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How Burgers Stack Up

Yeah! Burger (photo by Becky Stein)

Yeah! Burger (photo by Becky Stein)

When McDonald’s made the decision to begin listing calorie counts on its menus, food watchers throughout the country collectively licked their lips, rubbed their hands in anticipation and dialed up the Schadenfreude to full blast.

“This is going to be good!” they thought. The fast-food behemoth forced to wear its scarlet letter on every row of every backlit menu board.

Then the calorie counts revealed themselves to be, well, far from great — but in the grand scheme of things, not that bad.

A Quarter Pounder with Cheese clocked in at 520 calories, with about 40 percent coming from fat. A Big Mac was a bit more — 550 calories. True, the Angus Bacon & Cheese offered up a full 790 artery-clogging calories for the taking. But this is a burger that, in all fairness, sells itself as a splurge for the overactive appetite rather than a typical meal.

Speaking of typical meals, you might be tempted to outfit this burger with a 250-calorie serving of french fries and a 150-calorie soda, and you will find this non-supersized meal approaches 1,000 calories.

Without getting into your age, gender or lifestyle, you probably can do well by being somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 calories on a typical day. Eat a sensible breakfast and a nutritious, home-cooked dinner and that lunch splurge at Mickey D’s won’t kill you.

Do “better” hamburgers fare as well? And are they as forthcoming with their nutritional information?

If you base nutritional information solely on calorie counts, then no.

I contacted three of Atlanta’s best-known gourmet burger outlets — Flip Burger Boutique, Yeah! Burger and Farmburger — to find out how they compared vis-a-vis the Mickster. I also looked up nutritional information for an in-between kind of restaurant, Atlanta-based Ted’s Montana Grill.

Of the three, only Flip had nutritional information at the ready. While the information isn’t listed on the menu, patrons can ask to see a calorie count. For instance, a “Butcher’s Cut” with blue cheese, caramelized onions, soy-truffle vinaigrette, pickled shallots and red wine jam contains 696 calories — a bit less than that Angus McFatty patty, but considerably more than a Big Mac.

Ted’s hits the same range with ease. A beef burger on a Kaiser roll with cheddar cheese contains 724 calories before ketchup.

Yeah! Burger currently does not provide any calorie counts but is working with a third-party nutritionist and hopes to offer nutritional information by the end of the year. Because its burgers are so highly customizable with a plethora of toppings and sauces, Yeah! Burger will offer a calorie calculator online. You built the virtual burger with whatever toppings you want, and the calculator keeps a tally.

On the microblogging platform and social networking website Tumblr, one user dubbed One user of Tumblr called “myself-redefined” calculates a Yeah! Burger with avocado, cheddar cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms and tomato, put it on a whole wheat bun and then researched a printed calorie guide to come up with a grand total: 882 calories. That sounds about right.

Farmburger doesn’t offer calorie counts and has no intention of doing so, says owner George Frangos.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in posting calorie counts, but if we did it I’d like to do it right,” says Frangos, who was busy opening his third area location in Dunwoody. “I have no idea how to go about it. I’m guessing it would have to be signed and approved by an official somewhere.”

He estimates the grind of the beef Farmburger uses is close to 80 percent lean/20 percent fat, which is on the higher end of fat content for ground beef. Throw in one of those buttery griddled buns and a gush of creamy Farmburger sauce, and you surely have a caloric burger.

What can we conclude? If you base nutrition solely on calorie content, then you’re probably best off eating at McDonald’s.

But, obviously, there’s a lot more to the picture than calories. If you factor in salt content, my guess is McDonald’s standing would less appealing, as many of the burgers contain more than 1,000 mg of sodium per serving.

Yeah! Burger and Farmburger serve grass-fed beef, which contains much less saturated fat than feedlot-raised beef and has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to heart health.

And this is one man’s opinion: Any of these burgers tastes a lot better than McDonald’s, and when food tastes better it satisfies more. Scratch that burger itch well, and even if the meal contains 1,200 calories, you can make allowances to keep your daily calorie count in line.

But if you need a burger bad and your blood pressure isn’t through the roof, then maybe the drive-through would be healthier for you. Seriously.

The real surprise isn’t the decision by McDonald’s to list calorie counts, it’s that it took the company so long to do so.

(Remember my snarky column about McDonald’s way back when?)

– by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

28 comments Add your comment

Kar

October 1st, 2012
3:07 am

2,500 calories a day seems like a lot. I thought 2,000 was typically the max reccomended.

Mrmambo

October 1st, 2012
5:18 am

Yeah, I shoot for about 1800 calories per day and I’m a 5′5″ male who runs every day.

And, John–good article, but lots of typos, missing words, and the last few paragraphs seem out of order. Seems like a draft or something got mangled when posting.

Juicy Bison Goodness

October 1st, 2012
8:17 am

If you haven’t had a bison/buffalo burger on an Oatie wheat bun from Ted’s Montana Grill, you don’t yet know how great a burger can be.

Steve

October 1st, 2012
8:43 am

It used to be that people would eat meals like this for special occasions. Now, people are eating fatty/fried fast food meals all the time, and when you look around, everyone is getting fatter. Am I the only remaining 45 year old male in America that is not fat?

Edward

October 1st, 2012
8:58 am

Steve, I’m a 52 year old American male wearing 30W32L pants. I indulge in a delicious burger from somewhere like Farmburger occasionally. I love desserts and fried foods. But, I don’t eat those things every day, my typical diet is mostly fresh vegetables that I cook myself. I also get plenty of exercise since I either walk or bike everywhere I go. The key to eating well is always moderation. Enjoy what you like, but just don’t overdo it.

