Fast food is a big business in South Africa, with the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector showing steady growth, and making up some of the biggest franchising opportunities in the country.
South Africa’s fast food outlets offer a wide variety of meals – from burgers, chicken and pizza, to healthier options like Thai food and even juice and smoothie bars.
Despite fast food chains making healthy choices available, the industry is synonymous with cheap highly processed meals which contain large amounts of carbohydrates, added sugar, and unhealthy fats and sodium.
BusinessTech takes a look at some of the meals from South Africa’s most popular fast food franchises that carry the highest kilojoule counts.
Stuffed and stacked pizzas
In a previous article, Debonairs’ triple stack took the top spot. Many franchises have since added belt-busting offerings to their menus.
In 2018, Debonairs again hits the top with its Cram Decker specialty pizza, which gives you three layers and a crust crammed with pork cheese grillers. The ‘meaty’ version of the pizza packs almost 20,000 kilojoules into one meal – more than double the 8,700 kilojoules required for the average adult.
While pizzas have the highest total kilojoule count, they’re treated separately below on a per-slice basis, as not everyone consumes an entire pizza alone, in one sitting.
For the rest of the fast food outlets, Steers’ MexiKing Burger meal (including large chips and buddy Coke) totals almost 11,000 kilojoules. Aside for a whole pizza, it also carries the highest salt content by some margin.
With the kilojoule counting below, we considered meals, which in many cases includes fries. Further, we’ve only counted meals meant for an individual, and have precluded family combos and similar specials.
While the carbs vs fat debate rages on, note that nothing here should be considered nutritional advice, or taking a side on the matter – we’re simply looking at the meals that pack the biggest kilojoule punch in South Africa.
Sodium, fat and carbohydrate content is included for added information. All nutritional values have been converted to kilojoules where applicable.
Not all fast food outlets make nutritional information openly available. The following franchises were asked for nutritional information on their menus, and did not provide any by the time of publishing: Chicken Licken, Fishaways, ChesaNyama, and Domino’s.
Rocomamas and Pizza Perfect said they were still in the process of compiling nutritional information booklets.
Nando’s – Half Chicken and Wedges
Nando’s has numerous ‘healthy’ options – including its Discovery-approved Vitality meal – but it also has food that will eat away at more than half your daily kilojoule needs.
Assuming one person does not eat a full chicken and jumbo chips, the biggest solo meal is the half chicken, with large wedges.
|Half chicken and wedges (large)|
|Total kilojoules||4 735 kJ|
|Fat (g)||72 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||76 g|
|Sodium (mg)||1 170 mg|
|% of RDA||54%|
Wimpy (Fast Food) – Fully Loaded Dagwood
Wimpy offers casual dining and fast food dining. For this list, we skipped the grills and sit-down meals, and looked solely at what you would maybe pick up at the take-out desk.
Here, the Fully Loaded Dagwood came out with a higher kilojoule count than the double bacon and cheese burger, which used to be the heaviest. At 5,236 kilojoules, the double-patty and egg offer is one of the lighter offers on the list, but still eats up 60% of your daily recommended intake.
|Fully Loaded Dagwood (incl. chips)|
|Total kilojoules||5 236 kJ|
|Fat (g)||69 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||76 g|
|Sodium (mg)||1 926 mg|
|% of RDA||60%|
Simply Asia – Honey Duck
Local Thai food outlet Simply Asia offers a number of meals in the 2,000 to 2,500 kilojoule range, with only a few items stepping over the 4,000 kilojoule mark. The heaviest of these is the Honey Duck, which covers 5,514 kilojoules – and also has one of the lowest sodium counts featured.
|Total kilojoules||5 514 kJ|
|Fat (g)||85 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||78 g|
|Sodium (mg)||389 mg|
|% of RDA||63%|
KFC – Double Crunch Meal
KFC sells its chicken by the piece, so the most kJ-filled meal you could eat at the fast food outlet would depend on how many pieces of chicken you can stomach. At 830 kilojoules a piece, you would have to stop at 10 pieces to avoid the daily recommended limit.
