Which Is Healthier Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s? (Our #1 Pick)

When it comes to choosing between Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s it may be hard at first glance to tell which one is better for your health. 

Is Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s Healthier? Chick-Fil-A is healthier than McDonald’s for most people because they use higher quality ingredients and have fewer calories per serving.  However, those who are vegan, vegetarian, or reducing their sodium intake would be better off eating at McDonald’s.

It’s important to know how these restaurants compare to each other against their most similar items so that you can see how different health-wise these fast-food options are.

After reading this article you’ll learn:

  • The pros and cons of Chick-Fil-A & McDonald’s 
  • If Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s is a healthier choice
  • Which popular menu item from each location is better
  • How to order a healthy meal option at both Chick-Fil-A & McDonald’s 

Chick-Fil-A vs McDonald’s: Overview 

Chick-Fil-A

Chick-Fil-A Pros vs Cons

Chick-Fil-A specializes in chicken, and their standard for meat quality and freshness of their products is high because they serve meat that is free of antibiotics and they restock their fresh produce every week.

The majority of their menu items are lower in calories, carbs, fats, and protein than McDonald’s, but the sodium of their menu items does seem to be high, which is a concern if you’re someone who has high blood pressure and/or you’ve been advised to keep your sodium intake low.

They have lots of menu items available for those who eat animal products, but there are limited options available for those who prefer not to eat animal products.

Pros

  • Fresher Produce
  • Better Quality Meat
  • Fewer Calories Per Serving

Cons

  • Higher in Sodium
  • Less Variety

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McDonald’s

McDonald’s has a variety of options like breakfast, burgers, chicken, and fries but their menu items tend to be higher in calories, carbs, and fats than Chick-Fil-A.

McDonald’s meats are also a bit lower quality because they aren’t raised without antibiotics; however, they do make an effort to use locally sourced ingredients.

The two biggest selling factors for McDonald’s when it comes to your health are that their menu items are lower in sodium than Chick-Fil-A’s and they have many plant-based options available for those who prefer not to eat animal products.

Pros

  • Lots Of Variety
  • Locally Sourced Ingredients
  • Lower In Sodium

Cons

  • Lower Quality Meats
  • Fewer Low-Calorie Options

Comparing Chick-Fil-A & McDonald’s: Which Is Healthier?

To determine whether Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s is healthier it’s important to compare them across different metrics of nutrition to see which one comes out on top.

Low-Calorie Options

Chick-Fil-A has menu items that range in calories from 60 to 850 calories, whereas McDonald’s has menu items that range from 25 to 830 calories.

This would make it seem like McDonald’s is lower in calories, but actually, the average calories for Chick-Fil-A are lower than McDonald’s.

The Winner: Chick-Fil-A

The average calories of the menu items at McDonald’s are 500 calories, and the average for Chick-Fil-A is 420 calories; therefore, Chick-Fil-A is the winner for the fast-food restaurant that has the most low-calorie options.

Saturated Fat

Chick-Fil-A has one menu item (sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit) that has 18 grams of saturated fat, and McDonald’s has one menu item (Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese) that has 20 grams of saturated fat.

Additionally, there are more menu items at Chick-Fil-A that range from 0-10 grams of saturated fat, and more menu items at McDonald’s that range from 10-18 grams of saturated fat. 

The Winner: Chick-Fil-A

Therefore Chick-Fil-A is the winner for having more items that are lower in saturated fat than McDonald’s does.

Sodium 

McDonald’s menu items have significantly less sodium than Chick-Fil-A’s menu items, which is apparent when you compare similar items between the two fast-food chains.

The upper limit for sodium intake is 2300mg; however, the recommended sodium intake for those who want to maintain healthy blood pressure is between 1200 to 1500mg per day.

ProductChick-Fil-AMcDonald’s
Nuggets vs McNuggets760mg (152mg per nugget)300mg (75mg per nugget)
Chicken Sandwich vs McChicken1400mg640mg
Sausage Breakfast Sandwich vs Sausage McMuffin1510mg840mg

The Winner: McDonald’s

McDonald’s is the winner when it comes to the lowest sodium fast-food restaurant, and is a better option for those who want to reduce their sodium consumption.

