Studies conducted by scientists have shown that consumers do not evaluate the nutritional value of the food they eat, which is a serious problem, since many people lead an active lifestyle and prefer fast food.
Faced with time constraints due to work and childcare, fast food is a popular option for many given its convenience, great taste, ease with which it can be obtained (especially with delivery apps) and is mostly considered inexpensive.
According to Wits Health Researcher Sifive DlaminiFast food labels in other countries have proven effective in helping consumers make healthier choices.
Several countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates, have mandated fast food outlets to provide nutritional information to customers.
The UK is the latest country to join the list, and its government passed legislation in April that requires all businesses to post calorie information on menus.
However, according to Dlamini, South Africa is far behind this trend.
“No laws or regulations requiring fast food restaurants to provide their consumers with any nutritional information…We looked at websites of 31 fast food restaurants in the country. Our results showed that only about 58% of the largest South African fast food restaurants provided nutritional information.
“It was mostly available through restaurant websites, but a few restaurants only made it available upon request,” he said.
Fast food restaurants in South Africa offer a wide variety of food from burgers, chicken and pizza to healthier options like Thai food and even juice and smoothie bars.
While fast food chains offer healthy choices, the industry is synonymous with cheap, highly processed foods that are high in carbs, added sugar, unhealthy fats and sodium.
Dlamini’s study found that, in terms of nutritional value, almost all food combinations on the South African fast food menu exceed the recommended total energy, carbohydrate, sugar and salt content, and most of them also exceed the recommended fat content.
The researchers involved in the study recommend that consumers limit fast food consumption and avoid food combinations, adding that the government should consider regulations that require fast food nutrition labeling to help consumers make informed dietary choices.
BusinessTech looked at some of the meals offered by popular fast food franchises that contain the highest amount of kilojoules.
In the kilojoule count below, we have taken into account meals, which in many cases include french fries. In addition, we only included meals intended for individuals and excluded family complexes and similar special offers.
Since even a large pizza is usually eaten by one person, we consider the grand total for all pizza fair play, but have included energy values for each slice.
While the carb vs fat debate continues, nothing here should be taken as dietary advice or taking sides on the matter – we’re just looking at the meals that contain the most kilojoules in South Africa.
Sodium, fat and carbohydrate contents are included for additional information. All nutritional values have been converted to kilojoules where applicable.
In line with Dlamini’s own findings, we found that not all fast food outlets provide nutrition information in the public domain. We have contacted the following franchises through their customer service channels and requested nutritional information on their menu:
- Chicken Liken
- Chicken Zebro
- Pizza Hut
- Pizza Perfect
At the time of publication, inquiries through the customer service lines and other official channels have not been answered.
As in previous years, Debonairs Cram-Decker pizza ranks first in terms of calories, with an 8-slice Meaty Cram Decker pizza containing almost 20,000 kilojoules.
One slice of this pizza makes up about a quarter of the total kilojoules you should be consuming per day, and if you eat the whole meal alone, you’ll more than double your recommended daily allowance.
Burger King and Steers also offer big burgers that deliver more salt to your body than any other combination.
KFC – double crunch
KFC sells chicken by the piece, so technically the most high-calorie meal you can eat at a fast food restaurant will depend on how many pieces of chicken you order. At 830 kilojoules a pop, you’ll have to stop at ten to avoid the recommended daily limit.
If you’re looking for the heaviest single meal, you can forgo the Fully Loaded and Streetwise meal and get the big Double Crunch Burger meal. A total of 5,640 kilojoules (including big chips and Coke) is the most calories you can eat in a fried chicken franchise, except you can eat a 21-piece bucket on your own.
|Double lunch (large)|
|Total kilojoules||5641 kJ|
|Fat (g)||68.4 g|
|Carbs (g)||142.6 g|
|Sodium (mg)||2,569 mg|
Wimpy (Fast Food) – Full Load Dagwood
Wimpy offers casual and fast food restaurants. We skipped the grill and dinners for this list and only looked at what you can order to take away.
Here, a fully loaded dagwood showed more kilojoules than a double bacon and cheeseburger, which had previously been the heaviest. Offering 6,045 kilojoules, Double Egg Brownie is one of the lightest offerings on the list, but still eats up 60% of the recommended daily allowance.
|Fully loaded Dagwood (including shavings)|
|Total kilojoules||6 045 kJ|
|Fat (g)||68.3 g|
|Carbs (g)||80.4 g|
|Sodium (mg)||3,074 mg|
Fishaways – seafood platter for one
Debuts on the Fishaways list, which now publishes nutritional information for its menu.
The biggest menu item we could find was the platter for one, which combines all your favorite seafood dishes with rice, chips and coleslaw. This meal costs 6,046 kJ, making it one of the lightest meals featured here.
