McDonald’s vs. Burger King: Which Menu Is Healthier?
September 15, 2013
The United States has the largest fast food industry in the world, and American fast food restaurants are in over 100 countries. That alone tells you that millions of consumers partake in fast food. By definition, fast food is food that can be prepared and served very quickly. A typical fast food meal in the United States includes a hamburger, French fries, and a soft drink. Out of all of the fast food restaurants in the United States, there are two companies that comes to mind that are the biggest chains in the country. Those two fast food chains are Burger King and McDonald’s.
These two companies own more than half of the fast food market in the U.S. With that said, in the past couple of years there has been concern over the obesity rate in the United States. People believe that fast food is a factor because of how easy it is to get it and the price range of it. Because of the perceptions of fast food, every one is looking to the biggest fast food chains to set the example and make their menus healthier. McDonald’s and Burger King are the two fast food chains trying to convert their menu to provide healthier foods, each in their own way.
Before looking at the menus of both fast food chains, one has to understand the history. What made them who they are today? How was it created? When did it go public? The first restaurant is McDonald’s. In 1937, Patrick McDonald opened “The Airdome”, which was a food stand in Monrovia, California. Hamburgers were ten cents and all you can drink. In 1940, his two sons, Maurice and Richard, brought the food stand from their father and moved the entire operation 40 miles and changed the name to “McDonald’s Bar-B-Q” and served 25 barbecued items on their menu. In October 1948, the brothers realized that most of their profits came from selling hamburgers so they closed down the establishment. On December 12, 1948, the restaurant’s name was once again changed to “McDonald’s” and went to a menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, French fries, shakes, soft drinks, and apple pie. After 5 years of growing popularity and success the brothers decided to start franchising the restaurant.
One year later, Ray Kroc, who sold Multi-mixer milkshakes machines, learned that one of the McDonald’s restaurants were using eight of his machines and he decided to take a look for himself. After meeting with the McDonald brothers, Kroc thought that they could franchise the restaurants throughout the country. The brothers did not think the same way so Kroc decided to take it upon himself to do so. By 1959, Kroc had 102 successful restaurants in the United States and by 1961 Kroc brought the business rights from the McDonald brothers for about three million dollars.
Like McDonald’s, Burger King also has a long and rich history. It was founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida as Insta-Burger King. Inspired by the McDonald brother’s original store location in San Bernardino, California, the founders and owners, Keith J. Kramer and his wife’s uncle Matthew Burns, began searching for a concept to open a new restaurant around. After purchasing the rights to two pieces of equipment called “Insta” machines, the two opened their first stores around a cooking device known as the Insta-Broiler. The Insta-Broiler over proved to be so successful at cooking burgers; they required all of their franchises to carry the device. With their new success in the way they cooked burgers, the company had rapidly expanded throughout the state of Florida until its operations totaled more than 40 locations in 1955. By 1961, Insta-Burger King ran into financial difficulties and the pair of McLamore and Edgarton purchased the national rights to the chain. It was rechristened as Burger King of Miami. The company would eventually become the Burger King Corporation and began selling territorial franchise licenses to private owners across the United States by 1961.
As I stated in the beginning of my essay, I wanted to compare the two menus between Burger King and McDonald’s. Even though both restaurants are into selling hamburgers, how they are cooked and presented separate these two companies tremendously. For McDonald’s, they have added other items to their menu since the original restaurants opened back in 1948. They added a breakfast menu back in 1972 in which they sold certain breakfast sandwiches such as the McMuffin, which came in certain amounts of variations. There are also types of biscuits and breakfast burritos. Additional breakfast items
include hotcakes, several breakfast platters with eggs, hash browns, and meats or breads.
