492 calories of fun

492 calories of fun

Having embarked on a spontaneous early evening shopping trip with our children, it became painfully obvious we would have to feed them while we were on the road. As a nutritionist, I always find it hard to reconcile my feelings about fast food, with the reality that fast food is just that, FAST, not to mention extraordinarily convenient, and children really seem to like it.

So, somehow we found ourselves at a local Nathan’s Famous. I am not sure why I always feel like they are more innocuous than the heavier hitters, like McDonald’s, but, I do. I think it has something to do with the lack of marketing targeted at children,  or lack of overt marketing altogether.

Anyhow, my husband ordered 2 dogs, and a side of french fries. My children are somehow not fry lovers (yet) and so, I knew these fries were for the adults. Generally, I avoid french fries for obvious reasons, but, I happened to be hungry at this point, and did  not have the willpower to resist them. I have to admit, I gave very little thought to the amount of fat or salt that was in there at that moment, but, I knew it couldn’t be too good. The saving grace was that I was sharing with my husband, so that could definitely cut the damage in half.

Of course, foodgeek that I am, once I got home, I had to find out what the actual damage was. So, here’s the 411 on the fries, for those of you who might be wondering:

Medium Nathan’s Fries (6.5 oz size):

492 calories, 34 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 67 g sodium, 42 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 4 g protein

So, how does this measure up in terms of being a decent food choice?


62% of the calories come from fat (9% of those being saturated fat calories). What does this mean in terms of recommendations? Not too much really, unless you consider the rest of your days calories, but, the recommended percent of fat calories per day is anywhere between 20-35%. So, while this is definitely almost twice the recommended amount of fat calories in this one food, it is only part of an entire days calories, and as such might be fine…It’s to Nathan’s credit that they do not use any trans fats in their fries, and to my knowledge it does not appear in any of their other food items either.


I was surprised to find out the fries had very little sodium, less than 3% of the daily value (which is < 2400mg)


34% of the  calories are from carbs, again this doesn’t mean too much unless you factor it in to an entire day’s meal, but, when you consider that the food is a potato, and a potato is MOSTLY carbohydrate, it is kind of daunting that this food is only about 1/3 carbohydrates! But, hey, there’s actually no “french” in them either, so I will try not to be a stickler here.


Less than 4% of the calories from protein, and this is very much in line with what this amount of potato has.

So, it boils down to this; because the potatoes have been fried, they have an additional 306 calories. Can you have pretty tasty potatoes without them being fried? Absolutely! My recipe for baked potato chips will be forthcoming. But, in the meantime, the if you are going to indulge in fast food, I recommend the following:

  1. Share the meal! No matter how bad it is, you will still only take in half that amount. It may not fill you up as much, but, you can definitely satisfy your hunger and/or cravings and make it to the next meal, and make that one more on the nutrient dense side.
  2. Remember that one transgression is only part of an entire day’s nutrition, and doesn’t have to mean the you are totally derailed.
  3. Most of the fast food joints do have their nutrition information online now, so you can actually plan for a transgression

It is worth mentioning that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie when it comes to weight loss/gain. Check out this article on calories featuring the very brilliant Walter Willet’s take on calories: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1822118,00.html

Incidentally, my former favorite, cheese fries, has an additional 263 calories, 20 g fat, 446mg sodium. And of course, the hot dogs a different story entirely…

If you would like more information on Nathan’s, you can find it here: http://www.nathansfamous.com/PageFetch/getpage.php?pgid=25