Art

October 1st, 2012
9:07 am

It goes without saying that any of the local burger joints probably serve a tastier burger than McDonald’s but at what price? McDonald’s takes a lot of, in my humble opinion, undeserved flack for producing a consistent, reasonably priced and now we’re learning, not terribly nutritionally bad product. I’ve traveled the world over and those Golden Arches have often provided a much needed taste of home. If you really want to have caloric shock when it comes to burgers, Five Guys’ bacon cheeseburger weighs in at 920 calories and that’s before any additional toppings are accounted for. A large fry is a whopping 1474 calories. Ignore the guilt by adding a Diet Coke, make it a large.

GaPeachy

October 1st, 2012
9:50 am

Great article, I am a food lover, and don’t always work out like I should so I have to try to keep my fat intake as low as possible. However that does not mean I won’t be enjoying a grear hamburger now and then. Especially homemade! Homemade burgers usually come in around only 380 cal and are just as tasty.

Rodney

October 1st, 2012
11:02 am

I’ve said it so many times it’s like second nature to type it now – MODERATION. When we learn to inject it into our daily lives, we are the better for it.

Food like McDonald’s, and by extension the gourmet burger clan, is good for the soul. And the soul needs sustaining just like the body. It’s just that the soul needs far less (read, far fewer trips to the burger joint) to maintain its happy place. :)

Paddy

October 1st, 2012
2:42 pm

Edward, what does your wife like to eat? Do you cook for both you and she?

Baltisraul

October 1st, 2012
6:13 pm

Edward we all want more of your life story. What is your jacket size, how do like your eggs cooked and whats your favorite pantry item? LOL

AzCat

October 1st, 2012
10:57 pm

Again with McDonald’s, John. Have you ever blogged about Burger King? Arbee’s? Wendy’s? Long John Silver’s? Just curious, since you seem to have a burr under your saddle when it comes to McD’s. Either they didn’t hire you ages ago for that first summer job, or a McDonald’s franchise owner kicked your dog when you were ten. Yes, I just made those up—but I really am curious.

Art

October 2nd, 2012
8:55 am

@Baltisraul, LMAO!!

John Kessler

October 2nd, 2012
9:02 am

The question of how one likes one’s eggs brings to mind a certain Yung Humma video…

Paddy

October 2nd, 2012
9:03 am

I am with Art. That was funny, don’t care who you are.

Baltisraul

October 2nd, 2012
10:51 am

John K.——–Fried or Fertiilized. All righty, then!

Edward

October 3rd, 2012
11:17 am

Balt, while I realize you are unnaturally obsessed with me, and I should be flattered by your quasi-stalking, at least my comment was on-topic. Unlike yours, which was simply a personal attack on another commenter. Why you are allowed such an indulgence begs the question of what sort of information you have on Mr. Kessler. :-P

Paddy, my husband enjoys the same foods as me, we share the cooking duties.

Baltisraul

October 3rd, 2012
11:51 am

Edward,I am allowed that indulgence by the AJC because you make it so easy for us to be entertained. It is the Entertainment Section. I am not obsessed with you. You just make it so darn easy I can’t help myself!

Edward

October 3rd, 2012
12:29 pm

Balt, your comments have been reported. This is not a forum for your continued harassment and if Mr. Kessler does not take action, perhaps my lawyer will. I’m sick of your stalking on this (and possibly other) forum. You are hereby warned.

Baltisraul

October 3rd, 2012
4:55 pm

Thanks Edward for the warning. Can’t wait to hear from your mouthpiece.

Art

October 4th, 2012
9:10 am

Edward, I’m sorry that your feelings have been hurt. Even if this blog is part of the Entertainment Section it should be entertaining to most everyone; at least those of us who enjoy reading and talking about food. I beg to differ that your comments were on-topic. The topic was “How Burgers Stack Up”. In your post you stated the following: 1. You are 52. 2. You wear a 30/32 pant. 3. You occasionally eat Farmburgers and they’re yummy. 4. You like desserts and fried foods. 5. You mostly eat fresh vegetables which you prepare. 6. You get lots of exercise, etc. etc. Of the 6 facts, that I counted in your post, only one came close to addressing the topic while the rest sounded like a Match.com post. Each of us is probably guilty of occasionally straying from the topic to make our own personal pet peeves known or have a little fun with other blog regulars and when we do, we probably shouldn’t take ourselves, or the comments other people make, so seriously.

AzCat

October 4th, 2012
9:15 am

John, apparently McD’s is not taking as long as most, if not all, of the other fast food providers.

http://www.ajc.com/news/business/most-eateries-hold-off-on-calorie-labels/nSS4h/

Edward

October 4th, 2012
8:00 pm

Art, so have you chastised the two commenters before me, the ones I was responding to? It is great that you enjoy taking my comments out of context, are you always so disingenuous? Your lengthy diatribe is way off-topic, as well.

I come here to participate in a community-driven food blog, where we all are free to express our opinions on the dining offerings of our city. Yet some people seem to view it as a game wherein they can score points by attacking others, making it a hostile environment. And people like Art give the attackers kudos. Nice job, Art.

Baltisraul.....

October 5th, 2012
10:13 am

Art…..I believe my definition of a hostile enviroment would be the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals played in Montreal. What say you?

Lizzy

October 5th, 2012
1:19 pm

You 3 males just need to cool it. A meaningful response about the article is awfully relevant…..showing off anonymously is lame.

Baltisraul.....

October 5th, 2012
1:44 pm

Lizzy…….you are a voice of reason. I am out, thanks!

Bigac56

October 5th, 2012
3:36 pm

You guys sound more like a bunch of little girls!

Baltisraul.....

October 6th, 2012
9:25 am

Bigac56……………You may not have spent much time in a clubhouse or locker room. What went on above is typical banter amoung guys. Never been around anyone that did not like the give and take.

icon collection

October 7th, 2012
7:50 am