As you know, for lunch, McDonald’s serves many sandwich options such as the Quarter Pounder, the McDouble, which is the double cheeseburger, and chicken sandwiches, which they call a McChicken. The trademark sandwich for McDonald’s is called a Big Mac. It was introduced nationwide in 1968. It consists of two 100 percent beef patties, American cheese, “special sauce”, which is based off a Thousand Island dressing, iceberg lettuce, pickles, onions, and served in a three-part sesame seed bun. Other items on the menu consist of Chicken McNuggets, Chicken Selects, which is the McDonald’s version of chicken strips, Filet-O-Fish, and a McRib, the McDonald’s Rib Sandwich.
Burger King’s menu predominantly consisted of hamburgers, French fries, soft drinks, milkshakes, and desserts. In 1978, the company introduced the first iteration of its breakfast menu. The breakfast menu remained almost identical to the McDonald’s offerings until 1983 when Burger King introduced its Croissan’Wich, which comes in many variations like the McDonald’s counterpart, McMuffin sandwich. For the lunch menu, there is little difference between the Burger King and McDonald’s Menu. The counterpart of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets is called the BK Chicken Tenders, which made its debut in 1985. For Burger King, they have two trademark sandwiches.
The first one is the counterpart of the McChicken, which Burger King calls the BK Original Chicken Sandwich. It made its debut in 1978. The other sandwich is called the Whopper. Introduced in 1957, it is one of the best known sandwiches in the fast food industry. The Whopper consists of a flame grilled quarter-pound beef patty, sesame seed bun, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and sliced onion.
Now we get to the meat of the conversation. Both companies have been trying to add healthier choices to their menu for years now. For example, McDonald’s had to battle its public image as a purveyor of fatty, unhealthy food. Consumers began filling lawsuits contending that years of eating at McDonald’s had made them overweight. So in 2003, McDonald’s introduced a low calorie menu of low-calorie items and they also switched to more healthful cooking oil for the French fries. Burger king is no different to the criticism of their food. Since the 1980s, several parties, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the British Heart Foundation and the City of New York argued that Burger King has contributed to obesity and unhealthy eating behaviors in Western nations by producing products that contain large amounts of salt, fat, trans-fat, and calories.
With that said, it is common knowledge that neither McDonald’s nor Burger King is the healthiest option if you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Let’s examine at the major items that both of these fast food chains provide and see which one is healthier. Starting with the French fries, a medium order from Burger King will make the customer consume 400 calories, 20 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of protein. The same amount for McDonald’s will provide 20 calories, 7 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of protein less than Burger King’s French fries. So apparently McDonald’s wins in French Fries, for cheeseburgers, McDonald’s are not only lower in calories versus Burger King at 300 to 360, but also in fat and carbohydrates as well. They are also significantly higher in protein.
Now for the main event, the Big Mac versus the Whopper, both of these burgers are the most popular menu item for both of these respected fast food chains. Which one is healthier? The Big Mac contains 540 calories, 29 grams of fat, 45 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of protein. The Whopper, on the other hand, contains 670 calories, 39 grams of fat, 51 grams of carbohydrates, and 27 grams of protein. So in other words, the Big Mac is Healthier.
After looking at the other items that Burger King and McDonald’s provides head to head, Burger King has the edge in terms of its chicken products. Now the big question is who has the healthiest menu? To be honest, it depends on the menu item you choose to buy from either one of these food chains. If you want a good burger that will not do that much damage to your diet then McDonald’s is the way to go. If you are looking to eat a Chicken Sandwich, it looks like the Burger King should change their name.
In conclusion, when asking the question of which fast food chain is healthier it is safe to say that there is no clear-cut answer. Even through McDonald’s, when looking at the nutritional stats of each item compared to Burger King, wins in the Burger section. We as consumers have to realize that “fast food” is not healthy in the first place. These two fast food chains have rich and interesting histories that contributed to how and what they sell to their customers. Each menu has been tweaked in order to fulfill the needs of the consumer over the years. Every consumer prefer to have their own method of buying items, so the best advice I can give is to do your own research beforehand. It is also important to show that you should limit the amount of fast food you eat on a regular basis in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.