Along with sugary sodas, french fries often take the lion’s share of the blame for what really ails a fast-food combo meal. But not all fast-food french fries are created equal. Their recipes are different. Their ratios of salt and fat are different. And if I’m to believe the guy who sold me french fries in Idaho, even the types of potatoes they use are different.
So with the goal of identifying the healthiest of these golden, delicious and micronutrient-deficient side items at your favorite fast-food chain, let’s toss them all up on a chart and create an honest platform for comparison. To keep things as apples-to-apples as possible (or I guess, in this case, fries-to-fries), I’m using the medium-size versions of each fast-food restaurant’s french fry offering, or at least the closest version to a McDonald’s medium in the absence of a defined serving of “medium” or “regular” french fries.
The most obvious thing here is just how obnoxiously massive the size of the “regular” Five Guys french fries is. So much so that if you eat an entire serving on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, you’ve already met half of that total on fries alone. All of the other fast-food behemoths keep their french fry servings between 100 grams and 200 grams, so they’re at least within a respectable range of one another.
There are some other things I could call out, but they’re more easily identified when we break down these fries on a per-gram basis. Please keep in mind that the rounding rules of nutrition facts mean that numbers that are within tenths or hundredths of one another may be far more similar than the numbers indicate, so what we’re really looking for are glaring disparities that can’t be explained by a small margin of error.
Once everything has been normalized, it becomes crystal clear why Arby’s pulled the homestyle fries from their menu — their per-gram sodium content (6.47 milligrams) was two to three times the amount administered by the others and left you pushing the centerline of the recommended maximum daily sodium intake just by themselves. As we all know by this point, consuming too much sodium on a regular basis will increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and the leaching of calcium from your bones.
Taking Arby’s salty abomination out of the equation, which is something they’ve already done IRL, fast-food fries are actually pretty much the same — at least nutritionally speaking — with the only thing that’s really adjustable being the sodium content. With this in mind, in a shocker of shockers, McDonald’s is the proud owner of arguably the healthiest fries on this list, all things considered. Given the rounding rules of nutrition, the fries at McDonald’s realistically tie with Chick-fil-A for having the lowest per-gram sodium content, but unlike Chick-fil-A, they don’t drift toward the high end of the fat range.
So, again, Mickey D’s of all places is offering up the french fries that are arguably the least detrimental to your health on average.
Even if you consider their comparatively small serving size to be a Hamburglar-style theft, that’s still nothing to Grimace about.