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Fast-Food French Fries: Which Are Healthiest?

The 'Recipe Doctor' rates the best and worst fast-food fries.
By
WebMD Expert Column

There's no doubt: french fries are one of America's favorite foods. French-fried potatoes are the featured side dish at nearly all fast-food chains, and at many sit-down restaurants as well. And the selection of types of frozen french fries at your typical supermarket is mind boggling.

French fries are thought to have originated in 19th century Belgium, spreading later into France and later still into the greater part of the Western world. But you can credit American fast-food chains for making french fries a fixture in casual cuisine.

Of course, french fries are by nature pretty high in calories and fat. We are talking about deep-fried potato strips, after all. But in the wonderful world of fast-food fries, there's a big difference in how much calories, fat, and "bad fats" (saturated and trans) you'll find in a serving of french fries, based on where you buy them.

Nutritionally speaking, who makes the best and worst french fries? To find out, we compared calories, fat grams, "bad fat" grams, percentage of calories from fat, and sodium levels for the "small" or "regular" serving of french fries at 14 major fast-food chains. The serving sizes for these fries ranged from 75 grams to 125 grams, so this is also a case where size matters.

The 14 fast-food chains we looked at were:

  • Arby's
  • Burger King
  • Carl's Jr.
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Dairy Queen
  • Hardee's
  • In & Out
  • Jack in the Box
  • KFC
  • Long John Silvers
  • McDonald's
  • Sonic Drive-In
  • Wendy's
  • White Castle

The Best French Fries

Lowest in Calories:

  1. Sonic Drive-In regular fries (75 g): 220 calories
  2. McDonalds small fries (71 g): 230 calories

Lowest in Fat:

  1. Sonic Drive-In regular fries (75 g): 9 grams total fat
  2. McDonald's small fries (71 g): 11 grams total fat

Lowest Percentage of Calories From Fat:

  1. Sonic Drive-In regular fries (75 g): 37%
  2. Dairy Queen regular fries (114 g): 38%

Lowest in "Bad Fats" (saturated and trans fats):

  1. Sonic Drive-In regular fries (75 g) = 1.5 grams saturated fat + 0 grams trans fat
  2. McDonald's small fries (71 g) = 1.5 grams saturated fat + 0 grams trans fat

Highest in Fiber:

  1. Jack in the Box Natural Cut fries (124 g) = 5 grams fiber
  2. (7-way tie; all have 4 grams of fiber each):
  • Wendy's small fries (113 g)
  • Burger King small fries (
  • Arby's small curly fries (106 g)
  • Chick-fil-A waffle potato fries (85 g)
  • Long John Silvers basket combo portion (113 g)
  • Carl's Jr. Natural Cut French fries, small (116 g)
  • White Castle regular fries (106 g)

Lowest in Sodium:

  1. Chick-fil-A waffle potato fries: 80 mg
  2. Sonic Drive-In regular fries: 100 mg

The Fast-Food French Fries Health Winner

And the award for best fast-food french fry, healthwise, goes to ... Sonic Drive-In's regular fries, which are lowest in calories, fat grams, percentage of calories from fat, and total amount of "bad fats." (As well as second lowest in sodium.) The runner up is McDonald's small fries, which ranked second lowest in calories, fat grams, and "bad fats."

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