Fast Food Restaurant
Nutrition Guide

Fast Food Restaurant Nutrition Guide Criteria

Fast Food
Nutrition Pages

McDonald's
Wendy's
Taco Bell
Subway
Burger King
Pizza Hut
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Arby's
Jack in the Box
Starbucks

First and foremost...

...thanks for trusting me to guide you toward better food choices!

This page explains the criteria I used in making recommended menu selections at various popular fast food restaurants (see links in the pink box).

Assuming you make an OCCASIONAL trip to a fast food restaurant, (and as your personal nutrition guide, I hope those trips are only occasional), I thought you might find it helpful to know exactly what you should order.

I've perused over 3,000 menu items from various fast food restaurants to come up with a guide for choosing at each popular restaurant and I'm sharing my thoughts and criteria for inclusion on the website here.

Fast Food Restaurant Nutrition Guide Criteria

Calories:

I include recommendations for 3 calorie levels:

  • 250-350 calories
  • 400-500 calories
  • 600-700 calories

The right category for you is explained on each of the restaurant pages.

Menu suggestions at each of the calorie levels include at least one of the following:

  • fruits and/or vegetables
  • protein, i.e., poultry, fish, beans, meat

Deep fried items were not considered, even when they fit within the calorie limits. Some of the lowfat dressings weren't considered either.

This is based on my personal belief that food is more than numbers (i.e. calories). Sure, you can use a packet of lowfat dressing and save half the calories of regular dressing...

...but do you realize you may be eating high fructose corn syrup, and food dyes (like Red 40, Blue 1 and/or Yellow #5) in your attempt to save a few calories? Your body doesn't need chemicals to run on, it needs nutrients!!

Total Fat and Saturated Fat

The USDA's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that total fat be limited to 20 to 35% of calories.

I attempted to keep the recommendations in my fast food restaurant nutrition guide pages as close to 30% as possible.


There were rare occasions when a recommendation was made in which fat exceeded the criteria by more than 5% (for example, McDonalds Fruit and Walnut salad is 38% fat). However, the nature of the food was taken into consideration.

In the case of the Fruit and Walnut salad, the high fiber, low sodium, and benefit of eating fruits and nuts far outweigh the higher fat content.


The USDA's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that saturated fat be limited to 10% of total calories. I stayed as close as possible to that as well.

fast food nutrition facts

Trans fat free options were provided when available, but they weren't always available. (Here's hoping the fast food companies take care of this problem!!!)

In cases where more than one menu choice met the above guidelines at a particular calorie level, I tried to pick the lowest sodium option.

More About My Fast Food Restaurant Nutrition Guide Criteria

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses 2,000 calories per day as a reference level for nutrition labeling. (Keep in mind this may be a higher calorie level than YOU need.)

The highest calorie level recommended on this site, (600-700 calories for one meal) represents about 30-35% of total calories for the day. This is reasonable assuming a person eats 3 meals and 1-2 snacks over the course of the day. (This really IS the best way to eat.)

More about healthy eating.

More about calorie counting.

Similarly, a 250-350 calorie meal represents 20-30% of a 1200 calorie diet and 400-500 calorie meal represents ~25-30% of a 1600 calorie diet.

Fast Food Restaurants Nutrition Guide Q and A

Q: Are the suggested menu items "healthy"?

A: Come on...

...we are speaking of fast food restaurants, remember?

Basically I'm recommending "the best of the worst."

The menu items featured are among the best choices available at each restaurant for the majority of individuals looking to improve their diets. However...

Fast Food Restaurant Nutrition Guide DISCLAIMER

  1. Daily nutritional needs vary, and it is YOUR responsibility to choose foods that meet your unique nutritional needs. Consult your physician and/or a registered dietitian (like me!) for guidance.

  2. Many of the menu items recommended are high in sodium, and they are, therefore, inappropriate for those individuals who want or need to limit sodium intake. If you want to know precise sodium values, each respective fast food restaurant's website provides such information. A link is provided from the restaruant pages on this site.

  3. Some dishes listed may be higher in other nutrients - such as protein, sugar, carbohydrate, or even fiber - than is appropriate for individuals with certain dietary restrictions.

  4. The FDA has very strict criteria for any food or meal designated as "healthy." Most of the menu items suggested on this site do not meet the FDA criteria for "health," and no such claim is being made.

My Fast Food Restaurant Nutrition Guide focuses on calories, total fat and saturated fat, whereas the FDA's criteria for "healthy" also include cholesterol and sodium. It was pretty much impossible to meet these criteria at the fast food restaurants listed.

The Fast Food Restaurant Nutrition Guide pages.

Your Personal Nutrition Guide home.

**Nutrition information provided by respective restaurants' websites and was current at time of posting (July, 2007).**

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