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The Best & Worst Menu Items at A&W, According to a Dietitian

A dietitian reviews the A&W menu to pinpoint exactly what you should order and what to avoid.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

A&W is known for its iconic root beer floats, coney dogs, and cheese curds, which aren't exactly the picture of health. While none of those options are particularly nutritious, enjoying the occasional A&W meal is possible without completely derailing your health and nutrition goals.

If you're one of the estimated 64% of Americans eating fast food at least once a week, you may be wondering how to make A&W work in your diet. Like any other fast-food restaurant, there are better and worse choices on the menu, and it just takes a little investigating to figure out the options. Not every burger will fit into a heart-healthy diet, but there are plenty of ways to eat healthier while on the road, even at a chain known for its indulgent options.

Keep reading to find the best and worst menu items at A&W!


Best: Hamburger

A&W Hamburger
Nutrition (Per serving):
Calories: 350
Fat: 11 g (Saturated fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 650 mg
Carbs: 41 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 9 g)
Protein: 20 g

The original hamburger is as healthy as it gets on A&W's menu. This beef patty is topped with ketchup, mustard, and pickles on a burger bun, and it delivers a satisfying 20 grams of protein with 18% of the daily value (DV) saturated fat and 28% DV of sodium.

Ground beef is also a good source of nutrients like iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins B3, B2, and B6. A 3-ounce patty supplies over 10% of these essential vitamins and minerals.

 15 Healthiest Fast-Food Burgers, According to Dietitians

Worst: Double Papa Burger

Nutrition (Per serving):
Calories: 640
Fat: 35 g (Saturated fat: 12 g)
Sodium: 1,210 mg
Carbs: 42 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 11 g)
Protein: 38 g

The Double Papa Burger has two beef patties, two slices of cheese, and A&W Papa sauce—all of which make it one of the worst on the menu. Not only does it have 52% DV of sodium and 60% DV of saturated fat, but it also has 11 grams of sugar, most of which are added from the Papa sauce and ketchup.


Best: 3-Piece Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders

A&W 3-Piece Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders
Nutrition (Per 3-piece serving):
Calories: 260
Fat: 9 g (Saturated fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 1,100mg
Carbs: 5 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 40 g

A 3-piece Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders order from A&W is the healthiest chicken order you can get. While it has 1,100 milligrams of sodium (48% DV), they're low in fat and high in protein. Protein is essential for satiety, muscle and bone building, and enzyme and hormone production; each order has 40 grams of it. Even though they're fried, each order has just 9 grams of fat and only 13% DV of saturated fat.

 The Best Restaurant Chain Chicken Tenders—Ranked By My Picky Kids

Worst: Hand-Breaded Chicken Club Sandwich

A&W Hand-Breaded Chicken Club Sandwich
Nutrition (Per serving):
Calories: 490
Fat: 20 g (Saturated fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 1,390 mg
Carbs: 42 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 7 g)
Protein: 22 g

Adding a bun, bacon, cheese, mayo, and toppings to your tenders makes the Chicken Club Sandwich the worst chicken option. Each serving has 25% DV of saturated fat and 60% DV of sodium. While adding the tenders to the sandwich brings the calories up to just under 500 calories, you'll only get 22 grams of protein for the entire sandwich.

Hot Dogs

Best: 5-piece Corn Dog Nuggets

A&W 5-piece Corn Dog Nuggets
Nutrition (Per serving):
Calories: 270
Fat: 13 g (Saturated fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 330 mg
Carbs: 30 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 8 g

If you're craving a hot dog, the 5-piece corn dog nuggets are the healthiest way to indulge. Each serving has less than 15% DV of saturated fat and sodium. Thanks to the corn dog breading, you'll get about the same amount of carbohydrates as you would from a hot dog bun, but it does have 8 grams of protein.

Worst: Coney Cheese Dog

A&W cheese coney dog
Nutrition (Per TK serving):
Calories: 360
Fat: 22 g (Saturated fat: 8 g)
Sodium: 1,160 mg
Carbs: 29 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 13 g

Cheese sauce and hot dogs are high in sodium by themselves, and adding them together makes the Coney Cheese Dog the unhealthiest hot dog option. Each coney cheese dog has 50% DV of sodium, and you may not be full or satisfied with just one.


Best: Fries

a&w small fries
Nutrition (Per regular, 4-ounce serving):
Calories: 310
Fat: 13 g (Saturated fat: 3 g)
Sodium: 460 mg
Carbs: 45 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 3 g

A basic order of french fries is your best side option on the A&W menu. While fried potatoes don't sound like a picture of health, the nutritional values aren't terrible. Each 4-ounce order has just 3 grams of saturated fat (15% DV) and 460 milligrams of sodium (20% DV). Plus, because they're real potatoes, you'll also get 4 grams of fiber, a nutrient that most Americans don't get enough of. Just don't try to reach your fiber goals with fries—there are plenty of more nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods to choose from!

