There’s simply nothing like a crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, hot, crispy, and salty french fry fresh out of the fryer. So it’s easy to see why they’ve been the most popular fast food side since the beginning of the concept. But there can be some major differences in fast food fries, both from a taste and health perspective.
We hope you’re hungry. Let’s take a closer look at the best and worst options and everything else you need to know about fries and your health.
What Are America’s Favorite Fast Food Fries?
It should come as no surprise that McDonald’s is America’s top-selling and favorite brand of fast-food french fries. As the largest chain in the country, it naturally dishes out more fries than any other, alongside countless Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, and McNuggets.
Surveys of fry lovers have also found McDonald’s on top. Those same surveys also found Chick-Fil-A and Five Guys among the most popular.
Which Fast Food Restaurant Sells the Most Fries?
If you’re looking to get the most fries out of your order, head to Five Guys. Delish counted orders from all the major fast-food chains and found Five Guys came out far and away in first place. Smashburger and McDonald’s round out the top three, with Wendy’s and Popeyes close behind.
Pro Tip: Enjoy a burger and fries at The World’s Largest McDonalds on your next road trip.
The Best (and Worst) Fast Food Fries
So which fries are the best for you from a health perspective? We checked out the common brands when it came to calories, fat, sodium, and carbs.
Healthiest Fries: In-N-Out Burger
The West Coast favorite In-N-Out Burger offers some of the healthiest french fries from a fast food joint. They’re available in just one size (125 grams) with 370 calories.
In-N-Out fries also include 15 grams of fat, 250 milligrams of sodium, and 52 grams of carbohydrates, all relatively good for fast food.
Unhealthiest Fries: Jack in the Box
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jack in the Box takes the cake regarding the worst fries from a health and nutritional standpoint. A medium order (144 grams) of Jack in the Box fries includes 450 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 61 grams of carbs.
They also pack 820 milligrams of sodium, more than three times the “healthy” option from In-N-Out.
Are Five Guys Fries Healthier Than McDonald’s?
When Five Guys and McDonald’s go head to head from a health perspective, the Golden Arches come out on top. A medium order of McDonald’s fries has 320 calories, including 15 grams of fat and 260 milligrams of sodium.
That may not be the best thing for you, but it’s “healthier” compared to Five Guys’ regular fries. They’re 411 calories, have 41 grams of fat, and have 962 milligrams of sodium. While the calories are relatively close, Five Guys has far more fat, salt, and carbs than McDonald’s.
It’s also crucial to note that Five Guys fries are fried in peanut oil (notable for its healthy fats), while McDonald’s fries are fried in a mix of canola, corn, and soybean oil. Plus, McDonald’s’ oil also contains a beef flavoring with elements of wheat and milk, two relatively common allergens.
Are Wendy’s Fries Real Potatoes?
Absolutely! Unlike some fast food chains, Wendy’s offers what it calls “natural cut” fries. The main difference is that portions of the skin are on the fries. That provides a different textural and taste experience than mass-manufactured, uniform fries seen elsewhere.
The company says they’re made exclusively from russet potatoes and argues they best out traditional fries for many reasons, including being able to hold onto sauces.
Are Fries Healthier Than Chips?
To be clear, neither is a great choice for those looking to pick the healthiest snack or side dish. Between them, fries may narrowly edge out chips. For the same weight, chips pack significantly more calories, carbs, and fat.
However, your healthiest choice may depend on your health needs. Chips are lower on the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly food converts into blood sugar. In general, the lower, the better. They’re also typically lower in sodium than fries, which is important for those on a low-salt diet.
Are Fries Once a Week OK?
While French fries are by no means the best and healthiest option, there’s no reason they can’t be part of a balanced, otherwise healthful diet. Eating fries once or twice a week likely won’t significantly affect your health, especially if you get proper nutrition and calorie levels from the other food you consume.
At the end of the day, you’ll need to weigh the marginal negative impact on your health against how much you enjoy fries. After all, life is about more than just how long you live. So enjoy that side of fries now and then if it makes you happy!
Pro Tip: Join the debate about what ranks as The 5 Best (and 5 Worst) Fast Food Burgers.
Are Fast Food Fries Worth It?
Naturally, fast-food fries aren’t the best food choice on many levels and may not be a good fit for the lifestyle of certain people. They’re typically high in calories, fat, and sodium and relatively low in nutrients. Therefore, those looking to eat especially healthfully may not find them worth it.
However, many find fast-food fries worth it simply because they love the taste! These folks typically know the nutritional issues of fries but can enjoy them responsibly as a treat and part of a balanced diet.
There’s so much to love about these crispy, potatoey delights – so we’ll see you at the drive-thru!
Which fast food restaurant has your favorite fries? Tell us in the comments!
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