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Healthy Recipe Doctor

with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fast Food Fish Sandwiches: What Are You Really Getting?

Several fast food chains have jumped on the fish-is-good-for-you bandwagon and now offer fish sandwiches on their menu. Of course, they are still breaded and fried – what did you expect from fast food? But which one is the lowest in calories and total fat and which one contains more than two times the trans fat recommended in a day?

In search of the most healthful fish sandwich, I collected nutrition information from the chains I know sell a fish sandwich. If the chain offered nutrition information without the tartar sauce, that’s what I used. Just scraping off the tartar sauce (or ordering it without the sauce) often cut the total fat and saturated fat in half and shaved off a couple of hundred milligrams of sodium as well.

If you can add lettuce, onion and/or tomato to your sandwich, do it! They will add nutrients, flavor and texture with almost no added calories or sodium.

Now for the results.
McDonald’s has a smaller sized sandwich, so it isn’t surprising their sandwich is the lowest in calories, total fat and protein. If you look at the percent of calories from fat though, McDonald’s and Wendy’s (without tartar sauce) both contain 28%, while Burger King’s sandwich (without tartar sauce) computes to 25%. Jack in the Box was next to the highest with 35% and Long John Silvers topped out with 44% calories from fat.

When it comes to sodium, always a challenge at fast food restaurants, it was the McDonald’s and Wendy’s sandwiches that were lowest.

So which fast food chain makes the healthiest fish sandwich? Well, if you want a smaller-sized sandwich with the fewest calories and milligrams of sodium, the McDonald’s sandwich fits the bill. If you are looking for a larger-sized sandwich, take your pick between the Wendy’s or Burger King options. Wendy’s is lower in sodium and Burger King is higher in protein and lower in the % calories from fat.

Calories Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Trans Fat (g) Sodium (mg) Protein (g)
Fish Sandwich
(No tartar sauce) 290 9 2 0 530 15
(No tartar sauce) 390 12 2.5 0 820 18
Burger King w/tomato
(No tartar sauce) 470 13 2.5 0 1320 23
Jack in the Box 466 18 2 0 1033 18
Long John Silver 470 23 5 4.5 1180 18

Final Thoughts: Avoid adding more calories into the picture by having your sandwich with French fries and soda. Enjoy your sandwich with some fresh fruit, a nice green salad with a light dressing, and a glass of unsweetened iced tea.

Comment on this post and talk about eating fish and fast food with others in the Food and Cooking Exchange.

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 2:00 pm

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