Consumerist's Ultimate Fast Food Nutrition Guide: 2008

Back in January of 2007, we took a look at fast food and chain restaurant websites to see who was hiding their nutritional information and who was making it easy for consumers to find out what was in their favorite menu items. We found that some chains were offering a veritable buffet of information, while others either ignored the subject altogether or hid links to PDFs in the depths of their fine print. Because of this, inside, we’ve got a nutritional info report card of about 50 top fast food joints. We tell you whether they have the info online at all, provide nutritional info for all items, if it’s easy to locate, and whether they have allergen info. We also give an overall rating to the overall quality of the nutritional info, and provide direct links to the nutrition page or PDF.

In the year that’s passed since our original post, there’s been quite a bit of controversy over nutrition information — city and state governments have tried (with varying degrees of success) to pass regulations that would require fast food and chain restaurants alike to post nutritional information where customers would see it while ordering. When New York City passed a law forcing restaurants who already provided nutritional information to post calorie info on menus, some restaurants pulled their nutritional information from their websites rather than be forced to disclose it on the menu. Now that the dust has finally settled (NYC’s original law was overturned and they passed a new one that required chains with more than 15 locations to post calorie information on menu boards), we decided to take a look at fast food and chain restaurant websites to see what, if any, effect the scuffle had on the availability of nutritional information.

We have good news. More restaurants are posting nutrition and allergen information than a year ago, and the information is featured more prominently on restaurant websites. There are a few exceptions, of course. A few restaurants have taken a step backwards or are treading water. Chains like Red Lobster, Applebee’s and Olive Garden are notoriously unwilling to divulge too much information. Outback Steakhouse is full of suggestions on how to order healthier versions of their menu items, but that’s about it. Quiznos has a list of low calorie menu items, but when you compare their information to Subway’s website with its extensive nutrition section… well, you get the idea. For the most part, however, nutrition and allergen information is getting top billing on fast food websites, and that’s a step in the right direction.

So without further ado:

Consumerist’s Ultimate Fast Food Nutrition Guide: 2008

Restaurant
Nutritional Information Provided For All Items?
Nutritional Info Easy To Locate?
Allergen Info?
Rating?
Is there a nutrition page?
Applebee’s
No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Arby’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
A&W Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Baskin Robin’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Bennigan’s No
No
No
Nonexistent No
Burger King Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
California Pizza Kitchen No
No
No
Poor Only For Grocery Items
Chipotle Yes
Yes
Yes
Above Average
PDF only
Chili’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Above Average
PDF only
Chick-Fil-A Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Dairy Queen Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Denny’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Above Average
PDF only
Domino’s Pizza Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Dunkin’ Donuts Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Fat Burger Yes
Yes No
Average PDF only
Friendly’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Above Average
PDF only
Fuddrucker’s No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Hardee’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Hooters No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
In-N-Out Burger Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
International House of Pancakes No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Jack In The Box Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent Yes
Jamba Juice Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
KFC Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Krispy Kreme Yes
Yes
No
Average
PDF only
Little Caesar’s Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Lone Star Steak House

No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Long John Silver’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
McDonald’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Olive Garden No
No
No
Nonexistent
“Garden Fare” only
Outback Steak House No
Yes
Yes
Poor
Yes
Papa John’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Panda Express Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Perkins No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Pizza Hut Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Quiznos No
Yes
Yes
Poor
Yes
Red Lobster No
No
Yes
Poor
No
Red Robin Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Ruby Tuesday’s Yes
Yes No
Average
PDF only
Sbarro No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Sonic Yes
Yes
No
Average
PDF only
Starbucks Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Steak ‘N Shake Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Subway Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
TGIF No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Taco Bell Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Taco John’s Yes
Yes
No
Average
PDF only
Uno’s Chicago Grill Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Wendy’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
White Castle Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes


(Photo: Tom Simpson )

Comments

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  1. DubbleB17 says:

    Now if only this information would stop me from eating all this deliciously unhealthy food.

  2. greenpepper says:

    I’ve wondered if these nutrition statements take into account such things as the sauces used at Subway. For instance, is the value shown on a sub naked or with full toppings and sauces added. A Big Mac’s nutritional statement includes sauce. So… are these statements tit for tat, or biased because of added ingredients?

  3. mercnet says:

    Why do people care if they post it or not? If you are eating fast food, you probably are not counting calories.

  4. MissPeacock says:

    This is helpful. Great post!

