuck Berezin
    Hey Charles–
    I think your faith in bunless is merited. You’ll get a few grams in the ketchup if you eat it, but there should be few other carbs. Especially on an In-N-Out burger, which, incidently, is the only fast food I eat. I didn’t mention it because people who don’t live in California (or I guess the Southwest now) don’t have a clue what in In-N-Out is.

  7. I know that most chicken strips, nuggets, etc. are mostly breading (Chick-Fil-A may be an exception), and fries have no redeeming qualities. When I’m in a hurry, I’ll often order a Jack-in-the-box bacon ultimate cheeseburger or two with no ketchup (Mustard/Mayo only) and throw away the buns. I’ve often wondered if that was really much better than not eating anything at all until my next meal.
    It’s pretty much just meat and cheese. How could you go wrong?

  8. I used to eat fast food and liked it, but since recommitting to low-carb eating last year, I now almost never eat fast food. My husband and I like ethnic food, so if we eat out we choose a better-quality restaurant and enjoy Arab, Greek, Turkish, African, Asian, etc. meals. It’s worth the extra expense. However, occasionally some circumstance dictates that I eat in a fast-food establishment (being with a group and that’s where everyone else wants to go, for example) and what I especially notice now that I’m not used to that kind of food is just how incredibly horrible, even sickening, it tastes. Eating real food 99% of the time does wonders for refining one’s palate and being able to tell that crap is crap.
    How true, how true.

  9. Hi Dr. Eades,
    I’m stuck traveling quite a bit and fast food has become a necessary evil for me. This site was helpful for me to know exactly what I’m eating – For example, go there and choose a double cheeseburger and add the item to your “bag”. Then click on “get the nutrition facts”. On the next page the site lists the item with the (non)nutritional info. Click the + sign next to the item and each individual ingredient is displayed. You can then uncheck the items you don’t order on your food and it recalculates the nutrition info. If I need to eat a double cheeseburger at McDonalds I order it without ketchup and onions and I don’t eat the bun. This only gives me 3g of carbs due to the cheese. Try it out with other items and you can probably get a very low carb meal at Mickey D’s although there is quite a bit of sodium in their food.
    Thanks. I’ll fiddle with it, though I don’t know why since I never eat at McD’s.

  10. Is it that much work? He went to website of each chain and merged the data from each of their nutrient pages together, threw up a site and he will be making money from ads from it forever without any other attention. A smart way to profit from public-domain info, but a lot of work? You put more time into one of your shorter posts.
    Hey Tom–
    It may take him just a few minutes to do it, and it may take you just a few minutes to do it. But it would take me forever since I am a computer idiot. So, from my perspective, it’s a lot of work.

  11. I must say that it’s difficult to “grab a quick lunch” downtown in this high carb world. They add some sort of sugar and starch to almost everything.
    Though if I could find an establishment that made french fries fried in beef tallow I would definitely try it out just once.
    Jump in your time machine and go back to the old McDonald’s of 20 years ago, and you can have all the beef-tallowed French fries you could afford.

  12. Dr. Eades,
    I go to In and Out Burger once a month or so and get their protein burger. Their food is probably the best fast food because everything is so fresh.
    The lettuce they use for the “bun” is so crunchy. Yum.
    In-N-Out is good. Too bad it’s not all over the country.

  13. don’t most of those fast-food burgers contain a lot of transfats, even when bunless? (not here in NYC, of course, thanks to our crusading Mayor…). And not to mention that the meat doesn’t even taste like meat, yuk….
    As the food calculator shows, not all of them contain trans fats.

  14. Dr Mike
    Yes! Quite a lot actually. Now that I don’t have the “plain” croissant every morning monday thru friday, the weight is melting off effortlessly.
    All it took for me to stop weight loss, was to start my day with a coffee and a croissant. So even if I ate a bunless fast food burger or threw away the tortilla from a chickten taco and ate only the filling, I was still sabotaging myself.
    Now that I’ve given up both the croissant and the fast food lunch, my body is really responding positively by releasing the pounds, just as Taubes deduces from his research.
    I could just kick myself.
    I’m glad it’s working so well.

  15. BTW, the egg breakfast I have is 200-300 calories depending on butter or low carb sauce, and the croissant is 230.
    Yeah, a calorie is a calorie.

  16. I find it difficult saying anything good about fast food and used to completely avoid it period. Not anymore!
    I found that McDonalds’ Canada has actually an excellent nutritional calculator… I believe Wendy’s in Canada has a website that is similar also. Check this out.
    The great feature is that it helps include/ exclude ingredients like bread from their sandwiches by simply clicking the ingredients on and off… it is pretty slick and gives you the resulting carbs, protein etc. I am not sure of the website in the US and the portions may be higher… but I thought I should bring this up.
    I am a type 2 diabetic and now on occasion eg. when traveling will go in and have a side salad with Caesar dressing and a grilled chicken sandwich (of course less the bun) for about 11g of carbs, 24g of protein and 410 calories according to the website … and if not satisfied I add a second grilled chicken sandwich and cut back to half the dressing (12g of carbs) … my blood glucose stays very stable which means maybe the information is correct.
    The culprit is the bun and the fries as you say in Protein Power and perhaps if we are careful it ain’t that bad. Life is not too bad … I think I am living the high life with diabetes thanks to learning about low carbs and dietary protein!
    Is there a problem with this nutritionally, Doctor? Thanks.
    If there is a problem with it, then I’m in trouble because it’s how I eat most of the time. Not fast food, but cutting the carbs at every opportunity.

