Some fast food items sounds like they wouldn’t be as high in calories as they are. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is also the worst.
Earlier this year, my (now) wife — who has a YouTube series called Eat, Drink and Be Skinny — did a guest list on here of 11 Fast Food Items That Are Surprisingly Not Terrible For You.
I thought I’d have her come back after an appropriate amount of time had passed to do the counterpoint list — 11 fast food items that might sound “lighter” than other options but are actually quite high in calories.
Here are her picks, plus a little commentary from me on each of them. And please do check out her show, it’s quite funny AND informative. Like a professor at clown college.
1 | Burger King Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich, 510 calories
Most of these calories are in the bun, but it’s still a lot higher than other fast food grilled chicken sandwiches. McDonald’s Premium Grilled Chicken Classic is 350 calories. Their crispy (AKA fried) chicken sandwich is 510 — the same as this BK grilled one. I think one day we will come full circle on the word fried. The ’90s were all about hiding or getting rid of the word on menus, but I bet any day now the government is going to force restaurants to change “crispy” back to “fried” so we are all aware of what’s going on. It’ll probably happen after someone sues KFC because, “I ate there every day and didn’t know the ‘F’ stood for fried!”
Sam’s comment: I haven’t trusted Burger King’s lighter items since I read an article earlier this year about how their new turkey burger contains chicken fat, dried chicken and dried chicken stock as ingredients. Not all poultry is interchangeable.
2 | Panera Bread Sierra Turkey Cafe Sandwich on Asiago Cheese Focaccia, 810 calories
I feel like most people think they’re doing a good thing when ordering a turkey sandwich. It sounds healthy and can often BE healthy; unfortunately, this particular turkey sandwich at Panera is very high in calories. But, the great thing about Panera is that you can always order a half sandwich. Or you can order the full sandwich and give half to the homeless guy sitting at the table next to you talking on his Nokia flip phone. Or is that just at my Panera?
Sam’s comment: It used to just be your Panera, now it’s OUR Panera. In marriage, we share everything, including our hobo-filled Panera.
3 | Chick-Fil-A Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit, 670 calories
Usually breakfast sandwiches are small enough that you can avoid going overboard on calories, even if they have sausage and cheese. Not this guy. It’s the highest calorie sandwich on their menu (not just the breakfast menu, the whole menu).
Sam’s comment: I don’t know… according to Chick-Fil-A, it’s only natural for sausage and egg to go together. HI-YO!
4 | McDonald’s McCafe Frappe Mocha and Frappe Caramel, small, 450 calories
You just wouldn’t think that a *small* coffee drink would have enough calories to count as a meal. I don’t understand coffee drinks in general, as I don’t drink coffee, but for those who do, please read up on your calorie info before blindly ordering. You might be drinking meals and not even know it! Save your meal drinking for when you’re stuck in the hospital with your jaw wired shut. Shout out to Kanye, circa 2003!
Sam’s comment: We still argue over whether mentions of jaws being wired shut should be linked to Kanye West or to the Simpsons episode where Homer wouldn’t ride the donkey. I say Simpsons, as I always do.
5 | Taco Bell Cantina Burrito – Veggie, 720 calories
The Cantina menu is positioned to look like a “healthy” choice, but that’s clearly not the case. It’s hard to get to 720 calories without any meat. This thing is higher in calories than the Cheesy Potato Burrito (520) and all of their smothered burritos! Taco Bell says that this Cantina menu is made with all fresh ingredients prepared daily, so yes, this burrito is probably less processed than their other burritos, but still. Speaking of the Cheesy Potato Burrito, what are potatoes doing in a burrito anyway? Except for maybe a breakfast burrito. Actually, that reminds me, a few weeks ago I had the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life and it was just jam packed with hash browns and tons of cheese.
Sam’s comment: That paragraph seems a little rambling, but not to me. I hear those stream of consciousness food rants daily. Sometimes hourly.
6 | Jack in the Box Chicken Teriyaki Bowl, 690 calories
This is listed under their “Healthy Dining” menu. It does have vegetables in it, but that’s grasping at straws a little bit. Those calories aren’t coming from the broccoli, and 690 calories is high for a small bowl. Plus this bowl has 134 grams of carbs and 1,912 grams of sodium! GASP! That’s more than any health professional recommends for a human in a day.
Sam’s comment: I’ve never met anyone who has eaten Jack in the Box sober — or as anything but an absolute last resort — and I’m fairly sure none of them has ever ordered the chicken teriyaki bowl. So, uh, the next time you’re at Jack in the Box at two in the morning, avoid ordering this thing you were never going to order in the first place.
7 | Pei Wei Traditional Chicken Lettuce Wraps, 670 calories
That doesn’t include the sauce that it comes with which is an additional 60. This was a bit shocking to me. I ordered this a few months ago thinking it was a light lunch option. I thought it would be maybe in the mid 400s calorie-wise but then looked it up when I got home and it made me sad.
Sam’s comment: This one was the most surprising to me. I saw those chicken lettuce wraps and I have no idea how they manage to get them to 670 calories. They must cook them in sugar-plumped shortening and glaze them with hollandaise sauce.
8 | Chipotle Salad (lettuce, chicken, black beans, cheese, dressing), 635 calories
I love when people say, “Oh, I never get a real burrito at Chipotle. I get the salad.” Well, the burrito shell is 290 calories — but their salad dressing is 215. The salad’s only a smarter option if you go for salsa instead of dressing.
Sam’s comment: I stopped going to Chipotle ever since the assembly line workers became more draconian about the beans. They always tightly regulated the meat but used to allow you to load up with beans. Now the only thing they’ll give you wantonly is rice. We can’t have that.
9 | Baja Fresh Chips and Guacamole, 1,340 calories
I actually laughed out loud when I found out this number. Chips and guac never seem THAT bad for you. Avocados are so healthy! And it’s not like you’re eating a whole bag of chips. Or are you? Seriously, 1,340 calories is insane. You might just be eating the equivalent of a Costco size bag of chips. Also, FYI, every meal at Baja comes with a side of tortilla chips and that side alone is 210 calories. So just be careful. Or stop eating here. I did in 2007.
Sam’s comment: Having “Fresh” in the name of the restaurant is a good way of tricking people into believing their chips aren’t, apparently, deep fried over and over and over. Maybe they’re always just deep fried in fresh oil?
10 | Five Guys Cheeseburger, 840 calories
It seems like a simple, basic cheeseburger to order — but it’s 840 calories, 300 more than a Big Mac. And that’s with no condiments, not even ketchup. This is one of the highest fast food cheeseburgers I’ve ever come across, and believe me, I am very familiar with fast food cheeseburgers. This burger has two patties but so does McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger and it’s only 440 calories. The bun alone at Five Guys is 260 calories! Why?! (Added bonus info: their smallest order of fries, called the “Little Fries”, is 526 calories. That’s about 300 more than your average fast food small fries. WHO ARE THESE FIVE GUYS and why do they love calories so much?!)
Sam’s comment: The bun is 260 calories because they butter it up, much like I butter up my bacon and bacon up my sausage.
11 | Starbucks Reduced-Fat Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake, 340 calories
Before Starbucks was forced to display their calorie information I used to blindly order this delicious treat. As a snack. Now that I can see the calories of everything there, the only thing I feel comfortable ordering is a bottle of water. Knowledge is the worst.
Sam’s comment: Knowledge really is the worst. For more knowledge on fast food choices that are lower in calories, check out Angie Greenup’s Eat, Drink and Be Skinny on YouTube!