Fast-food restaurants are rarely a person’s first choice, especially if they’re trying to be health conscious with their diet. Still, there’s no denying that sometimes they’re the most convenient, budget-friendly, or even satisfying meal option. Two of the most popular brands people debate for a quick bite are KFC and McDonald’s Both have their pros and cons, but which one is better? Not just in terms of how their food tastes, but other crucial factors, such as health and finances.
When comparing KFC to McDonald’s regarding the nutritional value, diversity, and cost of their food, McDonald’s is consistently seen as the “better” choice. Much of this comes down to their menu items containing fewer calories, carbohydrates, and fats, but there are areas where KFC is superior.
In this article, we will provide an in-depth comparison of these two renowned fast-food restaurants and conclude which is arguably the best option if you had to choose between the two. As you read, you’ll learn which menu items to consider, their nutritional facts, and other relevant information to help you order the healthiest option possible given the circumstances.
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KFC vs. McDonald’s: The Breakdown
While it is tempting to say that McDonald’s is the best fast-food restaurant in all regards compared to KFC, this simply isn’t the truth.
There’s a reason why people are perplexed concerning which would be best for them. For example, many people are told that chicken is a healthier protein than red meats (like beef used for burgers) because red meats contain saturated fats that contribute to raising blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
If we were looking at this nutritional fact alone, KFC would be the better option, but there’s much more to this comparison than your protein of choice.
This is why we’ve decided to break this head-to-head battle down into four categories. These include:
- Nutrition Calculations
- Proteins, Fruits, and Veggies
- Menu Diversity
These are what we believe to be the most influential factors when it comes to determining how healthy a fast-food menu is, as well as its inclusivity and accessibility.
KFC vs. McDonald’s Calories: Which is healthier?
Let’s start this comparison with the cold, hard facts. When it comes to assessing a menu item’s nutritional value, the easiest method is usually to look at the company’s provided nutrition facts, which detail each item’s calorie, fat, sodium, and carbohydrate content amongst other relevant measurements.
Below, we have provided a chart depicting the average nutritional information of McDonald’s 22 main burger/sandwich options and KFC’s 16 main sandwiches to best compare the two restaurant’s nutrition-related offerings.
|Fast-food Restaurant||Average Calories||Average Carbs||Average Fat||Average Protein||Average Sodium|
|McDonald’s||498||44g (2.9g fiber)||23.5g (6.5 saturated)||27.5g||1057mg|
|KFC||539||50g (3.8g fiber)||27.4g (3.8 saturated)||24.2g||1023mg|
As we can see from the chart, there are some clear differences between McDonald’s and KFC’s main sandwich items. On average, KFC’s sandwiches contain more calories, carbs, non-saturated fats, and sodium. This is probably due to the fact that nearly all of their menu items are deep fried, versus McDonald’s, whose menu sandwiches predominantly consist of burgers, which are grilled.
Despite chicken being near equal, if not higher, in protein than most alternatives, KFC’s sandwiches are actually lower in protein compared to McDonald’s.
Of course, there are numerous other nutritional factors to consider, such as vitamin, mineral, and sugar content, but for the sake of this comparison, the chart above clearly shows that KFC has lost this category.
KFC vs. McDonald’s: Proteins, Fruits, and Veggies
While it is crucial to look at the figures associated with an item’s nutritional value, most of us don’t have the time to read through every item’s nutritional facts. Instead, we base our decisions on the ingredients that we know are healthy, such as fruits and vegetables. There are also proteins that are known to be better for you than others. So, how do KFC and McDonald’s fare in this category?
In all honesty, neither restaurant earns many points here. If there’s one place that KFC excels, its probably in its sides. We’re all familiar with the classic French fries most people get with their fast-food meal, and while KFC definitely offers these, they at least have a small selection of alternative, vegetable-heavy sides, including:
- whole kernel corn
- green beans,
- mashed potatoes
- Cole slaw
True, the coleslaw is covered in mayonnaise, but that is nearly equivalent to drenching a side salad in dressing. Speaking of which, McDonald’s used to sell exceptional entrée and side salads, but recently discontinued them due supply issues and waste costs during the peak of the COVID pandemic. This leaves them veggie-less apart from sandwich toppings.
McDonald’s does offer a side of apple slices, making it the only fruit option here, but it is a small side meant for kids. Many customers loved their yogurt parfaits, which were a great alternative to the standard oily fries, but these faced the same fate as healthful salads.
At least McDonald’s wins the tiebreaker in this category for having more protein options than KFC. This allows individuals to choose the protein that best aligns with their health needs (ex. Filet-O-Fish for lean meat versus a Big Mac for higher protein).
KFC vs. McDonald’s: Menu Diversity
This might not be the most important category for some, but if you or someone you often eat with has special dietary needs or is more of a picky eater, you’d understand the importance of a diverse fast-food menu. Again, we have to give this category to McDonald’s for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the restaurant offers food options from all three core meals, compared to KFC which usually opens around 10:30 and starts off with lunch.
Anyone who stops by McDonald’s for breakfast will also appreciate the relatively decent amount of options available to them despite breakfast foods being pretty limited in general.
For instance, they can opt for a breakfast burrito over a McMuffin or biscuit if they want to limit their carb intake. They can also choose between ham, sausage, or bacon as a ptotein or go protein-less and stick to an egg and cheese sandwich. If you’re not a fan of these staples, you can always opt for a healthy bowl of oatmeal instead.
Moving away from breakfast, you’d notice that KFC’s menu is essentially limited to fried chicken breasts, pieces, wings, or tenders. The most diversity found in this menu is arguably its selection of sides. If you don’t want to each fried chicken, your only alternative is chicken pot pie, which is a great item in-of-itself, but people probably wouldn’t mind have more grilled chicken alternatives.
KFC vs. McDonald’s: Which is Budget-friendly?
Last but not least, we come to the final category of budget-friendliness. One of the reasons why people eat fast food is that it can be a cheap way to feed their family, especially if you’re stocking up on $1 menu items. For this one, we’re going to call it a tie.
If you’re just trying to feed yourself and you don’t have an exceptionally large appetite, then you might want to opt for McDonald’s since their menu items are generally cheaper than KFC’s. However, if you’re trying to feed a whole family or you know that a burger and fries won’t do it, then opting for one of KFC’s box meals will be the biggest bang for you buck. Their 8-piece bucket meal alone go satiate 2-4 people.
Trying to balance being healthy with needing to eat at a fast-food restaurant can be a challenge, but if you’re faced with this decision in the near future, remember that McDonald’s is nearly always the better choice over KFC.
That being said, we will admit that this largely comes down to what you decide to order and what you prioritize in a healthy meal (ex. someone on a diet might want a lower calorie meal versus someone who is trying to bulk up will want protein). When in doubt, check the nutrition facts if you have time and try to lean towards the fruits and vegetables and away from fried items as much as you can.