Top 10 Fast Food Follies

It’s that time again.  I love a good top 10 list, and well why not?

With the birth of the “Satisfries” , and other popular fast food items that sit in a false halo of “healthy”- I feel it’s my place, nay my duty to acutally break your hearts about your favorite fast food goodies.

With that being said – I am happy that fast food restaurants are trying to step up their game and add more healthy fare to their menus.  The only problem is 99% of the time that you hit a drive thru you will either be consuming far too much sodium and sugar.

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Which is not a problem if you do this once in a blue moon.  But let’s be real.  I live in a city full of commuters, as well as a city full of busy people who “don’t have time” to pack their lunches.  So they take the route of searching for a healthier option as a “snack” or a meal- but it happens frequently.  This is when those “healthy” foods become problematic. fast food 2

1) Smoothies

Even smoothies at Jamba could run someone’s sugars up to the moon and back.  Smoothies are typically a great option- but you’re better off making them at home where you have control on what’s going into the smoothies (i.e. no juice, no sugar)- both of which you’ll find in smoothies at McDonald’s and other drive thru spots.

2) Fries.  However they are marketed pleased remember the operative word “fry”.  Whether they are “satisfries” or sweet potato fries these little babes have taken a dip in some grease at some point.  Making them packed with fat, and once that salt is sprinkled over them – it’s game over.

Let us do a fry comparison

Carl’s Jr (med) Sweet Potato Fries:

510 calories///25 g of fat////860 mg of sodium

Chik Fil A (med) Waffle Fries

390 calories///20 g of fat////150 mg of sodium

Satis-Fries (med)

340 calories////14 g of fat////370 mg of sodium

If you’re looking to splurge on some fries either Chik Fil A or the satisfries are the way to go.  But emphasis is on splurge here.  Remember just because an item has less of something (fat, calories), does not mean it is free it.

3) Salads are the age old “go-to” when we are trying to make healthier choices.  But be mindful of what is going on and in your salads- that includes the dressing.  Let’s compare a few salads sans dressings

Wendy’s Baja Salad Half Size

470 Calories////31 g of fat////1140 mg of sodium

McDonald’s Southwest Salad with no chicken

140 calories///4.5 g fat///2 g saturated fat////150 mg of sodium

McDonald’s Southwest Salad with grilled chicken

320 Calories///9 g fat///3 g saturated fat////960 mg sodium

4) Wraps- How many times do we opt for a wrap over something we deem as much more unhealthy….oy vey.  Some wraps can compare to that even of a Big Mac…..

Ranch Snack Wrap w/ crispy chicken

350 calories///19 g of fat////5 g saturated fat///750 mg sodium

Chik Fil A Caesar Cool Wrap

470 Calories///13 g fat///6 g saturated fat///1290 mg sodium

Mediterranean Wrap from Au Bon Pain

610 Calories///29 g fat////7 g saturated fat////1770 mg sodium

5) Grilled chicken

Even grilled chicken options at fast food spots will again be better on fat and calories but still have a sodium content that is half of what you actually need in a days time.  As you can see from the salads above- a salad can go from a great option, to a pit of salt faster than you can say “grilled”

KFC Grilled Chicken breast

220 calories////7 g of fat////2 g of saturated fat////730 mg sodium

KFC Grilled Chicken Thigh

170 Calories///10 g fat////3 g saturated fat///530 mg sodium

6) Baked potato + fixings

I don’t feel the need to use numbers to support this point- I feel like it’s common knowledge.  Plain baked potato = complex carb.  Add butter = more fat (maybe sodium).  Add sour cream = add more fat.  Add bacon = adding more fat and sodium.  Add cheese = adding more fat and sodium.

7) Creamed based soups

Cream = more fat and more sodium than you probably need in two meals let a lone one.  Save the creamy soups for a special occasion, and opt for the smaller portion (i.e. a cup or a lunch portion) when you do splurge.

Beware of soups in general however as even broth based soups will be lower in calories and fat but packed with sodium.

