Food on the Run: Regional Favorites

By , SparkPeople Blogger

Around the United States there are regional burger chains that are very tempting when traveling because they provide something new and different.

How do the regional favorites stack up to the national chains when it comes to nutritional options?

Our ongoing goal for our Food on the Run series remains to select entrees that are around 250 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving or less. Many of these regional restaurant chains do not have many foods that easily fit in this guideline as most are very high in fat.

Cautions to Consider
  • As good as they look, skipping the fried options like fries, onion rings or chicken strips is always a good choice when eating away from home.
  • Skip the soda or shakes in favor of a courtesy cup of water.
  • Many of these restaurants use fats that contain trans fat.
  • While many of the nutritional numbers look good, the servings sizes are quite small. Some of these can provide a great "taste" of a favorite burger but you may walk away hungry even though you have maxed out on your calorie allotment for the meal.

Jack in the Box

Grilled Chicken Strips 4 per serving without sauce
Calories 180
Fat 2 grams
Sodium 700 mg
Carbohydrates 3 grams
Fiber 0 grams
Protein 37 grams

Fruit Cup
Calories 50
Fat 0 grams
Sodium 10 mg
Carbohydrates 14 grams
Fiber 1 gram
Protein 1 gram

Asian Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken
Calories - 180
Fat 1.5 grams
Sodium 380 mg
Carbohydrates 22 grams
Fiber 6 grams
Protein 22 grams

Side Salad with Gourmet Seasoned Croutons
Calories 100
Fat 5 grams
Sodium 230 mg
Carbohydrates 11 grams
Fiber 0 grams
Protein 2 grams

Low Fat Balsamic Dressing
Calories 35
Fat 1.5 grams
Sodium 480 mg
Carbohydrates 5 grams
Fiber 0 grams
Protein 0 grams

Calories 280
Fat 12 grams
Sodium 540 mg
Carbohydrates 29 grams
Fiber 1 gram
Protein 14 grams

Checker's / Rally's

Kid's Burger
Calories - 280
Fat - 12 grams
Sodium - 570 mg
Carbohydrates - 28 grams
Fiber - 2 grams
Protein - 15 grams

Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Calories - 370
Fat - 9 grams
Sodium - 1110 mg
Carbohydrates - 40 grams
Fiber - 3 grams
Protein - 31 grams

White Castle

White Castle Hamburger
Calories - 140
Fat - 7 grams
Sodium - 210 mg
Carbohydrates - 14 grams
Fiber - 0 grams
Protein - 6 grams

Calories - 170
Fat - 9 grams
Sodium - 330 mg
Carbohydrates - 15 grams
Fiber - 0 grams
Protein - 7 grams

Jalapeno Cheeseburger
Calories - 180
Fat - 10 grams
Sodium - 380 mg
Carbohydrates - 15 grams
Fiber - 0 grams
Protein - 8 grams

Chicken Breast Sandwich on Golden Bun
Calories - 180 (210 with cheese)
Fat - 6 grams (8 grams with cheese)
Sodium - 580 mg (710 mg with cheese)
Carbohydrates - 21 grams
Fiber - 1 gram
Protein - 11 grams (13 grams with cheese)

Fish Sandwich on Golden Bun
Calories - 160 (190 with cheese)
Fat - 6 grams (8 grams with cheese)
Sodium - 300 mg (430 mg with cheese)
Carbohydrates - 18 grams (20 grams with cheese)
Fiber - 6 grams (7 grams with cheese)
Protein - 8 grams (10 grams with cheese)

Traditional Bun with Cheese
Calories - 100
Fat - 3.5 grams
Sodium - 280 mg
Carbohydrates - 13 grams
Fiber - 0 grams
Protein - 3 grams

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich
Calories - 170
Fat - 4.5 grams
Sodium - 490 mg
Carbohydrates - 24 grams
Fiber - 8 grams
Protein - 9 grams


Krystal Burger
Calories - 160
Fat - 7 grams
Sodium - 260 mg
Carbohydrates - 17 grams
Fiber - 1 gram
Protein - 7 grams

Cheese Krystal
Calories - 180
Fat - 9 grams
Sodium - 430 mg
Carbohydrates - 17 grams
Fiber - 2 grams
Protein - 9 grams

Krystal Chili
Calories - 200
Fat - 7 gram
Sodium - 1130 mg
Carbohydrates - 22 grams
Fiber - 7 grams
Protein - 13 grams

The Bottom Line
I was surprised to find that many of these regional favorites offer fewer options that meet our nutrition guidelines compared to the leading fast food chains. Most of the choices from these restaurants are very high in calories and very high in fat (including saturated fat and trans fat) or they are small portion sizes that will likely leave you hungry shortly after your meal.

While regional favorites may be a favorite food on the run option or a new treat when you are traveling, nation wide chains seem to offer many more nutritionally rich choices to help you stay on track while eating away from home.

Before you were focusing on positive lifestyle changes, did you choose regional or nationwide fast food options most often? Why?

