Is that chicken sandwich worth it?

It’s something I often find myself doing when I end up looking at fast food menu. I think to myself, “I’ll order the chicken sandwich because that’s healthier.” Seems like common knowledge that chicken is better for you than beef. But when it comes to what fast food restaurants serve, is it really?

After I pondered this for a moment, I figured it would be easy enough to find out. All major fast food chains publish their nutritional information online. It’s easy enough to figure out the difference in calories between a burger and a chicken sandwich.

To gather this data I decided to use the most basic burger and “healthiest” sounding grilled chicken sandwich. I picked out the first six fast food chains that came to mind that had both chicken and burgers.

Restaurant Burger Chicken
Burger King Whopper TENDERGRILL®
Carl’s Jr. Famous Star with Cheese Charbroiled Chicken Club
Fatburger Fatburger Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Arby’s Large Roast Beef Sandwich Roasted Grilled Chicken Sandwich
McDonalds 1/4 lb. with cheese Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich
Wendy’s 1/4 lb. Single Ultimate Chicken Grill

Also, who the hell names these things? Ultimate Chicken Grill? That sounds like a BBQ restaurant, not a sandwich. Anyway, on to the data!

As you might guess, the total calories for a chicken sandwich is less than a burger. Hooray for common knowledge. The average difference in calories is 135 with McDonalds on the low end at 90 and Burger King at the top with 200. But more importantly than just total calories, how many of the calories are coming from fat?

Now you can see another striking difference, the chicken sandwich get a lower percentage of their calories from fat. The burgers average 45% whereas the chicken sandwiches average 30%. Not only less calories, but also less fat. Now if the only tasted like a delicious hamburger. So how much less fat are we going to be eating by order that less tasty chicken sandwich?

Taking a look at that graph we can see a big drop in calories from fat, with two notable exceptions. The first is Carl’s Jr. who puts bacon on their chicken sandwiches. Great for taste, bad for fat. Arby’s has the opposite problem, their roast beef is just too healthy, only getting 35% of it’s calories from fat. In addition the fine people at Arby’s have somehow managed to find some chicken that is fattier than their beef, good work guys. By switching to a chicken sandwich you are, on average, cutting about 15% of the calories from fat, 20% if we remove our two outliers.

So what can you take away from all this? Does ordering a chicken sandwich make a difference? Yes it does, about 135 calories worth. More importantly it’s going to reduce the fat you’re about to cram into your food hole by around 20%.

Just as a disclaimer, I am not any sort of food scientist. Unless you count mixing your own fry sauce out of ketchup and mayo, then I would have a degree. This is all just statistics and rambling. If you are concerned about your diet, listen to your doctor, not a blog.

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