  5. KlausKinsky says:

    Would be nice to see which companies that post their nutritional information are actually truthful about their numbers.

  6. @mercnet: I agree with you in principle. I think it’s important for these companies to print the rough outline of what’s in the food, but if you’re reading it intently, you’re probably not dieting very well to begin with. And if you’ve been dieting, you don’t generally need nutrition info to tell you what’s bad and what’s good.

    My wife and I have played the nutrition guessing game at restaurants before–we eat something and then quiz each other on the nutrition content. It’s surprisingly easy. Except for the sodium…take whatever you think it is, then triple it.

  7. Lance Uppercut says:

    @mercnet:

    That’s not always true. I, and probably lots of others, always keep track of my daily calories even though I’m not anywhere near overweight. If I know I’m going to be eating out I try to look on the restaurant’s web site before I go.

    Plus, a lot of people know fast food isn’t good for them, but probably don’t realize just how many calories are in some of the items. Maybe it will cause them to get a Diet Coke with that Big Mac instead of a shake and save 700 calories.

  8. tastybytes says:

    even though i am eating fast food. i would still prefer a guide for caloric differences between products. the 4000 calorie taco salad might not be the right choice compared to the 500 calorie greasy burger. of course, these numbers are probably all meaningless anyway..

  9. IMO Fuddrucker’s doesn’t even need a nutritional guide. Everything there is horribly [deliciously] bad for you, but being a health nut I love to eat there on occasion

  10. PinkNightmare says:

    [www.maxandermas.com]

    Useless for nutritional info…their menu has a ton of items and there are next to none on their nutritional info page…why bother???

    I look up menus/nutritional info before I get to a restaurant so I can select something halfway decent…my last trip to Max & Erma’s had me getting a plain salad with the least offensive dressing on the side. I haven’t been back since because that was a boring, although “safe”, selection.

  11. chiieddy says:

    @mercnet: Not necessarily true. I record my calories but sometimes it’s REALLY hard not to grab fast food, especially when traveling. We’ve tried a couple of alternatives to stopping along the highway and have recently figured out we can stop easily at Wholefoods to grab a meal. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s all that much better. We regularly eat/drink Starbucks as well (due to my husband working there), so knowing the calories is very useful. I can plan a coffee vs latte vs doubleshot over ice (v. good) based on calories/fat/sugar.

  12. @greenpepper: McDonald’s has — or used to have — a feature where you can “build” your meal and tell it what condiments/salad dressing/toppings you want putt on or left off. Then it calculates the calories with those specific things on and off the food item. Very helpful.

    @mercnet: Sometimes you don’t have a lot of other options (when traveling, or when working off-site somewhere odd), sometimes you were too pressed for time to make lunch and only have a few minutes to grab something, and sometimes you just want a greasy McBurger.

    Any nutritionist will tell you that ANY food can be part of a well-balanced, healthy diet, IF EATEN IN MODERATION. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional hit of McDonald’s.

    (And while I don’t check the calories often, I do every now and then go remind myself of how many calories some different things on the menu have, so that when I DO get a McCraving or am traveling, I can make reasonable choices that aren’t diet-busting.)

  13. AwesomeJerkface says:

    @mercnet:
    Aside from the reasons mentioned by other responses, there’s also the deceptively unhealthy… loads of fast food places milk an image of “healthier” and “fresher” while in actuality being pretty bad themselves. Of course you wouldn’t know that unless you had numbers and nutritional info.

    Then you have the fact that your logic is just flawed. Should companies be allowed to just leave nutritional information off “junk food” in the supermarket? Hell, why don’t we just do away with all nutritional info.

  14. battra92 says:

    @dabrown: Maybe it will cause them to get a Diet Coke with that Big Mac instead of a shake and save 700 calories

    I remember when I was an adolescent and my parents both worked funny hours and we went to Burger King twice a week. I kind of wish I’d never eaten all those Vanilla Shakes …

    On the bright side I’m losing weight slowly but surely due to not eating these things. Charts like these help me because when I’m out I know I can eat a BK Hamburger (not a double or Whopper) and not feel guilty as it’s only 150 calories. If fact I can eat a Kids Meal for around 600 calories.

    What’s kind of scary is the smaller McDonalds hamburgers have 100 more calories and Wendy’s has even more. I seriously would have thought it would be the other way around.

    Maybe I should treat myself to a Kids meal this week!

