Carl’s Jr., which some would say has become popular more for its sometimes controversial commercials instead of the fact that they charbroil its hamburgers, is one of the largest fast-food establishments in the Western United States. Started in 1941 by Carl and Margaret Karcher with a hot dog stand in Los Angeles, California, there are now over 1,200 Carl’s Jr. locations, including locations in China.
Like many fast-food establishments, Carl’s Jr. is constantly making changes to its menu, in order to attract new customers and maintain its current customer base. In response to the weak economy, however, Carl’s Jr. has chosen to pride itself upon the high quality of its food, rather than lower its prices and offer value meals.
But does high quality food mean it’s healthy and nutritious? Let’s take a look…
Keep in mind the following intake recommendations from the American Heart Association when reviewing Carl’s Jr. nutrition information:
- Total fat: limit total fat intake to 30% or less of total calories (for a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 60 grams of fat per day)
- Saturated fat: limit saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories (for a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 20 grams of saturated fat per day)
- Sodium: limit to less than 2,400 mg/day
- Cholesterol: limit to less than 300 mg/day
Carl’s Jr. Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger, which is one of the more popular charbroiled items, contains a whopping 1000 calories, 54 grams of total fat, 24 grams of saturated fat, 1840 mg of sodium, and 145 mg of cholesterol – definitely not a healthy choice. However, this item does contain 53 grams of protein, thanks to the two beef patties it contains. Another popular charbroiled item – the Super Star with Cheese – contains 940 calories, 59 grams of total fat, 24 grams of saturated fat, 1560 mg of sodium, 145 mg of cholesterol, and 48 grams of protein, making this another very unhealthy choice.
Unfortunately, the majority of the items on Carl’s Jr. charbroiled menu are just as unhealthy. However, the Big Hamburger does contain considerably less calories, fat, sodium, and cholesterol than its counterparts – it contains only 490 calories, 18 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 1000 mg of sodium, 50 mg of cholesterol, and 25 grams of protein. The Kid’s Hamburger and Kid’s Cheeseburger are also healthier options on the charbroiled menu, and they’re not just for kids.
If you’re not a meat eater, Carl’s Jr. has numerous turkey, chicken, and fish items on its menu, all of which contain considerably less calories, fat, and cholesterol than the charbroiled items. However, the sodium content in some of these items is still very high. For example, the Fish & Chips and the Bacon Swiss Crispy Hand-Breaded Chicken Tender Sandwich contain 1410 mg of sodium. However, the Honey Mustard Hand-Breaded Chicken Tender Wrapper contains only 640 mg of sodium, and the Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders (3 pieces) contains 770 mg of sodium.
If you’re looking for a healthy side dish, try the Natural-Cut Fries, but avoid the Chili Cheese Fries, which contains 14 grams of saturated fat and 1710 grams of sodium.
For your beverage choice, Carl’s Jr. offers a variety of soft drinks, shakes, and malts. If you choose a soft drink, stay with a diet beverage, as they do not contain the high amounts of calories and sugar like the regular versions do. Carl’s Jr. also offers bottled water, low-fat milk, and orange juice for other healthy options.
The Carl’s Jr. Ingredient Guide contains additional nutrition and ingredient information about all of its menu items.