 10 Best High-Fiber Foods for Weight Loss

Worst: Cheese Curds

a&w cheese curds
Nutrition (Per regular serving):
Calories: 570
Fat: 40 g (Saturated fat: 21 g)
Sodium: 1,220 mg
Carbs: 27 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 27 g

You can't expect fried cheese to be healthy, but the cheese curds at A&W are by far the worst side option you can order. One order of the regular-sized cheese curds has over 100% of the DV for saturated fat and 53% of the DV for sodium. If you choose the large, you can double all the nutrients as you get twice as many curds—210% of the DV for saturated fat and 106% of the DVfor sodium.

Polar Swirls

Best: Mini Oreo Polar Swirl

A&W Mini Oreo Polar Swirl
Nutrition (Per 6-ounce serving):
Calories: 390
Fat: 10 g (Saturated fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 320 mg
Carbs: 59g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 46 g)
Protein: 9 g

Don't let the word "mini" fool you. The Oreo Polar Swirl's mini size is in a 6-ounce cup—plenty to satisfy any sweet tooth. While there are a lot of added sugars in all of the Polar Swirls, it's the best option on the menu, and it's still incredibly satisfying. While added sugar recommendations are 10% of your daily calories or less to reduce the risk of weight gain and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease, occasionally enjoying a small size of your favorite treat can be part of an overall healthy and nutrient-rich diet.

Worst: M&M Polar Swirl

m&m polar swirl
A&W Restaurants/ Twitter
Nutrition (Per 20-ounce serving):
Calories: 1,190
Fat: 43 g (Saturated fat: 26 g)
Sodium: 640 mg
Carbs: 182 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 162 g)
Protein: 24 g

If you choose the 20-ounce M&M Polar Swirl, you'll get 1,190 calories in addition to 130% DV of saturated fat and 162 grams of sugar, most of which is from added sugars. Make it a healthier choice by choosing the mini size, saving 720 calories and 98 grams of sugar.

Ice Cream Cones and Sundaes

Best: Vanilla Cone

A&W Vanilla Cone
Nutrition (Per 5.5-ounce serving):
Calories: 270
Fat: 8 g (Saturated fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 220 mg
Carbs: 42 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 33 g)
Protein: 7g

A simple vanilla ice cream cone is the best option for an ice cream treat. You can enjoy soft serve in a cone for 33 grams of sugars, some of which are natural sugars from dairy, but many as added sugars. If you want to reduce calories and sugars, you can always ask for your ice cream in a cup instead of a cone!

 15 Low-Calorie Frozen Desserts for Weight Loss

Worst: Hot Fudge Sundae

A&W Hot Fudge Sundae
Nutrition (Per serving):
Calories: 390
Fat: 14 g (Saturated fat: 11 g)
Sodium: 250 mg
Carbs: 60 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 46 g)
Protein: 7 g

Topping vanilla soft serve with hot fudge adds calories, fat, and sugars. While other sundae options include caramel, chocolate, and strawberry, the hot fudge has the most saturated fat, at 11 grams, or 55% of the recommended daily limit.

Shakes and Floats

Best: Diet Root Beer Float

a&w root beer float
Nutrition (Per 16-ounce serving):
Calories: 160
Fat: 5 g (Saturated fat: 3 g)
Sodium: 190 mg
Carbs: 24 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 21 g)
Protein: 4 g

Satisfying and significantly lower in sugar and calories, the Diet Root Beer Float is the best option when you want a refreshing frozen treat from A&W. Choosing the diet root beer option saves a significant amount of added sugars. This 16-ounce float is just 160 calories and has 21 grams of sugar, making it easy to fit into many healthy eating plans as a treat!

 25 Best & Worst Sodas on Grocery Shelves, According to Dietitians

Worst: Chocolate Shake

A&W Chocolate Shake
Nutrition (Per 32-ounce serving):
Calories: 1,160
Fat: 34 g (Saturated fat: 21 g)
Sodium: 830 mg
Carbs: 193 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 166 g)
Protein: 26 g

I'd recommend skipping the chocolate shake if you want to satisfy a sweet treat craving. It will add over a thousand calories to your daily intake and 166 grams of sugar, most of which are added sugars. While it does have 26 grams of protein and plenty of fat to fill you up and keep you full, 21 grams of fat are saturated, over 100% of the amount you should have in one day.

Kelsey Kunik, RDN
Kelsey Kunik is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, nutrition consultant, and sustainable food blogger. Read more about Kelsey
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