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The 5 Healthiest Fast-Food Fish Sandwiches—and 9 To Avoid

Registered dietitians weigh in on where you should—and shouldn't—get your fast-food fish fix.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

February 14th signals the start of Lent for many, marking the countdown to Easter. Although traditions differ per person and religious affiliation, one common practice is to stop eating meat on Fridays and switch to delicious fish in religious observance of this season.

Regardless of whether you partake in Lent, fast-food chains across the nation are bringing back their fish options, offering a variety of choices for those seeking quick and hassle-free meals, especially while on the move. While fish like cod, walleye, and tuna commonly found in these sandwiches boast essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it's worth noting that most fast-food joints heavily batter and fry their fish, potentially masking their nutritional benefits.

We rounded up the top 14 best and worst fast-food fish sandwiches across the nation from seafood chains like Long John Silver's to Dairy Queen, to see which ones deserve a spot in your meal rotation and which might be better left at the drive-thru. Despite fish being touted as a healthy option, factors like creamy tartar sauce, crispy coatings, and soft white bread can add some twists to your dietary considerations.

To make your fish-eating journey a bit easier, here are the best and worst fast-food fish sandwiches we could find at our favorite fast-food jaunts.

The 5 Healthiest Fish Sandwiches

Best: McDonald's Filet-O-Fish Sandwich

mcdonald's filet-o-fish
Nutrition: 390 calories, 19g fat (4g sat fat), 580mg sodium, 39g carbs (2g fiber, 5g sugar), 16g protein

We didn't expect McDonald's to make the cut for the healthiest fast-food fish sandwich, but we were pleasantly surprised by their Filet-O-Fish nutrition. At under 300 calories, this sandwich offers 16 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber while also providing under half the level of sodium of many other fast-food fish sandwiches. If you want to up your health ante, consider a side of McDonald's sliced apples instead of fries to keep both sodium and saturated fat intake low.

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Best: Jimmy John's Totally Tuna Sandwich

Jimmy John's Totally Tuna Salad, Cucumber, Lettuce & Tomato
Jimmy John's
Nutrition: 510 calories, 22g fat (3g sat fat), 1,160mg sodium, 51g carbs (5g fiber, 4g sugar), 21g protein

Fish sandwiches don't always have to be battered, fried, and smothered in tartar sauce. We've included Jimmy John's Totally Tuna sandwich which offers 21 grams of protein with lower saturated fat counts than many of the other fish sandwiches on the market. With 5 grams of fiber, too, this sandwich can help you keep your gut regular. The only downside here is its high sodium level, so we recommend drinking lots of water with your meal and foregoing the chips as your side.

Best: Quiznos Small Tuna Melt

Quiznos Tuna Salad Sandwich
Nutrition: 330 calories, 11g fat (4.5g sat fat), 930mg sodium, 38g carbs (2g fiber, 3g sugar), 22g protein

Quiznos' small Tuna Melt is a great option for those who pay attention to portion size. Portion size is key to weight maintenance and can aid in abating the effects of certain chronic illnesses. With Quiznos' small Tuna Melt, you're still receiving a whopping 22 grams of protein—which is important for satiety—as well as 2 grams of fiber. Remember to ask that your sandwich be served on whole-grain wheat bread which may aid in protecting the body against heart disease.

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Best: Dairy Queen Wild Alaskan Fish Sandwich

Dairy Queen fish sandwich
Dairy Queen
Nutrition: 420 calories, 16g fat (3g sat fat), 960mg sodium, 50g carbs (1g fiber, 7g sugar), 17g protein

We know, we didn't expect a fish sandwich at Dairy Queen, either! With 17 grams of protein and clocking in under 450 calories, this sandwich isn't a bad option if you're not feeling like indulging in a burger. Notably, this fish features wild-caught Alaskan pollock. Although there's heated debate about whether or not wild or farmed fish is better for your body and the environment, those who favor wild-caught fish will delight that a fast food chain carries something for their tastes, as most chain restaurants rely on farmed fish.

Best: White Castle Fish Slider

White Castle Panko Breaded Fish Slider
White Castle
Nutrition: 320 calories, 20g fat (3.5g sat fat), 320mg sodium, 25g carbs (1g fiber, 3g sugar), 9g protein

Again, we see the nutritional benefits of portion control in White Castle's Fish Slider. We know that you'll probably eat more than one given their small size, but even then, you'll receive ample protein with low(er) saturated fat and sodium levels than many other options on the market. Unfortunately, White Castle doesn't offer any sides that aren't fried, but at least these little sliders won't leave you feeling groggy after indulging.

The 9 Unhealthiest Fish Sandwiches

Worst: Popeye's Flounder Fish Sandwich

popeyes fish sandwich
Nutrition: 681 calories, 34g fat (9g sat fat), 2,384mg sodium, 66g carbs (3g fiber, 8g sugar), 26g protein

"If you're on the hunt for a wholesome and tasty fast-food fish sandwich, the Popeyes Classic Flounder Fish Sandwich should be off your radar," says Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND, Owner of Soccer Mom Nutrition. This sandwich falls squarely in the 'not-so-healthy' category, boasting a significant amount of calories, fat, and sodium. Just one look at the nutritional information shows a whopping 10 grams of saturated fat and 2,400 milligrams of sodium which is nearly double the American Heart Association's recommended daily sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams for those with high blood pressure.

