When McDonald’s Beats Panera

McDonalds vs. Panera healthy food

Earlier this week, I was in a rush. It was lunch break, and I had an hour to get from one appointment to the next, drive across town, and grab something to eat. I wanted to stick to my  healthy goals, but I also didn’t want to pay $45 to get those expensive organic ingredients and arrive 15 minutes late to my next meeting. Out of the windshield of my speeding car, I saw McDonald’s and Panera Bread. Easy, healthy choice: Panera. Right?

Panera Sierra Turkey Sandwich: 920 calories, 441 calories from fat, 12g saturated fat

McDonald’s Big Mac: 550 calories, 260 calories from fat, 10g saturated fat

WTF?! The Sierra Turkey is my favorite sandwich at Panera. And now I see why: it is laced with fat. It almost doubles the Big Mac in calories and fat calories. If you click the links, you can see all the nutritional information. I’m multiplying Panera’s listed “fat grams” by a multiple of 9 to see how many fat calories the sandwich contains (1 gram of fat typically contains 9 calories). Now to be fair to Panera, you can order a half sandwich of the Sierra Turkey (good luck ordering half of a Big Mac). But then you would likely combine it with soup, right?

Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup: 200 calories, 108 calories from fat, 8g saturated fat

With half of the Sierra Turkey sandwich and their smaller cup of Broccoli Cheddar Soup, your total comes to: 660 calories, 328 calories from fat, 14g saturated fat. Still worse than a Big Mac. Now if you add fries to the Big Mac, then this Panera combination becomes a slightly healthier option, but not by much. And the full Sierra Turkey is still less healthy than the Bic Mac-and-Fries combo.

Oh, you are more of a bacon cheeseburger kind of guy? Ok, let’s look at the Burger King Double Bacon Cheeseburger against Jimmy John’s #1 option on their menu: the Pepe sub sandwich.

Burger King vs. Jimmy Johns healthy food

Burger King Double Bacon Cheeseburger: 440 calories, 220 calories from fat, 10g saturated fat

Jimmy John’s Pepe Sub: 614 calories, 276 calories from fat, 8g saturated fat

Again, what’s the deal? The Pepe sub sandwich isn’t even a 12″ sandwich; these stats are for the standard 8″ version. If I had these numbers in my head at lunch, why wouldn’t I want a double bacon cheeseburger that costs less and hurts my body less? Jimmy John’s may be freaky fast, but they are also freaky sneaky with that nutritional information.

I’m not saying you should go out and demolish a buffet from McDonald’s or Burger King. I think we all know that fast food is not the ticket to overall health. But don’t blindly assume that lunch spots pitching themselves as “healthier options” actually are your healthiest choice. If I am serious about respecting my body and getting the most out of it, I owe it to myself to do a little research before putting food into it. In fairness, all four of the mentioned restaurants have better (and worse) menu items for your health goals. Look at the linked nutritional information for yourself. Just make sure you do a little homework the next time you are searching for a quick lunch break.

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