13 Healthiest Fast Food Burgers, Recommended By Nutritionists
Making a healthy decision when it comes to fast-food restaurants can be hard. Fast food is notoriously high-fat, high-calorie, and greasy—and burgers, a drive-thru staple, are no different. That being said, not all burgers are terrible for you. According to dietitian nutritionists, there are actually 13 orders that meet the requirements to be the healthiest fast food burgers.
"When I look at what defines a healthy burger, as a dietitian and culinary student, I consider nutrition, flavor, appearance and if it actually makes me feel satisfied," says Amber Pankonin MS, RD, LMNT, registered dietitian and owner of Stirlist. "When considering nutrition, I look at calories from fat, carbohydrates, and protein, and I also consider sodium content."
We asked three dietitians for their top picks of the healthiest fast food burgers you should order at your next stop at your favorite fast-food restaurant.
"It doesn't feel like I'm depriving myself at all when choosing this burger," says Pankonin. "I love the flavor and the addition of fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and onion. The amount of sodium is great for a fast-food burger." If you're watching your salt intake, you might want to check out other dietitian-approved low-sodium fast food orders.
"In-N-Out has an easy menu to choose from with healthy options for all different burger types. I like this burger because you don't feel guilty with carbohydrates from the buns," says Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "It's a big serving size, but you don't have to worry about the amount of sodium and cholesterol intake than other comparable sized burgers."
"This burger packs 14 g of protein," says Tony Castillo, MS, RDN, LD, registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.
"This burger is really similar to BK's Whopper Jr, but it does have a little more sodium," says Pankonin. "Overall, very satisfying and tastes great."
Coming from the same restaurant that coined the supersize, it's almost surprising that McDonald's can rank on a list of the healthiest fast food burgers. "This burger only has 9 g of fat and 12 g of protein," says Castillo. "You could add a side salad to this meal to round it out." For more ideas of what you shouldn't necessarily order at the Golden Arches, check out our list of the worst menu items at McDonald's.
"The original butter burger not only looks visually appealing, but it is super satisfying," says Pankonin. "I also appreciate Culver's commitment to sustainability and that the burger comes from 100 percent ground beef."
"For a burger, this is a lower calorie option," says Valdez. "It's almost to the 20 grams of protein for a meal, which should be a goal."
"This burger tastes amazing and is incredibly filling. This might be a little higher in calories compared to the others, but I like that when I eat it, I feel completely satisfied," says Pankonin. "However, I also love the fact that I can [cut carbs and] order this 'green style' which eliminates the bun and replaces it with fresh, crisp lettuce. Although the nutrition facts aren't available with green style, I'm guessing that would easily reduce the calories and sodium making it a 300 calorie burger with 500 mg (or less) of sodium."
"This burger has 15g of protein and you can ask for extra veggies!" says Castillo.
"This serving size is the smallest compared to most burgers, but provides a quick bite and you don't feel guilty about eating another if you want (no one really eats just one slider)," says Valdez. "The combo meal comes with 4 original sliders, small fries, and a drink that can be shared with a friend, and doesn't hurt your wallet."
"This burger might have a few more calories, but it's the healthiest burger option at Freddy's when you consider calories and sodium," says Pankonin. "There is no need to order any side items when ordering this burger because it will make you feel extremely satisfied."
"This burger is flavor-packed and hefty, even if it is a 'Jr.' burger," says Valdez. "This hamburger is bigger, has fewer calories, and more protein than the leading competitor plain hamburger at Mcdonald's. And it's the best bang for your buck."
13. Five Guys Hamburger (half bun, lettuce, tomato, grilled mushrooms, jalapeño, no condiments)
For the number of calories and protein in this large burger, it will deliver "a higher satiety level than their other burger counterparts," says Valdez. "I chose this without having condiments, which can have hidden sodium, but replaced it with other flavors like a mushroom which can be meat-like, jalapeños for a little spice, and a fresh taste with lettuce and tomatoes. And I cut the bun to just half to have some carbohydrates as it is the main source of energy, but not too heavy on the total carbohydrate component—the perfect balance."