 7 Worst Fast-Food Fish Sandwiches, According to Dietitians

Worst: Burger King Fiery Big Fish Sandwich

Burger King Fiery Big Fish Sandwich
Photo: Courtesy of Burger King
Nutrition: 727 calories, 45.7g fat (8.1g saturated fat), 1,526mg sodium, 61g carbs (3.2g fiber, 10.6g sugar), 19.2g protein

This new BK addition has emerged just in time for Lent. While it does check the box of being a fish sandwich, if you are trying to make food choices that support your health, this one shouldn't top your list. The Fiery Big Fish features a fried fish fillet, lettuce, pickles, tartar sauce, and a spicy glaze on a brioche-style bun, resulting in a high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium sandwich.

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Worst: Culver's Northwoods Walleye Sandwich

Culver's Northwoods Walleye Sandwich
Nutrition: 620 calories, 34g fat (5g sat fat), 890mg sodium, 53g carbs (1g fiber, 6g sugar), 24g protein

Although Walleye is a great source of nutrients such as heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and selenium which hosts anti-inflammatory properties, the fact that this sandwich is fried pretty much negates all other health benefits. With 5 grams of saturated fat, this sandwich uses up just under half of your daily recommended saturated fat limit (13 grams according to the American Heart Association), and as you're probably tempted to also grab a side of fries, this sandwich really doesn't stand out nutritionally.

Worst: Culver's North Atlantic Cod Sandwich

Culver's North Atlantic Cod Sandwich
Nutrition: 600 calories, 34g fat (8g sat fat), 750mg sodium, 50g carbs (1g fiber, 6g sugar), 27g protein

Culver's, besides their Walleye sandwich, also offers a North Atlantic Cod option with comparative nutritional value (or lack thereof). Although this sandwich has slightly fewer calories and sodium counts, this sandwich is even higher in saturated fat at 8 grams—over half your daily recommended limit—and provides an unnecessary 6 grams of added sugar. If you do find yourself craving a Culver's fish sandwich, we recommend asking to hold the tartar sauce and maybe even swapping your side of fries for steamed broccoli or a side salad.

Worst: Arby's Crispy Fish Sandwich

arbys crispy fish sandwich
Nutrition: 566 calories, 25g fat (4g sat fat), 986mg sodium, 65g carbs (3g fiber, 9g sugar), 20g protein

"Arby's Crispy Fish Sandwich is not a healthful choice for your heart health as it is deep fried, contains trans fat, and close to half a day's recommended sodium limitation," says Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for Body Building Reviews. Trans fats, especially artificial trans fats, have been linked time and again to cardiovascular disease as well as certain cancers such as breast and colorectal. We recommend steering clear of this sandwich and opting for a Wendy's salad instead.

Worst: Wendy's Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich

Wendy's Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich
Nutrition: 520 calories, 25g fat (6g saturated fat), 1,240mg sodium, 52g carbs (2g fiber, 6g sugar), 21 g protein

Made with wild-caught Alaskan pollock fillet coated with a crunchy panko breading and topped with creamy dill tartar sauce, pickles, lettuce, and American cheese, this sandwich comes with a hefty saturated fat and sodium count. Also, with 52 grams of carbs per sandwich, it isn't an ideal choice for people who are limiting their carb intake (especially since each sandwich contains 6 grams of added sugar too).

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Worst: Long John Silver's Fish Sandwich

long john silvers crispy fish sandwich
Long John Silver's
Nutrition: 446 calories, 22g fat (8g sat fat), 1,229mg sodium, 43g carbs (1g fiber, 7g sugar), 15g protein

Long John Silver's is perhaps one of the most well-known seafood fast-food chains in America, but that doesn't make their options any healthier. With a whopping 8 grams of saturated fat and—get this—1,229 milligrams of sodium, you're going to need a tall glass of water and a nap after eating. We recommend opting for a side of corn or green beans so that you're consuming a hearty serving of veggies to offset the negative health effects of this sandwich.

Worst: Popeye's Spicy Flouder Fish Sandwich

popeyes cajun flounder sandwich with fries
Nutrition: 730 calories, 41g fat (9g sat fat), 2,351mg sodium, 66g carbs (3g fiber, 8g sugar), 26g protein

"The Popeyes Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich, while appealing in flavor, may present the most nutritional concerns due to its elevated levels of saturated fats (9 grams) and sodium (2,351mg) when compared to other fast-food fish sandwiches like the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish which has 4 grams of saturated fats and 560m grams of sodium," says Samantha Turner, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian and owner of OakStone Health and Nutrition. "Opting for fast-food fish sandwich options with lower saturated fat and sodium content can be a smarter choice for those prioritizing heart health and overall wellness.

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Worst: Burger King Big Fish

Burger King Big Fish
Burger King
Nutrition: 570 calories, 30g fat (5g sat fat), 1,270mg sodium, 58g carbs (3g fiber, 8g sugar), 19g protein

The Burger King Big Fish sandwich has one of "the highest calories, saturated fat, sodium, and carb [counts] with no more protein than any of the others!" says Lauren Mahesri, RDN. So, if you're looking for a heart-healthy fish sandwich option, this isn't a great go-to, and as a rule of thumb, any meal with the adjective "big" in its name probably isn't going to be the most nutritionally sound. Additionally, Burger King "found a way to sneak in 8 grams of sugar" which may come from either the bun or fish batter. Either way, you don't need these added sugars on top of the hefty calorie, fat, and sodium counts.

Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more about Lauren
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