Burger meals provide more than your dietary requirements for the day

16 July, 2012. Eating a burger meal with extra toppings, large portion side dishes and a large soft drink can provide up to one hundred per cent of an adult’s Guideline Daily Amounts for calories, fat, and salt, according to a new report¹ by safefood. In addition the research looked at ‘kids’ burgers and found that one third of takeaway burgers marketed as ‘kids’ size are actually larger than a ‘regular’ size burger.The report is the latest in a series of reviews of takeaway foods and continues safefood’s work in helping consumers become more aware of the calorie content of popular takeaway foods so that they can make informed choices about eating food prepared outside the home.

The research carried out across 240 take-aways found that an adult ordering a standard Quarter Pounder with all the trimmings (Bacon and cheese topping), a regular portion of chips and a medium soft drink would be consuming, in one sitting, approximately 1,500 calories contributing to over two thirds of the adult guideline amount for calories without accounting for other food consumed during the day. Add some larger portions and the recommended calorie intake for an adult for the entire day could be met. Without the trimmings the burger alone provided greater than 50% of an adult’s guideline amount for protein and almost 40% of the guideline amount for fat. According to safetrak research², 24% of people across the island of Ireland said they ate fast-food or a takeaway once or twice a week.
Commenting on the research, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said,

Almost a quarter of food adults consume today is prepared outside of the home, and consumers consistently say they want the appropriate information to make better choices. While takeaway burgers are a source of iron and protein they contain considerable levels of fat and salt. In addition the usual burger meal is not balanced and is practically devoid of vegetables and fibre.”

The safefood research, which examined 240 burgers of three categories (Kids, Regular and Quarter Pounder) from 47 takeaway outlets on the island of Ireland also found:
  • An average ‘quarter pounder’ takeaway burger had almost twice the calories of a ‘regular’ sized burger
  • No difference in the nutritional content of burgers per 100 grams between independent takeaway outlets and international franchises
  • Independent takeaways provided larger size ‘kids’ burgers compared with international takeaway premises
  • A topping of cheese and bacon on a regular burger can add 200kcals
In theory, ‘kid’s’ size burgers should be proportionately smaller in size when compared with an average ‘regular’ sized burger. However the research found that both burger types were similar in size, weighing on average 4oz (113 grams).
“People need to be aware of portion sizes when it comes to ordering takeaway burgers. Takeaway burgers are a meal and should not be considered as just an in-between meals or late-night snack. More often than not, when ordering burgers, people also order a portion of chips and soft drinks. Some of the ‘kids’ burgers (meat and plain bun only) that were analysed contained up to a quarter of recommended calories and saturated fat and roughly half of recommended salt intake for a child. People need to consider healthier options when eating takeaway burgers, such as asking for more vegetable toppings such as lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, a side salad and low fat cheese and perhaps cutting out either the bun or the chips” continued Dr Foley-Nolan.
The survey is the latest in a series of nutritional surveys commissioned by safefood looking at popular takeaway foods. Previous surveys have looked at Chicken & Potato products; Salt levels in Takeaway Soup and; takeaway & shop-bought pizzas. A survey of Chinese takeaway foods will be completed later in 2012.
The report “What’s in that Bun?” can be downloaded from the safefood website, https://www.safefood.eu/Publications/Research-reports/What-s-in-that-bun-.aspx

Healthier burger tips for consumers

  1. Ask for smaller burgers or a regular burger without toppings i.e.; bacon and cheese
  2. Eat more vegetable such as lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles
  3. Ask for lower fat cheese options
  4. Consider eating chips or the bun rather than both so we don’t have too many starchy foods in the one meal
  5. Reduce or do not ask for sauces on burgers
  6. If choosing sauces opt for relish, tomato ketchup or low fat mayonnaise
  7. Consider burgers as an occasional food

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For more information, please contact:

Orla Dormer, WHPR
Tel: 01 669 0030
Mobile: 085 708 6877
Julie Carroll, safefood
Tel: 01 448 0619 and 086 150 3047

Editors notes

  • Three types of burgers (Kids/Regular Size and Quarter Pounder) were surveyed for the report. Toppings including cheese and bacon were also included
  • Sampling was conducted at a range of takeaway outlets including international, national, regional, independent takeaways and takeaway vans
  • 240 burger samples were purchased from a total of 47 outlets
  • All burgers were analysed as purchased, i.e. including baps, dressing and toppings
  • The 2011 National Adult Nutrition Survey (NANS) highlighted that 24% of food & drink consumed involved food cooked outside the home (i.e. restaurant/pub/coffee shop/takeaway)
  • This research was commissioned and funded by safefood with research conducted by Eolas International in 2011. Analysis of the burger samples was undertaken by Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough, Northern Ireland and Eurofins, UK


¹ Nutrition takeaway series – What’s in that Bun? safefood July 2012
² safetrak research conducted across Island of Ireland, November 2010