Nowadays it seems like every burger chain is obsessed with cramming as much food between two buns as humanly possible. Be it four burger patties, 10 strips of bacon, blue cheese, or even a fried chicken patty, it seems like we’ve lost sight of the sandwich that started it all: the humble hamburger.
Believe it or not, there was a time when people were able to take a thin patty of beef, place it between two halves of a bun, apply a squirt of ketchup and possibly some diced onions, and call it lunch. No cheese, no mayo, not even lettuce and tomato.
But a sandwich so simple can also erroneously get a reputation for being boring, and that chains cannot abide. So they super-sized, overloaded, and kept on going, until what you see today is a shadow of the original product that, in many cases, made these chains famous. But those old-school burgers are still on the menu, and if you want to get a real sense of what a burger chain is all about, it’s smart to judge it by its simplest offering, not its most complex.
The fat and calories you’ll find in a single-patty burger vary a bit from chain to chain, but they’re surprisingly consistent across the board.
We tracked down 10 leading fast-food chains and used their online nutrition listings to compare how much fat, saturated fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol are to be found in their simplest, smallest ("junior" in a couple of cases) single cheese-less burger. While you might find them to be comparatively low in fat and calories, keep in mind that these days, not many people eat just one, and fries usually complement it. But if you’re looking to get your burger fix, you might be pleasantly surprised by the calorie count. We wouldn’t advise making a habit of eating these, however: it’s still a whole lot of empty calories.