Health

How Unhealthy Are Australia's Takeaway Fries?


“Do you want fries with that?” The answer should always be no, but just how unhealthy are those side servings when you do decide to indulge? We rank the options from Hungry Jack’s, KFC and McDonald’s.

Picture by ableman

Takeaway food has its benefits — convenience, free Wi-Fi, somewhere the kids can play on road trips — but it’s hard to make the case that it’s the most nutritious choice. Most major chains offer a couple of token “healthy” options, but the vast majority of people end up ordering a more fat-laden burger meal, and one which almost always includes a side serve of fries.

Yes, I know, it would be more Australian to call them chips, but of the three fast-food chains we’ve looked at here, two use the term fries throughout their menus, reflecting their American origins. (KFC sticks to the ‘chips’ label, and also offers only two sizes rather than three.) Whatever you call them, just how unhealthy are they?

We’ve summarised the nutritional data for fries below, based on the information published on the KFC, McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s sites and covering overall kilojoule count, fat (overall and saturated) and sodium (salt). These figures will obviously vary slightly with any individual serve.

What are the big lessons we can learn from the data? The obvious one is this: don’t have the fries. Even the smallest serving offers up 1021 kilojoules, which is around 10% of the recommended amount for a physically active adult male. KFC’s large serve is notably larger than the other chains, and covers as much energy as you’d typically need from an entire meal.

If your craving is too great, which venue you choose might well depend on your relative tolerance for fat in general and saturated fat in particular. McDonald’s scores the best on the latter criteria, with a much lower percentage of saturated fat used in its fry production. On the other hand, its overall fat content is the highest of the three chains.

Everyone uses large amounts of salt (and relatively larger amounts for small servings, reflecting the minimum amount that gets doled out after the cooking process). The 245mg in a small McDonald’s serving is the smallest on offer, but still comprises almost half of the recommended daily intake of sodium for an adult male.


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