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White Castle started in Wichita years ago, but is no longer in Wichita, nor do we have a local White Castle restaurant (we can buy the frozen sandwiches at grocery store.). We do have many other local burger places that I am sure exceed suggested minimums - NuWay, Spangles, and just recently an Arbuckle Mountains Fried Pies franchise from Oklahoma (regional, right!?). We also have local restaurants who make variations of a regional dish called Bierocks - and I have no clue what those nutritional values are. Report
My husband tried to take me to White Castle. The burgers were okay-ish...until I tried just a bite of the meat, without anything else. I have never had anything in my mouth that so perfectly encapsulated the concept of "grey." Blech! Report
I stopped eating fast foods years ago, but I remember fondly buying bags of White Castles when I lived in the Mid-West! They are so junky, but good! Report
ooohhhh, Rally's, how I love thee. I wish there were better options there! As is I usually go to Back Yard Burgers or the like. Report
We would eat out once a week and we are very limited on our choices. My husband would often choose the greasy burger places. I always preferred some of the national chains and would get the slaad rather than the fries. We have now started to eat at home a little more often. I guess maybe I am wearing off on him. Report
NO! I never choose these fast food places i usually brought my on healthy foods and snacks.
Thanks for the information it will be very useful. Report
Haven't seen any of these junk food places in my area. Thanks for the info though. Report
I don't have any of these fast-food joints in my area, thank goodness. And I haven't had McDonald's since November 2007. I think I'm healthier for making that decision.

Before I gave up the worst of the worst (I still go to D'Angelo - which is similar to Subway - and Boston Market occasionally), I would go there AT LEAST once a week. McDonald's fries were killer. Do you know McDonald's puts sugar in their salt? And they salt their burgers as well as their makes you crave the food more. Report
Thanks for the information. Very informative. Report Sparkpeople HQ folks are in Cincinnati....can we get some facts and figures for places like Gold Star and Skyline Chili??

(For the uninitiated, Cincinnati-style chili is an addictive combination of finely ground beef and spices--including cinnamon---served over spaghetti, usually with cheese, onions and/or red kidney beans on top. Did I just see all the Texas chili purists shaking their heads????) Report
None of these places are around here. But I have eaten at all of them. Now I stay away from them. But I am tempted on the white castles now that they sell them at the grocery store. Report
When I used to go fast foods - I visited most of those places. Today they are not options! If I have to I like Wendy's. I know I can get something filling and good for me. Report
I have to say, someone mentioned Super Size Me. The thing about that movie is that the guy made a rule that he had to eat a certain amount of calories of the worst food available at McDonald's (I think that was it) and for every single meal. And never exercise. Ever. He went from a vegetarian who ate relatively healthy and was very athletic to a couch potato. Of course he was going to wreck his health with those extremes!

Though some people may eat like that, most people are somewhere in between. I'm just saying, I feel like that show was as much propaganda as many other documentaries.

Also, people pick on Jack in the Box because of the death from e. coli in their past. Of course that was horrific. I even read a fictionalized account of that that really would make you never want to eat out. However, they've found e. coli in many things, including bagged salad, fruits and vegetables (off and on). Sadly, the only way you can be sure your food is perfectly safe and clean is if you grow it yourself. I'm not ready to commit to that myself (especially living in an apartment in the city with no yard/garden!)

That being said, what many of you said about the limited fast food choices and high amount of sodium is definitely true. I wish the non-chain restaurants near me would share their nutritional information--I'm sure it would help me make the choice not to eat out as often.

