KFC vs McDonald’s: Which Is Healthier? Per Nutrition Coach

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NOTE: This article has been updated in December 2023. Since originally publishing this article in July 2022, McDonald’s has updated its menu, removing almost all the healthier options such as salads, wraps, and Premium Select Chicken Strips.  I initially ranked McDonald’s substantially healthier than KFC; however, both options are now equal. Only a couple of meal options at each restaurant exist if you are looking for healthy fast food choices

Key Takeaways

  • Neither McDonald’s nor KFC is a good choice if you’re trying to improve your overall health; however, a couple of healthy options exist, which I’ll detail below. 
  • McDonald’s burgers have marginally lower calories, carbs, and fat than KFC sandwiches.
  • On the other hand, KFC’s chicken has a higher protein and lower sodium content than McDonald’s chicken.

McDonald’s vs. KFC: Overview



McDonald’s specializes in burgers with a wide selection of beef, chicken, and fish sandwiches.  McDonald’s is also popular for its delicious Chicken McNuggets, French fries, and breakfast options.

You can start your day at McDonald’s with its breakfast sandwiches, bagels, muffins, donuts, and specialty coffees.  

They don’t skimp on dessert either, with various dessert menu items like ice cream, shakes, and cookies.

McDonald’s average nutritional information is calculated using its 22 main burger/sandwich options (beef, chicken, and fish). 



Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) adopted “finger-lickin’ good” to describe its famous fried chicken pieces.  The chain expanded to include fried chicken sandwiches and side dishes such as fries, mashed potatoes, corn, potato salad, coleslaw and macaroni salad.

They also have some dessert options available, such as ice cream, cookies and cheesecake. However, KFC doesn’t have a breakfast menu like McDonald’s does, so there is less variety in their menu options.

KFC’s nutritional information for this review is calculated for its 16 main sandwiches to compare to McDonald’s burgers/sandwiches.  I also separately reviewed the nutrition information for chicken pieces.

Is KFC vs McDonald’s Healthier? 

mcdonald’s and kfc comparisons

Nutrition Overview

Here is the average nutrition overview for an average sandwich at both McDonald’s and KFC: 

Average per sandwichMcDonald’sKFC
Carbohydrates44 g50 g
Fiber2.9 g3.8 g
Fat23.5 g27.4 g
Saturated Fat7.5 g3.8 g
Protein27.5 g24.2 g
Sodium1057 mg1023 mg

Carbohydrate Content

Per the table above, McDonald’s burgers are lower in carbs than KFC sandwiches.  However, getting Original Recipe fried chicken pieces at KFC is the lowest-carb option for a meal.

Regarding chicken options, McDonald’s smallest offering is the 4-piece McNuggets, which have 12 g of carbs.  

At KFC, it is possible to order a single drumstick (2 g of carbs), two pieces of Original Recipe fried chicken (10 g of carbs), or 3-piece Original Recipe Chicken Tenders (15 g of carbs).

The Winner: Tie

  • McDonald’s burgers have lower carbs than KFC sandwiches, but KFC fried chicken options are lower in carbs than McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. 

Total Fat Content

McDonald’s burgers have a lower total fat content on average compared to KFC sandwiches, but KFC single fried chicken pieces are lower in fat than McDonald’s breaded Chicken McNuggets.

Regarding chicken, McDonald’s 4-piece chicken McNuggets have 10 g of fat, providing 53% of the calories for this menu item (170 calories in total).

KFC’s lowest-fat chicken option is a single drumstick with 8 g of fat (51% of calories – 150 calories).  This is 20% less fat than the McNuggets.

The Winner: Tie

  • McDonald’s burgers have lower total fat content, but KFC’s Original Recipe drumstick has less fat than McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. 

Saturated Fat Content

KFC sandwiches have only half the saturated fat of McDonald’s burgers.

The American Heart Association recommends that only 5-6% of calories come from saturated fat to lower the risk of heart disease.  Based on 2000 calories per day, this would be about 13 g of saturated fat.  

McDonald’s burgers have an average of 7.5 g of saturated fat, meaning more than half of the recommended daily intake in one item. KFC sandwiches have an average of only 3.8 g of saturated fat.

Therefore 32% of the total fat of McDonald’s burgers is from saturated fat, compared to KFC sandwiches which have 14% of their total fat from saturated fat.  

The Winner: KFC

  • KFC sandwiches and chicken pieces have lower saturated fat.

Protein Content

McDonald’s burgers provide more protein on average than KFC sandwiches.  However, KFC fried chicken is higher in protein than McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

The highest-protein burger at McDonald’s is the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (48 g of protein).  The Double Tender Sandwich (27 g of protein) is nearly double the highest-protein sandwich from KFC.

When you consider the chicken options, KFC is a higher-protein option than McDonald’s because just two pieces of fried chicken from KFC offer 41 g of protein; a serving of ten Chicken McNuggets has only 23 g of protein.