This food still makes up more than two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance. The sodium content is not specified.
|Seafood platter for one|
|Total kilojoules||6 046 kJ|
|Fat (g)||100.6 g|
|Carbs (g)||97.2 g|
Nando’s – Double chicken burger and Casa pap (plus condiments)
In previous years, Nando’s offered the “easiest” fast food options, with half chicken and potato wedges being the most energizing at 4,735 kJ.
However, there are now more sophisticated options on the menu with new products and side dishes. A double chicken burger has 4,500 kJ, and with porridge and relish as a side dish, that figure rises to 6,697 kJ.
|Double chicken burger and Casa pap (plus condiments)|
|Total kilojoules||6 697 kJ|
|Fat (g)||44.8 g|
|Carbs (g)||128 g|
|Sodium (mg)||3,888 mg|
Burger King – Texas BBQ with Bacon 3.0 and French Fries
Four years ago, Burger King launched the Triple Whopper, which took the crown as the franchise’s biggest and meatiest burger at 4,600 kilojoules.
In 2022, the group has gotten even bigger and now offers a Texan BBQ Bacon Burger 3.0 that’s as busy as it sounds.
A hamburger alone costs more than 6,600 kJ, and with regular fries and a drink, that combination rises to 7,337 kilojoules.
If you’re looking to cut back on salt, this dish has more salt than the heaviest food we’ve found at any fast food outlet.
|Texas BBQ Bacon Burger 3.0|
|Total kilojoules||8 036 kJ|
|Fat (g)||91.7 g|
|Carbs (g)||179.1 g|
|Sodium (mg)||6,600 mg|
Simply Asia – Honey duck
The local Thai grocery store, Simply Asia, has a few items in the 2,000 to 2,500 kilojoule range, but there has been a noticeable increase in meals above the 4,000 kilojoule mark.
The heaviest of these is the Honey Duck, which covers almost 8,000 kJ, approaching 100% of the recommended daily allowance.
|Total kilojoules||7 989 kJ|
|Fat (g)||68.3 g|
|Carbs (g)||245.1 g|
|Sodium (mg)||958.3 mg|
McDonald’s – Big McFeast Lunch
McDonald’s is keeping up with Burger King with their McFeast burger. The franchise has offered heavier burgers in the past (like the Big Tasty Burger), but McFeast has the most calories on the group’s 2022 menu.
Including a large fries and a drink, a McFeast meal costs just under BK at 8,540 kJ.
|McFeast lunch (large)|
|Total kilojoules||8 540 kJ|
|Fat (g)||88.5 g|
|Carbs (g)||183.8 g|
|Sodium (mg)||1420 mg|
Roman’s Pizza – Chicken Mayonnaise and Feta Pizza
Romana’s Pizza is a popular takeaway pizza franchise, mainly due to the double prices of the pizzas. The chain sells its pizza in pairs, with both thin and thick bases.
Pizza with chicken, mayonnaise and feta is the most high-calorie dish on the menu – 9,815 kJ. One slice accounts for 1227 kJ.
We assume that the average consumer will only eat one pizza, so we didn’t double the value.
|Chicken mayonnaise and feta (thick base, large)|
|Total kilojoules||9 815 kJ|
|per slice||1 227 kJ|
|Fat (g)||109 g|
|Carbs (g)||214 g|
|Sodium (mg)||5,060 mg|
Steers – Mighty King Steer Burger (and regular chips)
Over the years, Steers has expanded its menu to include some of South Africa’s favorite grills. The only menu item with the highest kilojoule is a whole grilled chicken with a heat output of over 10,000 kJ, but we classify it as a family or general menu item.
The biggest human meal in 2022 is the Mighty King Steer burger, which when paired with big chips and Coke is 10,841 kJ — 125% of the recommended daily allowance.
|Mighty King Steer Burger|
|Total kilojoules||10 841 kJ|
|Fat (g)||169.5 g|
|Carbs (g)||186.8 g|
|Sodium (mg)||6,502 mg|
Debonairs – Meaty Cream Decker
Debonairs offers the most expensive offer of all pizza chains. A triple stack and grilled cheese sausage topping, eating an entire large pizza alone, will fill you up with 19,880 kilojoules—more than twice the recommended daily allowance.
Even one slice covers more than a quarter of the recommended daily allowance, i.e. 2485 kJ.
|Meat Crum Decker (large)|
|Total kilojoules||19 880 kJ|
|per slice||2 485 kJ|
|Fat (g)||183 g|
|Carbs (g)||540 g|
|Sodium (mg)||6,134 mg|
Bonus – Cinnabon – Classic Pecan
While not strictly “fast food”, Cinnabon does fill that sweet spot for many. The healthiest thing you can get from this confectionery brand is the Classic Pecan Cinnabon, which will eat half the recommended daily intake per 100 grams. 4769 kJ.
Read: Buy Price War 2022: Woolworths vs. Checkers vs. Pick n Pay vs. Spar vs. Food Lovers