Easily Customizable

Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s are very similar when it comes to customization because at both places you can customize your toppings, sauces, and some items whether it’s salted or not.

For example:

  • You can order a burger without a bun if you’re trying to reduce your carb intake
  • You can order unsalted fries if you’re trying to reduce your sodium intake
  • You can change your protein source for another source (beef for chicken, crispy chicken for grilled chicken)

The benefits of customization are that you can improve the quality of your meal based on your personal preferences and your health concerns.

The Winner: It’s A Tie

When it comes to how customization, Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s are tied because there aren’t many things that you can’t customize because if they have the ingredients for your order,  it’s not that difficult for them to put it together.

Quality Of Produce

Chick-Fil-A claims that it has fresh produce delivered to the store multiple times a week, and salads are made on-site each day to ensure freshness.

When produce is fresher the quality of its nutrients is higher; if the produce that they’re serving is older, it will have fewer vitamins and minerals. Additionally, fresh produce just tastes better than produce that’s reaching its expiration date.

McDonald’s doesn’t provide information about how often their produce is restocked or how fresh it is, but they do say that it’s purchased locally (The US sources exclusively from the US, Canada sources exclusively from Canada).

The Winner: Chick-Fil-A

The winner for the freshest produce is Chick-Fil-A because they restock their produce frequently to ensure it tastes great and has more nutrient availability.

Quality Of Meat

The quality of meat is important for your health, especially when it comes to whether the animals are being raised with antibiotics or not. This is because when we’re eating meat that contains antibiotics, it can make germs more resistant to drugs and our medications less effective.

Chick-Fil-A claims that the chicken they use is “whole breast meat raised with no antibiotics ever, starting from the egg, with no fillers or added hormones, and we bread it by hand in our restaurants”.

McDonald’s chicken is served with fewer antibiotics than it once was because the FDA deemed it necessary, but they aren’t entirely antibiotic-free. McDonald’s beef is sourced locally, but once again, does contain more antibiotics than its chicken, which many aren’t happy about.

The Winner: Chick-Fil-A

The winner for the best quality of meat is Chick-Fil-A because they use antibiotic-free meat and cage-free eggs, whereas McDonald’s is still using meat that is raised with antibiotics.

Types of Oils Used for Frying

Chick-Fil-A uses peanut oil for frying and McDonald’s uses a vegetable oil blend of canola, corn, and soybean oils.

Nutrition InfoPeanut Oil (1 tbsp)Vegetable Oil (1 tbsp)
Total Fat14 grams14 grams
Unsaturated Fat11.7 grams12 grams
Saturated Fat2.3 grams2 grams

There isn’t much difference between a standard vegetable oil blend and peanut oil, but what’s difficult about vegetable oil nutrition is that it differs depending on what proportion of each oil (soybean, canola, corn) is added.

The Winner: It’s A Tie

In general, I would declare it a tie because I have to assume that the vegetable oil they’re using is a generic blend. 

Vegan/Vegetarian Options

Chick-Fil-A has about 6 vegan options: salads (without meat or cheese), fries, fruit cups, and a wrap (without meat or cheese). For vegetarians, there are the same options plus english muffins, biscuits, and yogurt parfaits.

At McDonald’s, there are 7 vegan options: McPlant Burger, A Spicy Veggie Wrap, Veggie Dippers, fries, hashbrowns, cucumber sticks, and fruit. There are also many vegetarian options available besides the vegan ones.

The Winner: McDonald’s

McDonald’s is the better choice for those who are vegan or vegetarian because they have more options and they actually have products that they’ve brought in to cater to these individuals. 

Chick-Fil-A hasn’t added options for vegan or vegetarians at all, they just allow for customization.

Most Popular Meals: Head To Head Comparison

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich vs McDonald’s McChicken Sandwich

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich vs McDonald’s McChicken Sandwich

Comparing the chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s to see which one is the healthier option.

Nutrition InfoChick-Fil-A Chicken SandwichMcDonald’s McChicken
Calories440 calories470 calories
Carbs41 grams44 grams
Fats17 grams27 grams
Protein29 grams16 grams
Sodium1400mg650mg

The Chicken Sandwich from Chick-Fil-A is lower in calories, carbs, and higher in protein than the McChicken Sandwich from McDonald’s, which are all important metrics.

However, the sodium content of the Chick-Fil-A Sandwich is sky-high at 1400mg compared to the McChicken which only has 650mg of sodium.

The Winner: Chick-Fil-A

The Chick-Fil-A sandwich is a healthier option for most people; however, if you’re someone with high blood pressure and/or have been advised to keep your sodium intake low, then the McChicken is a better option for you.

That being said, you could reduce the sodium content of a Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich if you swapped the crispy chicken patty for the grilled chicken patty (1400mg vs 755mg, respectively).

Chick-Fil-A Nuggets vs McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets

Chick-Fil-A Nuggets vs McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets

Comparing the chicken nuggets from both Chick-Fil-A and McDonald’s to see whose version is the healthiest.

Nutrition InfoChick-Fil-A Nuggets (71gram serving)McDonald’s McNuggets (64g serving)
Calories160 calories (32 cal per nugget)170 calories (42.5 cal per nugget)
Carbs7 grams10 grams
Fats7 grams9 grams
Protein17 grams10 grams
Sodium760mg300mg

Although the smallest serving of Chick-Fil-A Nuggets (5-piece nugget: 71 grams) is larger than the smallest serving of McNuggets (4-piece: 64 grams), it’s still clear that the McNuggets are higher in calories, carbs, fats, and lower in protein than the Chick-Fil-A Nuggets.

However, once again the Chick-fil-a Nuggets are much higher in sodium than the McDonald’s version.

The Winner: Chick-Fil-A

The healthier option for most individuals is the Chick-Fil-A Nuggets because they’re lower in calories, carbs, and fats than the McDonald’s McNuggets.

However,  those who need to reduce their sodium consumption for their health are actually better off with the McDonald’s McNuggets.

Chick-Fil-A Breakfast Sandwich vs McDonald’s McMuffin

Chick-Fil-A Breakfast Sandwich vs McDonald’s McMuffin

Comparing the sausage breakfast sandwich from both fast-food chains to see which one is healthier.

Nutrition InfoChick-Fil-A Breakfast SandwichMcDonald’s McMuffin
Calories500 calories430 calories
Carbs30 grams31 grams
Fats33 grams25 grams
Protein23 grams20 grams
Sodium1030mg850mg

The Chick-Fil-A Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich has slightly fewer carbs and slightly more protein than the McDonald’s version. However, the McMuffin has significantly fewer calories and fat, and sodium than the Chick-Fil-A version.

The Winner: McDonald’s

I would declare the McDonald’s version the healthier option because it has less fat (because it’s mostly saturated fat) and less sodium than the Chick-Fil-A version. 

Additionally, the differences in protein and carbs between the two options aren’t enough to tip the scales in Chick-Fil-A’s favor.

Healthy Meal Options At Chick-Fil-A 

Healthy meal options at Chick-Fil-A 

I don’t want you to feel like you can’t eat at one fast food restaurant or another.  The key decision is not necessarily where you eat, but what you eat, and how much.  Below, I’ll be giving my top recommendations for the healthiest meals at either Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s. 

My top 3 healthy meal recommendations from Chick-Fil-A are:

1. Egg White Grill + Fruit Cup

2. Market Salad + Grilled Chicken

3. Grilled Chicken Club (with cheese OR bacon)

1. Egg White Grill + Fruit Cup

Chick-Fil-A egg white grill and fruit cup

A healthy breakfast option from Chick-Fil-A is the Egg White Grill because it’s high in protein and should keep you full for longer periods. 

The only thing that this sandwich is lacking to make a balanced meal is some extra fiber and micronutrients. For this reason, I would pair it with one of their fruit cups which is just a mixture of fresh fruit.

The Egg White Grill and the fruit cup together have 350 calories, 8g fat, 45g carbs, 27g protein, 3g fiber, and 980mg sodium.

The sodium content of this breakfast may be a bit high for those that are trying to significantly reduce their sodium consumption. These individuals may want to remove the cheese from this sandwich which will cut back on the sodium by 230mg.

2. Market Salad + Grilled Chicken

Chick-Fil-A market salad and grilled chicken

Another healthy meal option from Chick-Fil-A is their Market Salad with Chicken because it’s loaded with micronutrients, fiber, and protein.

This salad has 540 calories, 31g fat, 41g carbs, 28g protein, 5g fiber, and 1020mg of sodium but this includes the salad dressing that they pour on themselves.

To reduce the amount of fat and sodium further, you can order this salad and ask for the dressing on the side. 

They typically pile on the salad dressing when they add it themselves, so it’s better if you have control over how much is used to keep your serving size in check and reduce your calorie intake by approximately 100 to 300 calories.

3. Grilled Chicken Club (with cheese OR bacon)

Chick-Fil-A grilled chicken club

The third healthy meal option that I would suggest you order from Chick-Fil-A is their Grilled Chicken Club with either cheese or bacon.

I don’t recommend getting both cheese and bacon because they’re both fat sources that are high in sodium, so it’s better to choose your favorite and pass on the other.

The grilled chicken will serve as an excellent protein source, your fat source will come from the bacon or cheese, the carb source will be from the bun, and there are some micronutrients in the lettuce and tomato.

The club with bacon (no cheese) has 430 calories, 15g fat, 44g carbs, 32g protein, 2g fiber, and 965mg of sodium.

The club with cheese (no bacon) has 490 calories, 13g fat, 43g carbs, 29g protein, 2g fiber, and 865mg of sodium.

Read more about Chipotle: 

Healthy Meal Options At McDonald’s

Healthy meal options at McDonald’s

My top 3 healthy meal recommendations from McDonald’s are:

1. Breakfast Burrito + Apple Slices

2. McNuggets + Side Garden Salad

3. BLT with Grilled Chicken

1. Breakfast Burrito + Apple Slices

McDonald's breakfast burrito and apple slices

A healthy breakfast option from McDonald’s is their Breakfast Burrito which has eggs, green peppers, onions, sausage, and cheese, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

The addition of green pepper and onion provides some micronutrients, the whole wheat tortilla provides carbs and some fiber, the eggs provide protein, and the cheese is a fat source.

I would pair this breakfast burrito with an apple to make it more filling and to boost the micronutrient content of the meal.

The breakfast burrito and the apple slices together have 320 calories, 15g fat, 33g carbs, 14g protein, 6g fiber, and 570mg of sodium.

2. 6-Piece Chicken McNuggets + Side Garden Salad

McDonald's 6-piece chicken mcnuggets and side garden salad

Another great healthy meal option from McDonald’s is an order of the 4-piece Chicken McNuggets paired with a Side Garden Salad.

The Chicken McNuggets will provide some protein, carbs, and fats and are just missing some fiber and micronutrients, so pairing it with a side salad provides all the nutrients you need in a balanced meal.

The side salad compliments the Chicken McNuggets to make them a balanced meal when you’re on the go.

Together the salad and the nuggets have 290 calories, 14g fat, 16g carbs, 18g protein, 4g fiber, and 450mg of sodium.

3. BLT with Grilled Chicken

McDonald's BLT with grilled chicken

The third healthy meal option from McDonald’s is their BLT with Grilled Chicken Sandwich, but I suggest modifying it to make it lower in fat and sodium.

The regular BLT with Grilled Chicken comes with a grilled chicken breast, 2 slices of bacon, a mayo-style sauce, lettuce, and tomato, served on a brioche bun.

(560 calories, 25g fat, 44g carbs, 38g protein, 2g fiber, and 1100mg of sodium).

I would suggest removing the bacon and changing the mayo-style sauce to mustard, which will significantly cut back on the fat content of this sandwich. 

(423 calories, 15g fat, 42g carbs, 30g protein, 2g fiber, and 560mg of sodium).

If you didn’t want to make both of those changes but still wanted to make this sandwich healthier then you could ask for 1 slice of bacon instead of two, just change the sauce, or keep the sauce and remove the bacon. 

Any of these changes will help reduce the calories from unhealthy fats and lower the sodium content.

Other McDonald’s Comparisons

Read more about McDonald’s: 

Other Fast Food Chain Comparisons

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Final Thoughts

The healthier fast-food option is Chick-Fil-A because of the quality and freshness of their ingredients and their low-calorie options. But, McDonald’s wasn’t far behind because their menu items are lower in sodium and they have more plant-based options.


About The Author

Amanda Parker
Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath.  She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.