The Winner: Tie

  • While McDonald’s has more protein in its burgers, KFC provides more protein in its fried chicken pieces so I declare it a tie.

Sodium Content

Both KFC sandwiches and McDonald’s burgers are very high in sodium (over 1000 mg).

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day, and ideally less than 1500 mg for adults with high blood pressure

This means that an average burger from McDonald’s will give you around 46% of the upper limit for sodium in a single item.  

KFC is practically the same because their sandwiches will give you an average of 44% of the upper limit.  

Both options are high in sodium, especially for those with high blood pressure.

Switching to chicken, the smallest serving and lowest-sodium option is a single Original Recipe drumstick from KFC, which has 150 mg of sodium. 

The Hot & Spicy and Extra Crispy versions of KFC chicken have higher sodium content with one Hot & Spicy Drumstick having 230 mg of sodium and an Extra Crispy Drumstick having 320 mg.

McDonald’s smallest serving and lowest-sodium option is a 4-piece Chicken McNuggets with 360 mg of sodium.  This is more than double the sodium of KFC’s lowest-sodium chicken.

The Winner: KFC

  • Since the main menu items (burgers and sandwiches) have virtually the same sodium content, KFC is the winner because its chicken options are much lower in sodium than McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

Similar Meals: Head-to-Head Comparison

Here I compare similar menu items across these fast food chains.

McDonald’s Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich vs. KFC Spicy Big Crunch

McDonald’s Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich vs. KFC Spicy Big Crunch
Nutrition InfoMcDonald’s Southern Style Crispy Chicken SandwichKFC Spicy Big Crunch

McDonald’s Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich is lower in calories, carbs, fat, and sodium than the KFC Spicy Big Crunch. The Spicy Big Crunch does have one gram more protein but one extra gram of protein isn’t significant.

The Winner: McDonald’s

  • Overall, the McDonald’s Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a healthier option than the KFC Spicy Big Crunch.

McDonald’s Medium French Fries vs. KFC Medium French Fries

McDonald’s Medium French Fries vs. KFC Medium French Fries
Nutrition InfoMcDonald’s Medium French FriesKFC Medium French Fries

A medium order of french fries at McDonald’s is significantly lower in calories, carbs, fat, and sodium than a medium order of French fries at KFC.

The Winner: McDonald’s

  • Overall, McDonald’s Medium French Fries are a healthier choice than KFC Medium French Fries.

Healthy Meal Options At McDonald’s and KFC

The following are the “healthiest” meals at McDonald’s and KFC that I would recommend to my clients, with tips on how to order them to meet your nutrition goals.

I call them “healthy” because they are lower in total calories (<500 calories per meal) and carbs and/or fat and higher in protein.

Healthy Meal Option from McDonald’s

Hamburger + Small Fries

hamburger + small fries mcdonald’s

My recommended healthy meal option at McDonald’s is a hamburger paired with a small order of fries.

This meal is 480 calories with 15 g of protein (12.5% of total calories), 62 g of carbs (50% of total calories), 20 g of fat (37.5% of total calories), and 710 mg of sodium.

Healthy Meal Option from KFC

Original Recipe Drumsticks (2) + Coleslaw + Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

KFC original recipe drumsticks (2) + coleslaw + mashed potatoes & gravy

My recommended health meal option at KFC is two of their drumsticks paired with coleslaw and mashed potatoes.

KFC’s 2-piece Original Recipe chicken drumsticks have 280 calories, 4 g of carbs, 30 g of protein, and 16 g of fat with 300 mg of sodium on their own.

Adding coleslaw adds vegetables to this meal as a way to boost the micronutrient content.  Crunchy vegetables in coleslaw are a good source of vitamin A and potassium.  

One individual serving of coleslaw is 120 calories, with 13 g of carbs, 1 g of protein, and 7 g of fat with 140 mg of sodium.

Lastly, KFC’s plain mashed potatoes are actually fat-free if you don’t add butter, and an individual serving of gravy is only 45 calories with 1g of fat.  Adding the potatoes and gravy increases the carbohydrate content of the meal to make it more balanced across the macronutrients.

The overall meal is 490 calories, with 33 g of protein (27% of total calories), 34 g of carbs (29% of total calories), 24 g of fat (44% of total calories), and 1060 mg of sodium. You can reduce the sodium content by 460 mg by omitting the gravy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is McDonald’s Breaded Chicken Healthy?

No, McDonald’s breaded chicken is not healthy.  It is high in fat and sodium.  Look for restaurant chains that offer grilled chicken options for a healthier choice.

Are There More Calories In KFC or McDonald’s? 

The average sandwich from KFC has roughly the same number of calories as the average burger from McDonald’s, with approximately 500 calories for each.  A small McDonald’s hamburger has 250 calories and a Kentucky Flatbread sandwich has 290 calories.  

Other Restaurant Comparisons:

About The Author

Lauren Graham

Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement.  Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete.  She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing. 

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