One secret I learned (I think it was from a TV show) was that most restaurants add lots of oil and butter (and/or cook with it) to their food (even steaks, for example), so no wonder it's so delicious and you can't duplicate it at home! Report
thank you for the info........ Report
We don't have a single one of these places in our area, so it is tough to comment. We have Wendy's, Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Quiznos, Dunkin Donuts, Boston Market, Panera, and Duchess. Otherwise, most stuff is small local stuff. Report
I'd go before because I was too tired after work (I get off at 10pm) to cook. Now we've switched to a more European style of eating I guess you could call it and have our more caloric meals for breakfast/lunch and have a light dinner (usually a soup, salad or sandwich). We also cook all the lunches for the entire week on Sundays. Report
I have to admit that White Castle and Krystal's have been among my favorite food since the 1960's when I would bring a couple of dozen home on Sat nite after a date. You can buy them individually, but a normal serving size would be more like 3 with fries. Sigh. Report
Around here (SW Iowa) my favorite burger would be Culver's butter-burger. Haven't had one in ages, but still remember how good they were. Report
Vote with your fork - cook & eat at home! Report
Out of this list Jack-In-the-Box is the only one near me. I am glad the grilled chicken strips are on the list. I usually make 2 meals with them. The other choices list are nice to know for a change. Report
The first I heard of White Castle was in Chicago about 16 years ago. Everybody told me it had horribly greasy hamburgers. So actually the info sounds better than I would expect. I have never eaten at any of these places, so apparently I seek out the more national chains. We also will stop at a grocery and buy a loaf of bread or some buns & a small quantity of cold cuts. I always travel with a cooler if driving. Report
years ago I would have eaten at least 10 white castles for dinner. Haven't had one since moving out of N.Y. Now, I stay out of fast food restaurants. Report
all american places so none around (thank goodness!!) Report
Thankfully, none of these are around here! Report
There are CHECKER'S and KRYSTALS here in Pensacola, but I never eat at them. We lived in California and they had "Jack in the Box" but I seldom stopped there. I remember later the kid who died from E-COLI because JINB didn't cook the hamburgers long enough. And White Castle was in Indiana back when we lived there, but I never once ate there.
Actually, I like to go in a grocery store, get food at the deli or quick veggie area, and go through the Express Lane. That way I can get an apple, peach, pear, banana, etc. Report
About the only thing on here that i would eat might be the asian chicken salad..
I don't like to eat them in the fast food restaurants thought because they sit for way to long.. I have gotten them were the lettuce is moldy !!!yuck I like to make mine at home.. Report
BTW - I've never had a White Castle in the area (never even eaten at one, actually!). Are those figures for an individual, little burger? Seems like they must be, but it also seems ludicrous to consider one a serving. And also, I was under the impression that they weren't sold individually. Report
Although the Krystal's numbers might look better than the others, it is a TINY 2" by 2" square roll with a sliver of "meat" - defined NOT worth it on any scale!!!!
We all know fast food isn't what our bodies need for good nutrition! Report
Although I understand Khallexy's point, I think offering a combination of options - the usual and also more healthy options, would be the best money-making option. I'd love to see more places offering a few more healthy options on the menu. I just had Arby's for lunch last week, because I love everything there. I really like the Market Fresh sandwiches, which aren't too bad if you can split one and have a healthy side. And I was depressed to find that about all you could get for a healthy side was applesauce (and I didn't even ask if they'd add a kiddie applesauce to an adult meal). Kudos to those places that are offering fresh cut apples and other sides, and I'd love to see MORE options like this in the future. Carrots are pretty easy keepers, and if more chains would offer carrot sticks as a side with their sandwiches, they'd have more of my business! Report
Speaking of regional faves, what about Whataburger? LOL I like their stuff.

Still, if you truly want to eat healthier on the road, it's better to pack your cooler with the good stuff, like veggies, fruit and lean protein. That's what I've done during my many road trips, and it really helps. Report
I am on the road alot so therefore I find myself eating out alot. I am glad to see this article because now I will be more conscience of what I am about to put in my mouth! Report
I try not to eat too much fast food, but its good to have the info in the event Im hungry and have nothing readily available to eat Report
Don't have ANY of these around here, so guess that's OK for me. Don't know what I'm missing. :) Report
Man, I haven't had White Castle in probably 20 years. Hungry now. LOL! Report
Ohhh it would be in their best interests to make foods healthy...especially as society becomes more interested in their health. We hardly ever eat out any more due to how unhealthy the food is. Report
You can't eat healthy eating out at food or a regular sit down restaurant. All of these places pack in the calories, fats and worst of all TOO MUCH Sodium. You just have to pick the better of all the evils when you are eating out. I had a salad yesterday at Red Robins...and the salad had over 700mg of sodium and that is after I had the dressing on the side which would have added at least another 600mg of sodium. Report
Unfortunately we have none of these restaurants but I know that fast-food chains are never the way to go. My husband and I tend to find great selections when traveling at food markets or farmer's markets. You would be amazed at how many farmer markets there are around the nation, even in the week. If you stick with organic, fresh ingredients you can't go wrong. I read once that McDonald's salads are more calories than the hamburgers! So be careful! Report
My 7 year old loves McDonald's. So when we go (once a week) we both get the Nugget Happy Meal (w/apple dippers) and it only is around 400 calories. And then I sometimes splurge with a kiddie cone ice cream. Report
I've eaten very healthy at Boston Market, Panera Bread, Subway, and even Arby's (although that's hard). I agree the typical fast-food chains (e.g. McDonalds, Burger King, Popeye's) don't truly have healthy options ("healthier" is a relative term), but some are OK. Report
You can't eat healthy at a fast food chain! What little "healthy" options they offer are either way to small to satisfy your hunger, or tasteless and you walk away feeling hungrier then when you started. Have you seen the movie Super Size Me? Fast food will kill you. Your much better off taking your own meals with you. You'll get more bang for your buck nutritionally, and your body and heart will thank you. Report
I can't say that I ate at fast food before. Maybe years ago when my kids were growing up but even then we didn't eat there that much. It takes money and its cheaper to eat at home. I didn't fix that many hamburgers either. We had meatloaf and our bad one fried chicken. Report
It is not in their interest to have food that is healthy! They are in it for making money!!! It is not their responsibility to make sure we eat the best for our bodies. However being aware of the "killer" food that is out there, as the consumer we are the ones that hold the cards! We have choices! Before, I decided to make a lifestyle change it was nothing for me to go into one of these places and grab a burger! Now seeing how much fat, sodium, other clog artery nutrients I can't even stand the smell! When I am out on the go I just make sure I have a big breakfast and healthy snacks til I get home. I know it may not always be easy but my health far out weights these chains profiting off me any longer. Report
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