  15. durkzilla says:

    @mercnet:

    There are a lot of restaurants on that list that you can’t consider to be “fast food”. Sit down restaurants like Outback and Olive Garden have the same responsibility to provide consumers with the facts on what they are serving.

  16. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    @greenpepper: Not to be snarky, but learn to read. The napkins, signs, even the register (at the subway I go to) has the disclaimer that nutritional info does NOT include cheese and condiments.

  17. Smaugster says:

    White Castle is still around? Neighhhh!!!!!
    {I remember the horse-meat scandal}
    Try not stuffing your face with everything you can get your grubby little hands on. The real secret is to learn how to eat, not what to eat. Salt is the biggest threat to your health. Demand less in the products you buy.
    Eschew the “psuedo” meat that “McD’s” pawns off, Your local non corporate type burger joints are way better.

  18. greenpepper says:

    I understand it’s written that way, but how harmful is it to have the squirts of sauce added, and how beneficial is it to order a big mac without the sauce.

    The nutritional charts need to account for this.

  19. Streyeder says:

    I don’t see anything on Waffle House’s website. :(

  20. redx says:

    I don’t agree with your findings. There is at least some nutritional info for ihop as its listed in the menus. And for quiznos, its difficult to find or at least it used to be.

  21. darkryd says:

    Fast Food Nutrition Guide – isn’t that an oxymoron?

  22. Jamie Beckland says:

    Thanks, Consumerist. This is a huge public service, and I am digging this post.

  23. Tmoney02 says:

    @greenpepper:

    I don’t want to get snarky on you either but have you actually looked at a subway napkin? I have it in front of me and it tells you the nutrition of 2 slices of cheese, mustard, and olive oil. You can add those values to your sandwich value and figure it out exactly. I’m sure the website and elsewhere has the nutritional info for all the sauces.

    That said your asking “how beneficial is it to order a big mac without the sauce.” is valid. Subway is the exception not the rule in how they show their values. I believe eventually the way subway does their nutritional info (dry sandwiches with sauces and extras having values that can be added) will become the standard, or at least people will want it to be the standard.

  24. boss_lady says:

    @dabrown: I agree with you. I’m quite health-conscious but have been known to indulge in
    Subway from time to time. Since I don’t eat there often, I don’t have the calorie/fat/protein/fibre content of each bread/topping/sauce memorized. It’s great to have it available so that even if I indulge in my ‘fast food,’ I’m not throwing my hard work out the window.

  25. boss_lady says:

    @battra92: The BK veggie burger is actually a delicious choice there, too, if you need to eat on the run. I think that it is low in calories as well- at least it was last time I checked. I do know that the patty itself used to be considered 100% vegan, but BK has since added egg to it.

  26. Bil312 says:

    As far as Quizno’s not having nutritional info on all items, maybe you’ve missed the nutritional information link on the bottom of the pages? You have to click that first, then the info magically becomes available for the items. It seems to be on every food category’s page.

  27. HeartBurnKid says:

    @greenpepper: Subway, I believe, includes your basic veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc.), but no sauce. However, they do list their sauces separately, so a little basic addition will get you where you want to go.

  28. Apoch says:

    You didn’t list Checker’s/Rally’s. Which is okay because they have nothing listed and will provide no information. Their menu has a had a large amount of change and will the information will be updated soon. (Soon being, uh, it’s 2008, they first said that 2001, um.. 2050?)

  29. HeartBurnKid says:

    @mercnet: I count calories and I eat fast food. At most fast food places, it’s actually fairly simple to get a satisfying meal under 500 calories, if you choose your items carefully.

  30. iomatic (I know I'm an idiot, but I'll comment anyway) says:

    @darkryd: Indeed it is an oxymoron.

    Traveling: You could always pack some trail mix, a decently-made (think local) jerky (turkey, beef, or what have you); maybe even a bit of sticky rice (It’s similar to what Samurais carried–sprinkle it with some MSG-free Japanese-made nori or something)? Key carry: nutrition bars, rolled fruit snacks, water.

    Fed my starved extended family members when awaiting a very massive USC graduation. Afterwards, found some nice, homemade local fare, all amidst the rush and hubub of tens of thousands of people looking for Starbucks. Then, off to some fresh seafood.

    Not hard.

  31. awd55 says:

    I just wanted to clarify that Quizno’s actually has quite an extensive nutrition list, it’s just not all centralized. If you go to the individual food type pages under the menu heading (Quizno’s Subs, Sammies, etc…) and then click the show nutrition link at the bottom, a button next to each item comes up that allows you to customize your particular item based on size toppings and such.

