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A Dietitian’s Look: Whataburger’s “Under 550-Calorie” Menu

WhataburgerFor many, fast food is an appealing option when you’re looking for a quick, budget-friendly meal. But unfortunately, the menu selections are typically  high in calories, fat and sodium.

Last week Texas-based Whataburger introduced several new “Under 550-Calorie” options to their menu. These choices will be featured in their new menu design. We asked Colleen Loveland, MS, RD, LD, CDE, Registered Dietitian at Cooper Clinic, to share her thoughts on the new menu items.

What do you think of the new menu from Whataburger?
It is great that Whataburger has unveiled a new look for their menu to make it easier to find calorie controlled options when ordering. It is always a good idea to look up the nutrition information on the website if it is a place that you frequent to see what choices will fit into your plan for good health.

The items that are included in the “under 550 calories” are not necessarily low in fat or sodium. The saturated fat in biscuits, cheese and bacon is significant and the misconception of “under 550” calories may give patrons the impression that they are “healthy” choices.

How do Whataburger’s new options compare with other fast food options?
You can make good choices at Whataburger just like you can at many other fast food restaurants. Often the portion is the issue in controlling calories and fat intake – the kids meal is usually the “right” size. Whataburger is offering grilled chicken options and great salad options. The addition of Low-Fat Honey Pepper Vinaigrette and Low-Fat Herb Vinaigrette would help to limit the saturated fat at the meal.

What are the most important things to look for when eating at fast food?
The most important things to look for when eating at a fast food meal is that the choices fit into your health goal. Total calories are always a good thing to keep track of in order to manage weight. If you frequent a fast food restaurant, print off the nutrition information on their menu so you can fit the foods into your plan.

Also, look at the amount of saturated fat and try to keep the grams to a minimum. Make special requests to limit the saturated fat like ordering dressings on the side; eliminating cheese on sandwiches or salads; eliminating bacon or fried items from the meal; and choosing whole grain breads instead of biscuits and croissants.

Sodium content is usually higher in a fast food meal so balance the rest of your day with more fresh or frozen food items. If ordering for a child choose the regular grilled cheese if that is their favorite, not the new Grilled Cheese on Texas Toast.

Do you have a favorite meal choice from Whataburger (whether on their new menu or previous menu)?

Chicken Fajita Taco

In looking at the Whataburger menu, I would choose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich or the Chicken Fajita Taco, which are both lower in calories and saturated fat. The new menu items include an Apple Cranberry Salad that is 350 calories and 6 grams of fat, and higher with grilled or crispy chicken added. If ordering the salad, I would toss the cheese and use one of the new vinaigrettes drizzled not drenched.
When looking at the options on the “Under 550” menu, I would choose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Fajita Taco or the new Grilled Chicken Melt minus the melted cheese. The breakfast choices have little to no fiber but the best option for me would be the Egg Sandwich and I would bring a piece of fruit from home.

Read the details on Whataburger’s announcement in their news release.

What are your thoughts on the new Whataburger menu?

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