WARNING: Today’s column features plenty of fowl language.
Let’s talk chicken. Fast food chicken. We’ll chew on the nutritional info surrounding the sandwiches, subs, salads… even the new “chicken fries” recently trotted out by Burger King.
Every savvy dieter knows white meat chicken is a yummy part of a healthy eating plan. So why are the nutritional numbers so scary at your favorite fast food joint? Flock this way and check out the latest offerings including McDonald’s new line of premium chicken sandwiches.
By now, you must have seen the ads featuring the so-called premium sandwiches. When McDonald’s launches a new product, they saturate the market with mouthwatering ads. But please don’t confuse the catchword premium as a synonym for healthy.
Let’s check the tale of the tape for the nutritional numbers that are accessible a few pecks away at http://www.mcdonalds.com. As you seem, you have a choice of 3 new sandwiches, with each coming in two forms — grilled or “crispy” which is a nicer word than fried. The envelope please…
Premium Crispy Chicken Classic Sandwich: This 8.2-ounce sandwich has 490 calories (150 from fat), 16 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat (1.5g trans fat), 60 milligrams cholesterol, 1,350mg sodium, 62 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of fiber.
The 8-ounce Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich is a better bet with 410 calories (80 from fat), 9g fat, 2g saturated fat (zero trans fat), 80 mg cholesterol, 1,210mg sodium, 52g carb, and 3g fiber.
The Premium Crispy Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich weighs in at 8.6 ounces and weighs ya down with 570 calories (180 from fat), 20g fat, 5g saturated fat (1.5g trans fat), 70mg cholesterol, 1,730mg sodium, 64g carbs, and 3g fiber.
A Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich (8.5 ounces) has 480 calories (120 from fat), 13g fat, 3.5g saturated fat (zero trans fat), 90mg cholesterol, 1,590mg sodium, 53g carbs, and 3g fiber.
The 9.6-ounce Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich packs 660 calories, 29g fat, 9g saturated fat (1.5g trans fat), 100mg cholesterol, 1,800mg sodium, 63g carbs and 3g fiber.
And, finally, the 9.4-ounce Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich has 580 calories, 21g fat, 8g saturated fat (zero trans fat), 40mg cholesterol, 1,660mg sodium, 53g carbs, and 3g fiber.
eDiets.com chief nutritionist Susan Burke offers this mini-review:
“McDonald’s new Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich is an OK option for fast food, as long as you do a little modifying so you can have it ‘your way.’ Just say, ‘Hold the mayo!’ Mayo adds saturated fat and calories. Say YES to ketchup or mustard… or both.
“By the way, I’m talking the grilled chicken, not the ‘crispy’ sandwich — crispy is code for added fat — or the chicken BLT, which has 20 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 1.5 grams of trans fat per sandwich.
“If you’re watching your sodium, all bets are off… at McDonald’s and all fast food restaurants. A quick look at all the chicken sandwiches gives me heart palpitations. There are 1,800 milligrams of sodium in just one Premium Crispy Club Chicken Sandwich. That’s 75% of what you need for the entire day.
“Even the plain Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich has 1,200mg sodium, which is still too high for just one sandwich. So, balance the day with fresh fruit and vegetables — and don’t make fast food a daily habit.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself Susan!
While chatting with Susan about fast food in general, I learned that one managerial rooster at a huge chain said size is what really matters when it comes to pleasing the hungry public. Yep, this biz wiz claims we want BIGGER… as in bigger buns, bigger meat, bigger toppings, bigger scale numbers, bigger pants sizes, and bigger medical bills. Oops, he didn’t say all that. But he may as well have.
In honor of this “bigger is better” belief, I think the fast food chains ought to offer special “Really Big Kid” meals featuring heart defibrillators and other nifty toys. I can hear the drive-through window worker now, as she asks sweetly after taking your order, “Would you like oxygen with that?”
But I digress. I came here today to cackle about chicken. I have to admit I was inspired by the recent spate of Subway commercials featuring none other than that amazing shrinking man Jared. The thin-again spokesperson who says he lost some 245 pounds eating subs (please do not try this with meatball or cheesesteak subs) has lately been skewering fast food chicken choices.
But before you grab a few bawk, bawk, bawks and rush off to Subway for a super healthy chicken sandwich, check this out:
The 6″ Chicken & Bacon Ranch sandwich has 530 calories and 25 grams of fat. The numbers aren’t that much better than the McDonald’s sandwiches listed above. In fact, the McChicken boasts just 370 calories and 16 grams of fat. So what gives?
Well, Jared was sort of comparing apples to oranges when he attacked the fast food sandwich with mucho grams of fat and recommended the 6″ Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich and its 5 grams of fat.
Savvy dieters like you and me know we need to do our homework before we head to the corner fast food joint for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Stick with grilled and steer clear of breaded chicken and you are off to a good start. Other tips:
Say nay-o to mayo. Mustard is a perfectly good chicken sandwich topping.
Be sure to load up your sandwich with lettuce and tomato… and any other raw veggie you can sink your teeth into.
Just say NO to fries. Round out your meal (not your belly) with water, diet soda, and fruit or a side salad with light dressing served on the side.
Most large franchises now offer nutritional values online or on the premises. Ask for the info if it’s not readily accessible. If they don’t want to dish it out, say bye-bye. It’s your money and your health at stake here. Get what you want, not what they want to serve you.
Now, back to chewing the fat — and calories — on fast food chicken.
Consumer Reports recently investigated more than 35 chicken dishes in 16 restaurants. Some of the more unappetizing results:
Boston Market’s Marinated Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad: 800 cals, 62g of fat
Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad: 630 cals, 35g of fat
Carl’s Jr.’s Low-Carb Breakfast Bowl: 900 cals, 73g of fat
Mr. Bad Food would be remiss if he didn’t check out the nutrition numbers for the latest entry into the fast food chicken wars — Burger King’s Chicken Fries. A 6-piece order with Buffalo dipping sauce has 340 calories (210 from fat), 24 grams of fat (4.5 saturated; 3 trans fat), 40mg cholesterol, 1,020mg sodium, 20g carbs and 2g fiber.
The verdict? The 6-pack is actually slightly worse in some respects than a medium fries which has 360 calories (160 from fat), 18g fat (5 saturated; 4.5 trans fat), 0 cholesterol, 640mg sodium, 46g carbs, and 4g fiber. So don’t fall for “chicken has to be better than french-fried potatoes” trap.
Another heavily hyped chicken sandwich these days is the KFC Snacker. The 99 cents price tag makes it a lot more affordable than the Colonel’s high-priced bucket selections. But you are basically getting little more than one crispy strip nestled inside a “snacker bun” with pepper mayo and a lettuce blend.
The nutrition numbers are 320 calories, 16 grams of fat (3g saturated), 25mg cholesterol, 700mg sodium, 31 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber. I don’t know about you, but I’d need at least two of these 4-ounce teasers to feel anywhere near full.
A few decent chicken choices include:
–Burger King Fire-Grilled Chicken Garden Salad with fat free honey mustard dressing has 280 calories and 7 grams of fat.
–Wendy’s Ultimate Grill Chicken Sandwich has 360 calories and 7 grams of fat.
–Quizno’s Small Honey Bourbon Chicken sandwich has 359 calories and 6 grams of fat.
–Hardee’s Charbroiled Bar-B-Q Chicken Sandwich has 415 calories and 5 grams of fat… and includes the mayo.
The bottom line: when you feel peckish for fast food chicken, choose wisely and enjoy your meal. Oh, and don’t squawk to Mr. Bad Food if temptation and bad decision-making cause you to lay an egg, motivationally speaking.