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Baked Sweet Potatoes at Wendy’s are a Fast Food Must

A commercial for three new sides at Wendy’s caught my attention this weekend. They lead with macaroni and cheese, my “desert island” food of choice; then, chili cheese fries; and rounded out the trio with a baked sweet potato. Now we’re talking!

Baked sweet potatoes are one of my very favorite foods. Particularly, I love them for lunch. In fact, they are a staple around the DietsInReview.com office; someone is always warming one up at noon. I usually bake two or three over the weekend and then take halves to work each day (perfect with my black bean turkey chili). Now, it’s good to know if I forget and really need something healthy and quick, Wendy’s can take care of me.

Leery of even the healthiest foods at a fast food restaurant, I went straight to the restaurant’s web site. There I learned I have nothing to fear, except maybe the cinnamon butter spread.

The potato itself is listed as just a sweet potato, no other additives. They bake this for an hour in each store, and then serve it to you piping hot. It has 260 calories, 0 grams of fat, 9 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and more than 1000% of your daily need for vitamin A. These are the nutritional stats for any sweet potato. The ten-ounce sweet potato that they serve (or .6 pounds) is a whopper of a potato; it’s a full four ounces heavier than what is considered a large sweet potato.

The cinnamon butter spread might add some delicious flavor, but it’s also a 120 calorie hit, and takes this veggie from zero fat to almost 10 grams. That spread also has 140 milligrams of sodium and four grams of saturated fat. We’ll give them credit that as far as restaurant processed food goes, the ingredients are pretty straight forward and didn’t raise any red flags:  Sugar, Butter (cream, salt), Canola Oil, Water, Molasses, Orange Juice Concentrate, Nonfat Milk Powder, Spices, Natural Flavor, Salt, Vanilla Extract, Xanthan Gum. CONTAINS: MILK.

Personally, I love a baked sweet potato as is. They have enough moisture and flavor that you really don’t need anything else. So, I say, totally skip the cinnamon butter spread.

While the sodium is pretty off the charts at 880 milligrams, a small bowl of Wendy’s chili would go really well with their baked sweet potato. Together, the meal has 480 calories.

As for the other new additions to the side item menu at Wendy’s, we say pretend you didn’t know about them. The macaroni and cheese has 375 calories and just shy of 1000 milligrams of sodium (we say shoot for <500 for an entire meal). You’ll barely have room for a side salad.

The chili cheese fries weigh in at a whopping 570 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 1200 milligrams of sodium. Folks, that’s not a side item, that’s a very unhealthy meal. You’d be slightly better off ordering a value French fry and a small bowl of chili for 440 calories and more than 1100 milligrams of sodium.

We’re excited about the addition of the baked sweet potato to the Wendy’s menu and hope it lasts longer than their short-lived sweet potato fries last year (making your own sweet potato fries is way better though). We’ve already added this to our Healthiest Menu Items at Wendy’s!

May 8th, 2012

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