Like all fast food restaurants today, Burger King offers more than just burgers and fries for lunch or dinner. A Burger King diner can choose from a small but seemingly healthy assortment of chicken sandwiches, a fish sandwich, and even a veggie sandwich. In addition, there are non-sandwich options of breaded chicken for dipping in sauce and presumably very healthy salads. To help the consumer who is conscious about health and/or weight, they even provide an online menu with nutritional information on each item they serve. You can even play with the options online so that you can see what happens to the nutritional information if you order extra onions or hold the lettuce. This is a nifty toy with a huge surprise. It turns out that the healthiest sandwich Burger King offers is the old-fashioned hamburger.
This came as a shock to me. Surely chicken is healthier than beef, right? Well, it turns out this is not so. The fish ought to be even healthier, and the veggie burger ought to be the healthiest of all – but again, this is not so. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The plain hamburger has 260 calories, 10g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 35mg cholesterol, 27g carbs, 6g sugar, 13g protein, and 490mg sodium. Those numbers are surprisingly good for a fast food restaurant!
But what really counts are the comparisons, so here they are.
By contrast, the healthiest of the chicken sandwiches, the Spicy Chick’N Crisp Sandwich, has 460 calories, 30g fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 30mg cholesterol, 35g carbs, 4g sugar, 13g protein, and 810mg sodium.
Therefore, the hamburger has fewer calories, less fat, less saturated fat, fewer carbs, and significantly less sodium. In fact, on the two big stats, the hamburger really delivers nutritional value, at nearly half the calories and exactly one-third the fat. The hamburger and the chicken have equal trans fat (none) and equal protein. However, the hamburger does have higher cholesterol and more sugar. So therefore, if you are particularly worried about cholesterol or sugar intake, you may want to look at the chicken sandwich despite its flaws, but otherwise, the hamburger gives you the healthier overall package.
Meanwhile, the fish is actually worse than the chicken, with 640 calories, 32g fat, 5g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat, 45mg cholesterol, 66g carbs, 9g sugar, 23g protein, and a whopping 1370mg sodium. Yes, that’s right – the fish has more of everything, and more is bad for every stat on the list except protein. So, though the fish does offer more protein, the cost is too high. Pay special attention to that sodium number, because it is nearly three times the quantity of the hamburger’s sodium. Avoid the fish!
The veggie burger, on the other hand, is a healthier alternative than either the chicken or the fish, as you would expect. It contains 400 calories, 16g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5mg cholesterol, 43g carbs, 8g sugar, 22g protein, and 1020mg sodium.
Comparing the veggie burger to the chicken sandwich, the veggie burger has fewer calories, less fat, less saturated fat (half the amount, in fact), and significantly less cholesterol, so it has a few things going for it. On the other hand, it has more carbs and twice the amount of sugar, plus a significant increase in the sodium. The value of the tradeoffs between the veggie burger and the chicken sandwich depend on which of these values is more important to you.
That said, though, the hamburger remains in the lead, even over the veggie burger. The hamburger beats the veggie burger with fewer calories, less fat, significantly fewer carbs, less sugar, and less than half the sodium. It also has more protein, as you might expect since it contains actual meat. To be fair, the hamburger does suffer with more saturated fat and seven times the cholesterol. Therefore, if you have a special issue with cholesterol, then you may want to consider the veggie burger. Otherwise, however, the tradeoff in cholesterol is worth it for the better overall nutritional value.
Now that we have exhausted all the non-hamburger sandwich options, it is time to wonder how the plain hamburger compares to other Burger King flame-broiled beef burgers.
Adding a piece of cheese, turning the hamburger into a plain cheeseburger, adds an additional 40 calories, 4g fat, 2g saturated fat, 10mg cholesterol, 1 carb, and 220mg sodium above the hamburger’s stats. While the cheese also adds 2g protein, that small amount of protein is hardly worth all the extra bad stuff it comes with. The amount of extra food you get with a single slice of cheese isn’t that filling, either. Clearly, a slice of cheese just isn’t worth the nutritional cost.
If you compare a hamburger to a Whopper, you will find that two hamburgers cost you less than one Whopper for every listed stat except the sugar and the sodium. Two hamburgers cost you 12g of sugar to the Whopper’s 11g, and 980mg sodium to the Whopper’s 970, so both of those values are only a small increase. All in all, even having two plain hamburgers is better for you than one Whopper. Plus, you will get more food with two hamburgers than with a single Whopper. Two hamburgers remain nutritionally superior in the listed stats even if you take the lettuce, tomatoes, and onions off the Whopper, or put them on both the hamburgers. The main culprit in the Whopper’s poor nutritional performance is the mayo. Of course, if you remove the mayo, then you just have an oversize loaded hamburger instead of a Whopper.
In summary, then, the plain hamburger is the healthiest lunch/dinner sandwich on the Burger King menu, based on the nutritional stats that Burger King provides on its nutritional information website.
Burger King nutritional information menu