Of course if you’re looking for the heaviest single meal, you can pass the Boxmaster and Streetwise meals and get a large Double Crunch Burger meal. With a total of 5,640 kilojoules (including large chips and buddy Coke) it’s about 500 kJ more than the Fully Loaded lunch box (5,181kJ).
|Double Crunch Meal (large)|
|Total kilojoules||5 640 kJ|
|Fat (g)||61 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||257 g|
|Sodium (mg)||3 126 mg|
|% of RDA||65%|
Burger King – Triple Whopper Meal
Burger King’s Whopper as steadily increased to a Triple Whopper which accounts for 4,600 kilojoules.
Adding in large chips and a Pepsi pushes the total to 7,290 kJ – leaving you with just over 1,400 kJ of the recommended daily intake to spare.
|Triple Whopper Meal (XL)|
|Total kilojoules||7 290 kJ|
|Fat (g)||68 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||168 g|
|Sodium (mg)||2 030 mg|
|% of RDA||84%|
McDonald’s – Big Tasty Meal
McDonald’s keeps pace with Burger King through its current ‘Grand Mac’ promotion, and the ‘Double Mac’.
However, it’s the double cheese, double patty and extra saucy Big Tasty Burger meal that will make you feel a little heavier. The burger itself has the highest kilojoule count – but it’s the XL fries and soda that pushes this meal to a whopping 9,259 kilojoules.
|Big Tasty Meal (XL)|
|Total kilojoules||9 259 kJ|
|Fat (g)||110 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||244 g|
|Sodium (mg)||1 928 mg|
|% of RDA||106%|
Roman’s Pizza – Chicken Mayo and Feta Pizza
Roman’s Pizza is a popular pizza take-out franchise thanks in large part to its double-pizza prices. The chain sells its pizzas in twos, with both thin and thick base options.
A single slice of the Chicken Mayo and Feta pizza accounts for 1,227kJ.
|Chicken Mayo and Feta (thick base, large)|
|Total kilojoules||9 815 kJ|
|Per slice||1 227 kJ|
|Fat (g)||109 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||214 g|
|Sodium (mg)||5 060 mg|
|% of RDA||113%|
Steers – MexiKing Steer Burger
Steers has upped its game from simply offering the king of all burgers, to giving the king a bigger brother in the Mighty King Steer Burger (three patties) and a cousin in the Mexican King Steer Burger (with chillies).
While the Mighty King packs plenty of kilojoules into one burger (4,259kJ), it’s the MexiKing burger that tops the list with 5,759kJ. Add in large chips (4,493kJ) and a Coke (792kJ), and this meal will cover 126% of your daily recommended intake.
|MexiKing Burger Meal (large)|
|Total kilojoules||10 989 kJ|
|Fat (g)||199 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||107 g|
|Sodium (mg)||5 848 mg|
|% of RDA||126%|
Pizza Hut – Pepperoni Lover’s
The nutritional information made available by Pizza Hut only covers per-slice caloric information for a medium pizza (6 slices), which gives a slightly skewed view of what the most loaded meal would add up to.
However, with even a medium slice of the group’s cheese-stuffed base coming in at almost 1,500 per slice, you can guess that a large pizza (8 slices) would total upwards of 12,000 kilojoules.
|Pepperoni Lover’s Stuffed Crust (8 medium slices)|
|Total kilojoules||11 848 kJ|
|Per slice||1 481 kJ|
|Fat (g)||150 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||218 g|
|Sodium (mg)||8 040 mg|
|% of RDA||136%|
Debonairs – Meaty Cram Decker
Debonairs offers the most kilojoule-heavy offering from all the pizza chains. Triple stacked, and stuffed with a cheese griller sausages, eating an entire large pizza on your own will fill you with 19,880 kilojoules (more than double the daily recommended intake).
Even a single slice covers more than quarter the daily recommended intake, at 2,485 kilojoules.
|Meaty Cram Decker (large)|
|Total kilojoules||19 880 kJ|
|Per slice||2 485 kJ|
|Fat (g)||183 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||540 g|
|Sodium (mg)||6 134 mg|
|% of RDA||229%|
Bonus – Cinnabon – Classic Pecan
While not strictly ‘fast food’, Cinnabon does fill that sweet spot for many – and is well known to carry quite a lot of kilojoules with it. The heftiest thing you can get from this confectionery brand is the Classic Pecan Cinnabon, which will wipe out half of your daily recommended intake, at 4,769 kilojoules.