  17. Dr. Mike,
    Would you please shed some light on my latest blood test results.
    I have been on PP for 8 months, feel better than ever, but I am perplexed by the numbers here are the numbers
    ——————— Pre-PP——7/24/07—–11/15/07—————
    Fasting Glucose—128———–114———-113—expected better
    Tot Chol.————275———–269———-301—No good, no worry
    LDL——————-199————208———-226—No Worry
    Triglyceride——-197———— 88!———138—What happened!
    I wonder why my Trig. went up. Could it be related to the fact that when I had the test I had fasted for 24 hrs (I do IF) and it was about 1-hr after my workout, maybe there were extra triglycerides in my blood stream for energy.
    Last test on 7/24/07 my Hg1C was 5.2–Normal. This time it wasn’t tested. I am eating a bit more carbs now not much more, about 50-60 ECC on days after I IF, some days just <30 ECCs.
    Your response is greatly appreciated.
    I never worry about a single lab result because there are so many things that can cause temporary perturbations that will show up as weird lab values. In your case I really wouldn’t worry about the triglycerides because they are certainly within the normal range. Most people on low-carb diets drop their triglycerides into the sub-100 range, but a little over that from time to time certainly isn’t worrisome.

  18. well last week the Mrs was timing of the monthing and was after a burger.
    Me went to Wendys and had 2 3/4 pounder avec bread which have not eaten pretty much in 12 years and though i felt a bit shite the next day those 2 3/4 burgers were rooty tooty bleeding greee-at and far better than Veras a famed burger place in Vancouver which costs a kings ransom.
    Beef tallow fried anything..actually one could do chips and battered ‘fosh’ in ghee de ghee surely ? That’d be ‘well hard’ i.e very good.

  19. The discussion of fast foods is important because for many of us who don’t have time or energy to cook, we have to get food somewhere. (The terrific recipes posted by MDE are wonderful, but how many busy people these days are mixing or cooking any recipes at all? If I lived in South Beach Florida or the Hamptons in NY, perhaps I could have my own private cook.) Taking the bun off burgers is one useful suggestion. Let’s have more. If only more fast food outlets would offer more low carb foods.
    Fast food restaurants make money by providing what their consumers want. What we need to get is more low-carb consumers.

  20. If you’re willing to eat with a fork, my Sister says that Quiznos has a “Black and Blue Salad” that’s pretty good. It’s Black Angus steak, Blue Cheese, tomatoes, red onion, and greens with a Balsamic Vinaigrette. Toss the bread. I’ll be skipping the vinaigrette (served on the side) until I find out what’s in it.
    They also have a Classic Cobb: Chicken breast, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, bleu cheese crumbles, tomatoes, red onion, Ranch Dressing.
    I don’t do fast food unless absolutely necessary (I cave to my kids once a month or so), but those Quiznos salads sound pretty good.
    I agree that Burger King at least understands the plight of the low carb fast food eater. Every time I’ve gotten bunless burgers from them, they’ve come with lots of lettuce and even a fork. Not so with McD’s
    Plus, Burger King grilled chicken salad with Ken’s ranch dressing is the lowest carb fast food salad available amongst the “giants”. Still needs a fork, though.
    I’ve been known to peel off the breading on McNuggets. All so my kids can have a death burger.
    I’ve never had the Quiznos salads either. But they do sound good. Next time MD and I are on a road trip (which is about the only time we ever even consider fast food) we may give them a try. Thanks for the tip.

  21. Clair: It’s harder with a family than it is for a single person like me, for sure, but I cook nearly all my meals even though I frequently work late (usually no later than 10pm, but occasionally past midnight). I do make my breakfast fresh every day, but otherwise I only cook 2-3 nights a week. I usually cook 2 recipes at once on Sunday night, portion it all out for work lunches, and then cook again Wednesday or Thursday. If I run out of food before I have time to cook again, I’ll usually get some deli chicken or turkey and salad greens from the grocery store near work and just throw that together. I also keep cans of tuna and a package of walnuts in my desk, and sometimes some cheese in the fridge. At home I keep some individually frozen burgers and chicken breasts and some bags of frozen veggies so if for some reason I’m home from work before dinner time I can get a pretty basic meal together in about 15 minutes.
    Incidentally I’m not one of those people who was taught good home ec skills growing up: I’ve only been doing this for about 2 months and only after fumbling through a painful baked-chicken-breast-every-day phase (monotony!), but it’s been a very easy routine to establish. If you find a good cookbook to work from it’s surprisingly low effort.
    Dr Mike: To be honest, I don’t think most consumers know what they want with respect to nutrition, or even what they’re getting. I’ve certainly had a variety of friends, men in particular, say some variation on “I’d like to eat better but I don’t know how”, and who have really no concept of what they get out of their food.
    I agree with you. I doubt that most people give their nutrition a second thought. Most people reading this blog do, but I figure the population at large couldn’t care less.
    It’s a sad state of affairs.

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