The healthiest fast food meals in South Africa

 ·11 Oct 2015

Fast food franchises have a poor reputation globally, with concerns surrounding high fat and carbohydrate content, as well as high levels of salt served up in quick, greasy meals.

South Africa is littered with fast-food outlets and chains, to an extent that the country has eaten its way to becoming one of the most obese nations in the world.

While local fast food franchises definitely pack on the calories in many of their meal options, that’s not to say there are no healthy choices available.

Read: The most fattening fast-food meals in SA

Nearly every fast food chain, from McDonald’s to KFC, lists healthy meal options on their menus, and at worst would wipe off 22% of the daily required kilojoule intake of an adult.

Adults require around 8,700kJ per day, including 70g of fat, 310g of carbohydrates and 2300mg of sodium, on average. These figures change depending on body type, lifestyle and many other factors.

Arguably, the healthiest fast food meal is no fast food meal at all; but if you’re determined to get your quick fix – and are being super conscious about being healthy about it – then these are the best options at South Africa’s biggest franchises.

For all the meals below, we looked at meals as they’re sold from the menu (excluding optional extras such as sides and drinks, where possible). All meals are also the ‘full-sized’ options – no kids’ meals were considered.

We also had one more rule: no salads (even though they will be mentioned) and no sides as meals.


McDonald's burger

McDonald’s burger
Kilojoules 1 092 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 29.2 g
Fat (g) 10.0 g
Sodium (mg) 455 mg
% of RDI 12.6%

If you want to really scale down, you can order one solitary McDonald’s hamburger (no cheese, no chips, and no cold drink) – at 1,092kJ per burger, one of these is the healthiest you can get, as long as you have nothing else with it.

McD’s also offers a crispy chicken salad at 1,102kJ, excluding any salad dressing.


Nando's quarter

Quarter chicken (leg quarter)
Kilojoules 1 100 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 17.2 g
Fat (g) 17.5 g
Sodium (mg) 380 mg
% of RDI 12.6%

Nando’s, in partnership with Discovery Vitality, introduced the Vitality meal, which is as filling as it is lean. It comes with a grilled chicken breast, braaied mielie and a regular Portuguese salad.

However, because of its three components, that means it’s not the lightest meal on the menu at 1,613kJ – that title belongs to the 1/4 piece of chicken (the leg quarter) at 1,100kJ.


Steers chicken burger

Steers chicken burger
Kilojoules 1 172 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 32 g
Fat (g) 7.3 g
Sodium (mg) 986 mg
% of RDI 13.5%

When it comes to Steers burgers, chicken is the way to go – and choose to leave the chips behind. A Steers chicken burger accounts for 1,172kJ. While the home of the King Steer Burger has smaller ‘Get Real’ burger options available, these are the burgers used in kids meals, so the we chose the standard burgers.


Debonairs Vegetarian pizza

Real deal vegetarian pizza
Kilojoules 1 327 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 34.0 g
Fat (g) 13.8 g
Sodium (mg) 792 mg
% of RDI 15.3%

If you go to a pizza place, you want pizza. And the healthiest pizza you can have at Debonairs is the “real deal” (small) vegetarian pizza, which carries 1,327kJ. Not bad for the franchise that offers South Africa’s most calorie-packed meal for one.

Burger King

Burger King Tendergrill Chicken burger

Tendergrill chicken burger
Kilojoules 1 439 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 41.4 g
Fat (g) 7.9 g
Sodium (mg)
% of RDI 16.5%

Another burger franchise that lets you buy individual burgers, Burger King’s healthiest option is also of the chicken variety – the Tendergrill chicken burger comes in at 1,439kJ without chips or soda.

The franchise offers a Grilled Chicken Salad will only hit you for 516kJ – and if you want to drop the chicken altogether, you can get a Delight Salad that has only 117kJ.


KFC grilled chicken burger

KFC grilled chicken burger
Kilojoules 1 601 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 47.0 g
Fat (g) 7.6 g
Sodium (mg) 919 mg
% of RDI 18.4%

KFC, known for its greasy deep fried chicken goodness, has the healthy eater at heart. You can get a grilled chicken burger that accounts for 1,601kJ, and that’s it, as long as you don’t order chips and drink with it.

The KFC salad comes in at 1,452kJ, and compares rather favourably to the other fast food joints on the list, as long as you avoid the optional salad dressing.


Wimpy Grilled chicken Mayo wrap

Grilled chicken mayo wrap
Kilojoules 1 706 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 27.0 g
Fat (g) 20.0 g
Sodium (mg) 475 mg
% of RDI 19.6%

The healthiest ‘meal’ on the Wimpy menu is a Greek Salad, which comes in at 1,001 kJ (minus salad dressing). But because we’re excluding salads, this leaves the way open for the grilled chicken mayo wrap, which at 1,706kJ is the healthiest option.

A toasted ham, cheese and tomato is actually healthier – at 1,400kJ – but comes with a full portion of chips (over 1,800kJ), so scratch that.

Roman’s Pizza

Roman's vegetarian

Small vegetarian pizza
Kilojoules 1 953 kJ
Carbohydrates (g) 51.9 g
Fat (g) 16.5 g
Sodium (mg) 676 mg
% of RDI 22.4%

Another vegetarian pizza option that’s the healthiest at its franchise. Roman’s small vegetarian pizza (on a normal base) is the heaviest ‘healthy’ meal out of all the franchises listed here at 1,953kJ.

It’s also worth remembering that Roman’s Pizza offers 2-for-1, so if you eat both pizzas, double that intake.

More on fast food

The most fattening fast food kids meals in South Africa

South African fast food meals for kids among the most unhealthy in the world

Biggest fast food chains in South Africa

The most fattening fast-food meals in SA

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter