Fast food menus are riddled with options that can bust through your daily calorie budget—and Wendy’s menu is no exception. And now that the national joint rolled out three new sandwiches—the S’Awesome Bacon Cheeseburger, the Peppercorn Mushroom Melt, and the Barbecue Cheeseburger—you’ll find it even harder to make a healthy decision that satisfies your cravings. But if you’re looking to crush the fast-food hankering while keeping your waistline in check, we’ve got you covered with the best and worst menu items at Wendy’s.
From their popular burgers to innocent-sounding salads as well as sandwiches, wraps, sides, and their famous Frosty dessert, you’ll find the naughty and nice picks below. We’ve consulted top dietitians for input on why these drive-thru items fit the Eat This-approved bill—or don’t! So be sure to check this list twice before placing your order.
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
Best: Jr. Hamburger
At just 240 calories, you’ll get 14 grams of muscle-building protein. Major bonus: unlike most fast food burgers, Wendy’s Jr. Hamburger packs in under 500 milligrams of sodium and keeps the carb count low. Pair this burger with the Garden Side Salad for an extra boost of satiating fiber.
Best: Jr. Cheeseburger
Adding a slice of cheese tacks on just 40 more calories, 2.5 more grams of saturated fat, and 190 milligrams more sodium than what you’d find in the Jr. Hamburger. Not too shabby, if you ask us! Plus, you’ll get a bit more protein and loads of flavor coming from the cheese. Skip the deluxe version of this cheeseburger if you want to save calories from the added mayo spread.
Best: Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe
“When nothing will do but a fast food burger, you can’t get much better than the Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe!” Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and weight loss expert, tells us. “It has all of the fixings you want, but keeps the portion size in check so it has more reasonable sodium and saturated fat than you’ll find in oversized burgers.”
Worst: Peppercorn Mushroom Melt Triple
“The word ‘mushroom’ might have you fooled, but this sandwich is anything but healthy! It’s got 1,290 calories and an incredible 86 grams of fat,” New York City-based dietitian Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition, tells us. Plus, we can’t ignore that sodium count: The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, and this burger definitely approaches the limit.
Worst: Barbecue Cheeseburger Triple
With almost a full pound of beef (three quarters worth, to be exact) as well as fried onions, American cheese, and a generous dousing of barbecue sauce, the frightening nutrition panel on this burger makes sense. You’ll get more than a thousand calories and a whopping 30 grams of heart-harming saturated fat—and worse: four grams of trans fat, a fat that’s linked to heart disease!
Worst: S’Awesome Bacon Cheeseburger Triple
When three meat patties and three slices of cheese meet three strips of Applewood-smoked bacon and are all drenched in a tangy sauce, you’ll get this monstrous burger. You’ll get four days’ worth of trans fat and almost a full day’s worth of sodium if you order this beefy beast. Still craving this not-so-S’Awesome pick? Go for the single S’Awesome Bacon Cheeseburger, which has 640 calories and 40 grams of fat.
Best: Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad
“The 610 calories isn’t so bad for a fast-food salad,” Gorin says. “And if you don’t use all the dressing, the calorie count will dip even lower! You get a hefty amount of protein—43 grams—from this salad, as well as an excellent amount of fiber, both of which will help to tide you over.”
Worst: Taco Salad
A blend of lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, tortilla chips, and chili sounds like a base for a hearty salad, but this pick is packing way too much belly-bloating sodium to make it on our Eat This-approved list. While the Taco Salad packs in a solid amount of fiber, it also packs in more sugar as well as 10 grams of heart-harming saturated fat.
Sandwiches & Wraps
Best: Grilled Chicken Wrap
“Anything with the word ‘grilled’ in the title is going to be healthier than something that is ‘crispy,’ which indicates food that’s breaded and fried,” Gorin says. “This wrap is just 300 calories while supplying 20 grams of protein. I’d suggest pairing it with the apple bites.”
Best: Grilled Chicken Sandwich
“I’d go for the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. At only 380 calories and a whopping 35 grams of protein, it’s decently filling, and the fresh veggies on top add a bit of healthfulness. The honey mustard dressing makes it surprisingly flavorful, too!” Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND previously told us in 6 Diet Expert-Approved Orders at Wendy’s.
Worst: Homestyle Avocado BLT Chicken Sandwich
“This sandwich is higher in calories and fat than many of the other sandwich options,” Gorin tells us. “This is because the chicken is breaded. And while avocado is a healthy fat, you’re getting multiple fat sources, including bacon and cheese. You’d be much better off choosing a grilled sandwich—or if you do want something crispy, go with the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which has 330 calories and 16 grams of fat. You can add extra veggies (tomato, lettuce, and onions) to this for extra filling fiber.”
Worst: Homestyle S’Awesome Bacon Chicken Sandwich
This sandwich is stacked with fried chicken breast, three strips of Applewood smoked bacon, muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Wendy’s signature sweet and tangy S’Awesome sauce—a combo that lends the meal almost a full day’s worth of saturated fat and 1,560 milligrams of sodium. Skip this hefty chicken sandwich and opt for the Grilled Chicken Sandwich instead.
Best: Side Garden Salad
This side salad is perfect for pairing up with your favorite Eat This-approved burger at Wendy’s. You’ll get three grams of satiating fiber as well as seven grams of protein all while clocking in under 20 grams of carbs.
Best: Plain Baked Potato
“For the same amount of calories, a plain baked potato will provide double the amount of fiber than the junior size fries,” Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, CDN Nutrition Consultant at Triad to Wellness in New York City, says. “And you’ll be spared 10 times the amount of sodium and fat found in the junior sized fries.”
“The American Heart Association recommends choosing fiber-rich foods, such as beans, for most servings. A side of chili will add in 6 grams of fiber, meeting approximately 25 percent of your daily needs,” Siegel says, adding that at 160 calories for the small chili, this makes for a healthier side item.
Best: Apple Bites
“I love that Wendy’s sells this 35-calorie side,” Gorin exclaims. “If you’re craving crunch and crispiness, this is a much healthier choice than fries or chicken nuggets.” Another bonus: the apple bites are preserved with vitamin C (calcium ascorbate), which acts as an antioxidant, instead of sketchy preservatives.
Worst: Chili Cheese Fries
“A side of Chili Cheese Fries is definitely a side item I would not recommend,” says Siegel. “With 1,100 milligrams of sodium, this side dish will contribute to about half of your recommended sodium intake per day for a generally healthy individual. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommendations for sodium is no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. And at 510 calories, this side dish is way too large of a portion.”
Worst: Baconator Fries
The Baconator Fries will pack in at 80 percent of your recommended amount of saturated fat for a day, Siegel tells us. “The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your saturated fat intake to 5 to 6 percent or approximately 13 grams per 2,000 calories a day. The Baconator Fries contain 10 grams of saturated fat. And once again, the portion size is too large for a side dish at 500 calories.”
Worst: Chili & Cheese Baked Potato
“You may believe the chili cheese baked potato is a healthier side option. However, this side item adds 460 calories, 710 milligrams of sodium, and 11 grams of fat to your main meal,” Siegel says. “This portion will meet 25 percent of your fat and calorie intake for the entire day and approximately 30 percent of your intake of sodium per day, according to recommendations by the American Heart Association.”
Best: Vanilla Frosty
“We all crave sweets, and the Junior Vanilla Frosty would be a good choice while dining at Wendy’s with only 190 calories and 5 grams of fat,” Siegel tells us, adding that limiting calories from added sugar should always be kept in mind when choosing desserts.
Worst: Frosty Cookie Sundae
When it comes to fast food desserts, the Vanilla Frosty is one of the best choices. However, once you top it with chocolate cookie bites and Ghirardelli Chocolate Sauce, you’ve got a frozen treat that will set you back nearly 400 calories. “This indulgence contains the recommended limit of added sugar for the entire day,” Siegel tells us. “The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugar to no more than 12 teaspoons per 2,000 calories—and this Frosty cookie sundae weighs in at just that!”