In case you were wondering why the ads for fast-food fish increase this time of year – here’s your answer. Catholics started Lent on Wednesday, a 40-day observance wherein an individual fasts or abstains from something worldly, including abstinence from meat on Fridays. Catholics are permitted fish, and the restaurant industry takes full advantage. While grabbing a fish sandwich from a drive-thru seems innocent enough considering how healthful fish can be, those combos are often no better than the cheeseburgers.
Once you batter, fry, slather with mayo, and stuff fish inside a big white, starchy bun, you’re left with alarmingly high sodium and diet-crushing calorie counts.
We scanned restaurant menus to organize a list of the healthiest fish sandwiches, but our direction had to change when we couldn’t find any. That’s right – the fast food industry fails when it comes to serving a sandwich that meets our nutritional criteria, which is 500 calories and 500 milligrams of sodium or less for a meal. A couple come close with modifications, but they often don’t leave room for any sides.
McDonald’s Filet O’Fish Sandwich “wins” for the “healthier” fast food fish sandwich, as long as you ditch the cheese and maybe even the tartar sauce. The Long John Silver’s grilled salmon option is the best meal we found, and you even get to order corn with it! And for cold sandwiches, Panera barely wins with its tuna sandwich (barely because the sodium is still too high).
Take a look at the break down of eight of the most popular fast food restaurants and why you should avoid their fish menu. If you’ve got to go meatless on Friday, consider their vegetarian options – or just pack a lunch!
McDonald’s Filet O’Fish Sandwich
As is, the sandwich barely misses the cut-off for our sodium qualifier, with 390 calories and 590 milligrams of sodium. However, just removing the cheese brings this sandwich back down to 360 calories and 490 milligrams of sodium. To really trim it back, remove the cheese and tartar sauce for 270 calories and 380 milligrams of sodium. Get apples instead of fries and a “healthier” fast food lunch is served. Another win for McDonald’s – they’ve committed to sustainable seafood.
Long John Silver’s
For a place known for fried drops of batter, they have one of the better fast-food fish meals around. Order the Grilled Pacific Salmon, which comes with two pieces, for 150 calories and 440 milligrams of sodium. You can even add an unbuttered corn cob for 90 calories and 0 sodium!
Burger King’s Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich
This is one of the worst offenders. It starts at 590 calories and 1480 milligrams of sodium – pushing it outside the bounds of what we consider a healthier fast food meal. Remove the tartar sauce and you get within the calories at 410, but the sodium still borders an entire day’s worth at 1240mg. Even losing the bun won’t save this catch of the day.
Wendy’s Premium Cod Sandwich
This big fish sandwich isn’t much better than the others with 510 calories and 970 milligrams of sodium. While removing the tartar sauce will bring you inside the calorie mark with 400, it’s still too high on sodium at 810 milligrams.
This restaurant has a deceiving health halo. They print calorie counts on their menu and most consumers would be surprised to see what those totals are. The half tuna sandwich on honey wheat is one of the better options at 250 calories, but as fast food has a way of doing, the sodium is high at 580 milligrams. Make our Healthy Tuna Salad instead and pack a lunch.
Subway 6″ Tuna Sub
A tuna sandwich seems benign enough, and Subway manages to keep it mostly in check with 470 calories. It’s the 620 milligrams of sodium that disqualify this lunch from our list. If you could have it made without the mayo, and just top tuna with fresh veggies, you’d be better off. But it’s pretty standard that this salad is pre-made.
The small Lobster and Seafood Salad is fine calorie wise with 460, but the sodium is off the chart with 1090 milligrams. Quizno’s site doesn’t allow for customizing the meal to influence nutrition changes, so we’re not sure how to improve this one.
The small tuna sandwich is the healthier option, just barely exceeding our sodium qualification with 590 milligrams and 420 calories.
We appreciate the clean, wholesome foods that Jason’s Deli serves, and especially their commitment to organics. But they fall very short when it comes to fish. The Wild Salmon-wich has 670 calories with 1000 milligrams of sodium, and the tuna melt is worse with 900 calories and 1140 milligrams of sodium. Stick to the all-you-can-eat salad bar, here.
All nutrition data pulled from each restaurant’s website.