12 Veggie Soup (medium) Au Bon Pain

180 Calories///6 g fat////1 g saturated fat////1290 mg sodium

Corn chowder (medium) Au Bon Pain

350 Calories///18 g fat///8 g saturated fat////1120 mg sodium

Baked Potato Soup (1 1/2 cups) Panera

350 calories///21 g fat////13 g saturated fat////1180 mg sodium

8) Tuna Sandwiches

Many times sandwiches in and of themselves turn out to be calorie/fat/salt pits that we don’t see coming.  When we have a tuna sandwich many times we think we are keeping it “light”- but what do you need to remember is what holds together this tuna-y wonder.  Mayo.  That’s what.  Be mindful of you tuna selections.

Full Tuna Salad from Panera

510 calories///16 g fat////4 g saturated fat////1160 mg sodium (hope you’re not having any of paneras soups with this)

Tuna Salad Regular from Potbelly

720 calories////27 g fat////9 g saturated fat////1409 mg sodium

Quiznos Tuna Sub (Regular)

670 calories////32 g fat////5 g saturated fat////960 mg sodium

Jimmy John’s Totally Tuna

690 calories////35 g fat////4.5 g saturated fat////1570 mg sodium

Best Bet?

Tuna Sandwich from Cosi

251 Calories///5 g fat///1 g saturated fat////462 mg sodium

9) Coffee Drinks

I’m a big believe in NOT drinking your calories or carbs- provided you are training and allotting yourself more of these as you are running/biking/training extra hard.  Even then you don’t need these daily.

Remember the sources of calories in a coffee beverage: whipped cream, cream, sugar, chocolate/caramel, flavored syrups that are not sugar free, milk.

Best bets- black coffee with some skim milk and splenda, or plain coffee with some sugar free flavoring.

Cinnamon Dulce Latte (Grande) from Starbucks w/ 2% milk and whipped cream

330 calories///13 g of fat////8 g saturated fat///160 mg sodium////42 g carb////40 g sugar

Caramel Latte McDonald’s (medium)

280 Calories///12 g fat///4.5 g saturated fat////170 mg sodium///43 g carb////43 g sugar

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10) Sandwiches versus burgers

Just like our wraps so many times we think we are being better by not getting a greasy fantastic burger…. think again.

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Full Asiago Roast Beef on Asiago Cheese Bread (Panera)

700 calories////27 g fat////14 saturated fat////1330 mg sodium

Big Mac

540 calories////29 g fat////10 g saturated fat////1040 mg sodium

Shocking right?

Whopper Jr with Cheese

380 Calories////21 g fat////8 g saturated fat////710 mg sodium

Eggplant and Mozzarella Sandwich (Au Bon Pain)

640 calories///27 g fat///10 g saturated fat///1280 mg sodium

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So what is the take away from all of this???  It is not me trying to demonize the food industry- although it seems I don’t have to try all that hard.  It’s to provide information to my readers to make more informed choices.  While some chains are posting the caloric content of their menu items.  The Total Fat, Saturated/Trans fats, Sodium, and Carb/Sugar contents are no where to be found.

Additionally I can’t tell you how many patients, or even colleagues that I think these are healthy options, and are consumed multiple times per week, rather than “in a pinch”.  Some of these selections are fine when you’re truly in a pinch.  Taking in too much sodium one day isn’t the end all be all.  It’s when we get into a pinch or a time crunch multiple times a week that we need to start relying on these foods when bad habits form.

Once the habit is formed it’s much harder to force it not to be a habit anymore.  I won’t like.  I am more of a salt fanatic versus sugar/sweets.  Every time I go home to Michigan I get fast food as a treat.  I try not to rely on it as an option to fall back on, I have gotten used to packing lunches, and planning somewhat ahead for dinners to avoid needing to make a trip through the drive thru.

What is your favorite fast food treat?

How often do you treat yourself?

***All nutrition information obtained through “Restaurants” App.


  1. Sarah – Loved the blog and the photos!!! Really very good info. –Thanks! Liz


  2. McDonald’s Southwest Salad with grilled chicken
    320 Calories///9 g fat///3 g saturated fat////960 mg sodium

    Wow! Hard to believe that adding the chicken also adds over 800mg of sodium. I’m not surprised they can ruin what should be a simple and healthy piece of grilled chicken.

    1. I think it has to do with the fact they use (I am assuming here) chicken that is Cooked, then frozen and shipped. Then reheated quickly at the time of the order. Whereas if they were just thawing and using raw/uncooked meat the sodium content would be less. Full disclosure I am just “assuming” this is what is done. Either that or they do take extensive liberties with the salt shaker 🙂

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