The Best & Worst Menu Items at A&W

This is the ultimate guide to eating right at this fast food spot.
A&W restaurant exterior

When you think of delicious, cold root beer, the brand A&W almost always comes to mind. But did you know that A&W root beer goes far beyond picking up a 12-pack of cans in the grocery store? That's right, A&W Restaurants is a popular fast-food chain that offers up a slew of hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and more savory goods, in addition to root beer floats and other desserts. But if you're dining at one of their many worldwide locations not only for the root beer, it's important to know the best and worst A&W menu options available to you. That said, we checked in with Amy Tao, MS, of Based Wellness, to help us decipher the chain's menu.

Here are the best and worst items you can order from the A&W menu.

Classic Burgers and Chicken

Best: 3 Piece Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders

a&w hand breaded chicken tenders
Courtesy of A&W
260 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 40 g protein

Although this is the best choice in its category, it's important to be aware of which dipping sauce you're choosing.

"When choosing condiments, don't forget to think about things like fat, sugar, or sodium content, as the condiment choice could send this towards the bottom of the list," says Tao.

In this case, you're better off without one.

Worst: Bacon Double Cheeseburger

a&w bacon double cheeseburger
Courtesy of A&W
647 calories, 41 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,923 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (2 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 29 g protein

If you really want a burger, this isn't the one to get. Instead, when it comes to the grilled options, "Opting for burgers or sandwiches without cheese and mayonnaise and half or no bun is also a way to save a few calories," says Tao. "Choose plain yellow mustard, and ask for them to double the lettuce, tomato, and onion! Or, you could still indulge by choosing the regular hamburger instead, which contains 342 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 875 grams of sodium. Add extra veggies to this option, ditch half the bun, and even if you choose to add cheese, it will still be a far better option than the Bacon Double Cheeseburger!"

Hot Dogs

Best: 5 Piece Corn Nuggets

a&w corn nuggets
Courtesy of A&W
175 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 519 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 6 g protein

These breaded and fried hot dog delights are surprisingly not too high in calories.

"I never imagined that I would place a 5-piece order of Corn Dog Nuggets on a 'best' list, but it's all relative," says Tao. "Even with 175 calories, 9 grams of fat, 519 mg of sodium, and 6 grams of sugar, this is still the best option."

Worst: Coney Cheese Dog

a&w coney cheese dog
Courtesy of A&W
380 calories, 23 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 14 g protein

It can't be a surprise that a hot dog loaded with cheese, chili, and onions has landed itself as one of the worst A&W menu options.

"The coney cheese dog has more than double the calories, fat, and sodium compared to the Corn Dog Nuggets," says Tao.

Sides

Best: Small Fries

a&w small fries
Courtesy of A&W
201 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 290 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Believe it or not, a warm and crispy small order of fries has landed itself as the best side option, but Tao doesn't think you should settle for that.

"Always feel free to ask if they have any options that may not be on the menu, such as a side salad, fruit (even applesauce or slices!), broth-based soup, or anything baked to bulk up your meal with more nutrient-dense foods," she says.

Worst: Large Cheese Curds

a&w cheese curds
Courtesy of A&W
1,140 calories, 80 g fat (42 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,440 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (4 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 54 g protein

These succulent bites of real 100 percent Wisconsin cheddar cheese may be lightly breaded and golden-fried with a delicious taste, but a large order of cheese curds contains 1,140 calories, 80 grams of fat, and 2,440 milligrams of sodium.

"This is more than an entire day's worth," says Tao. "Steer clear!"

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Sweet Treats

Best: Small Soft Serve Chocolate Ice Cream (4 oz.)

chocolate soft serve in cone
Shutterstock
155 calories, 4.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 105 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (1 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 3 g protein

You'll be glad to know that this chocolate treat on a crunchy cone is one of the best A&W menu item options. But it's important to note that with all sweets, the sugar content tends to be on the higher side.

"While it does contain 17 grams of sugar, it is all relative," says Tao. "This soft serve ice cream contains less sugar than the majority of items in this category!"

Best: Small Diet Root Beer Float (16 oz.)

a&w root beer float
Courtesy of A&W
170 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 105 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (0 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 2 g protein

While the Diet Root Beer Float may not be as high in calories, fat, or sugar compared to other options, many of the 'savings' are because of the use of diet root beer, which is sweetened with an artificial sweetener called aspartame," Tao says. Because studies show negative effects of consuming too much aspartame, Tao says "the diet root beer float should be consumed sparingly, and it may just be better to go for a small serving of the full sugar option!"

Worst: Large Chocolate Milkshake (32 oz.)

chocolate milkshake
Shutterstock
1,322 calories, 36 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,045 mg sodium, 225 g carbs (3 g fiber, 188 g sugar), 34 g protein

All we have to say here is hello, sugar!

"The large chocolate milkshake is not only the worst option in this category, but it's also one of the worst items on the entire menu [if not the worst]," says Tao. "This milkshake contains 1,322 calories, 36 grams of fat, and a seriously shocking 188 grams of sugar, which translates to 47 teaspoons of sugar." To put it into perspective, 47 teaspoons of sugar is just barely under a whole cup of sugar.

"If you are at A&W and really want a milkshake, order a small and split it with someone," she says.

Worst: Large Vanilla Milkshake (32 oz.)

vanilla milkshake
Shutterstock
1,182 calories, 36 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 825 mg sodium, 196 g carbs (0 g fiber, 174 g sugar), 31 g protein

Going with a vanilla milkshake over chocolate isn't much better, either.

"While the large vanilla milkshake isn't as packed with calories, fat, and sugar as the chocolate milkshake, it is not far behind at all, and it is probably best to avoid ordering one unless you're splitting it with a few other people," Tao says. "The large vanilla milkshake contains 174 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of 43.5 teaspoons of sugar." Yikes!

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Samantha Faragalli Younghans
Samantha Faragalli Younghans is a freelance food, health, and lifestyle writer. Read more
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