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.


    it would be good to know the serving weights and/or a per 100gm ranking..

    I'd like to see how my favorite chips from Lord of the Fries stacks up in this table.
    Hopefully they're not too bad!

      I doubt LOTF chips would score a whole lot better. perhaps they're a little less salty (although I suspect more so than the chains in the article it differs from store to store), perhaps a little lower in saturated fat. Though all mentioned companies probably cook in vegetable oil, so maybe LOTF wouldn't be any better. The fact is white potato, cut into skinny strips, cooked in oil and liberally sprinkled with salt is never going to be a healthy food choice. Large amounts of sodium aside, it's probably not instrinsically UNhealthy, it's just that there's not a whole lot of nutrition relative to the amount of energy gained.

      Lord of the Fries is awesome. Their burgers are also highly delicious.

    The commonly quoted RDI for sodium is 2300mg, 10 times (not double) the amount in a small McDs fries.

      From the link above, you are quoting the upper limit, not the RDI.

      RDI is 460-920 mg/day for adult males.

      Page 221:

        You are quoting the AI (Adequate Intake), not the RDI. That document specifically states that no RDI was calculated, however other sources have. There's no questioning that a high amount of sodium is unhealthy, but it's misleading to quote those quantities as RDI.

      The NHMRC suggested dietary target advises that Australian adults should aim to consume no more than 4g of salt a day (or 1,600mg of sodium) in order to prevent chronic disease. Generally, infants and children need less than adults.

    Problem is though its not only the fries that are bad for you. So rather then saying no to fries its better to just not go there in the first place :).

    I agree with stated, the KFC Large server is larger than the others, so the numbers are obviously going to show higher. Can you add a serving weight to the table?

    I have to agree, your call on Sodium is just bad >.>

    Lifehacker, I hate you. With a single article you have taken away my fries.

    I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream has gone from me. :(
    (Always wanted to use a Matrix quote in a reply.. :P)

    I always thought fries were the "skinny" ones. Chips are the "fat" ones.

    Also, audio output devices that go over your head are called? HEADphones, whereas those that go into your ears are called? EARphones. Who came up with "over-the-head earphones" or "in-ear headphones" anyway!?

    Back on topic, just exercise your ass off after where ever you eat.

    As Adam noted it would be good to have the weight of the servings. This "experiment" fails credibility due to not having this simple data.

    Does anyone over primary school age actually eat any nonfoods from these FFF companies?

    You should have done a comparison of the amount of trans-fat in each serving. Maccas has none - uses a canola oil blend.

    "(and relatively larger amounts for small servings, reflecting the minimum amount that gets doled out after the cooking process)"

    That makes no sense. All of the fries are salted together after they are cooked and before they are split into servings. For each place, the different serving sizes have pretty much the same proportion of salt.

    I find it interesting that there are always people ready to down the big chain fast food outlets for being unhealthy when the local takeaways are just as bad. They never get knocked for serving unhealthy food! It is always how bad maccas and KFC etc are. And yet, compare:

    small fries at maccas (far left):

    small chips at local takeaway (photo by me - note the sauce bottle in bground for size comparison):

    I know that generally, fish & chip store chips are probably meant for more than one person, but I see people (on their own) all the time wandering around eating them! And the chips have a larger surface area to absorb oil too. So where are the articles telling us how bad chips at the fish & chip shops are? hmm? Or are we only allowed to pick on global corporations?

    kCal would be a useful unit for energy.

      to say nothing of having the measurements also given by-the-gram.

    Re the serving weight discussion -- while I agree the typical weights might have been useful (not all companies supply them), I wouldn't have included the per /100 gram figures -- no-one consumes fries in 100 gram lots. The serving you get is almost certainly the serving you'll eat.


    Id like to know about LOTF fries too,cholesterol is as informative as these other pieces of info ..
    Do mcdonalds and co pre treat fries with beef fat etc before cooking in vege oil ?

    Good god

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