    It isn’t the most convenient nutrition page, but I like it because it allows you to customize your food instead of adding up the different ingredients like Subway.

  32. Heresy Of Truth says:

    This is a great post. Allergen info always something I am looking for. Eating out when you have Celiac Disease is irritating to say the least. Knowing who publishes their allergen info is definitely helpful.

  33. dollywould says:

    @iomatic: Yes, but that is in Los Angeles, where I also live, and fresh local fare is abundant. However, my family lives in the midwest – the land of chain restaurants. Most of the time when I visit, we eat at home, but sometimes we’ll meet other family out.

    I loved this feature, very informative. I eat out very rarely, but when I do, I like to know what my best choices are. And I watch what I eat very carefully and have kept off a substantial amount of weight over the last five years.

  34. Asvetic says:

    Where’s the mashup tool that’ll let me construct an imaginary sub or burger with whatever toppings I want and will give the caloric count for those items? The informations out there, anyone got the skills to build a nice widget?

  35. HeartBurnKid says:

    @iomatic: “Local” != “healthy”. In fact, most of the local restaurants I’ve been to are perfectly fine serving you huge portions of things just swimming in gravy, sauces, and the like; not a good recipe for weight loss.

    And please don’t tell me you count sticky rice as “nutritious” — white rice of any sort is pretty much just empty calories.

  36. hejustlaughs says:

    hey, that picture in the article is of the mcdonalds on canal st. by chinatown. it has like 3 floors.

  37. drewdc says:

    Nice compilation of information here. I had been looking for something like this for a while.

    Over the years I’ve gathered nutrition information from the web sites of various chain restaurants I’ve come across. Here are a bunch that you omitted from your list (note that some are regional chains or may not fit everyone’s definition of “fast food”):

    Auntie Anne’s – [auntieannes.com]

    Baja Fresh – [www.bajafresh.com]

    Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops – [benandjerrys.com]

    Blimpie – [blimpie.com]

    Bojangles – [bojangles.com]

    Boston Market – [www.bostonmarket.com]

    Carl’s Jr. – [www.carlsjr.com]

    Carvel – [carvel.com]

    Cheeburger Cheeburger (Microsoft Excel format) – [www.cheeburger.com]

    Chevys Fresh Mex (PDF) – [chevys.com]

    Cold Stone Creamery – [www.coldstonecreamery.com]

    Corner Bakery – [www.cornerbakery.com]

    Così – [www.getcosi.com]

    Culver’s – [culvers.com]

    Einstein Bros. Bagels (PDF) – [www.einsteinbros.com]

    Fazoli’s – [fazolis.com]

    Jerry’s Subs & Pizza – [www.jerrys-subs.com]

    Orange Julius – [www.orangejulius.com]

    Panera Bread (PDF) – [www.panerabread.com]

    Popeye’s (PDF) – [popeyes.com]

    TCBY (partial info; see individual product line pages) – [www.tcby.com]

  38. iomatic (I know I'm an idiot, but I'll comment anyway) says:

    @heidiho: Oh, I brought my own snacks.

    Yes, true; LA is a tad more bountiful than most places (but the Northwest truly rules in the food department). I’m sure with the power of the Intarwebs, we could all find some good grub anywhere.

  39. iomatic (I know I'm an idiot, but I'll comment anyway) says:

    @HeartBurnKid: I meant stuff I bought locally; here in the Pac.NW, we can get fresh, well, pretty much anything. Local produce and meats are the norm, and hopefully we can find good, fresh foods that are not tampered or over-sauced, as you mention, anywhere. Maybe you can find better restaurants? Where do you live? Try a grocery store, perhaps?

    Sticky rice was just a suggestion (albeit poor) for carrying some nutrition. It’s just a supplement in case you’re extremely strapped.

  40. BrockBrockman says:

    How are there so many “Excellent” and “Above Average” ratings, but only 3 “Average” ratings? Not sure that makes sense. Unless “nonexistent” is also considered “Average.”

  41. RosanneAhriman says:

    Chick-fil-a adds msg to their nuggets and as an extra ingredient in their chicken salad. I just ate there and my head started pounding, my throat hurts and I was wondering what the heck is in it. It’s the MSG– migrane in 3..2..1.. ( I have contacted the company – no word yet)