WHETHER YOU’RE SOMEONE skipping meat on Fridays for religious reasons or you’re embracing a more pescatarian lifestyle year-round, fast food fish sandwiches are there for you.
That said, some of the fish sandwiches served at fast food joints are healthier than others, dietitians say. So, knowing how different options stand up nutrition-wise might help you decide which ones to order.
“It’s always nice to know what the healthy options are when you’re in a pinch and need something quick at a drive-through,” says Autumn BeamLDN, a nutrition specialist at Hope Wellness in Los Angeles.
Depending on the fast-food restaurant, a fish sandwich is sometimes one of the healthiest menu items—but not always. Fish may be one of the leanest protein sources around, but fast food fish sandwiches tend to be fried, which can add on empty calories. Plus, research has linked fried foods to cardiovascular problems, inflammation, and other health risks.
In fact: “When choosing between a fast food burger and a fast food fish sandwich, the burger would typically be the better option due to it not being battered and deep fried,” says Bridget MacDonald, RDNa health coach at Welcyons.
But, if you’re planning to eat a fast food fish sandwich any time soon, dietitians shared their thoughts on some of the options.
Here’s their ranking of the best to worst fast food fish sandwich (not including sides or drinks):
1. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish
McDonald’s has been serving the iconic Filet-O-Fish since 1965, and it’s one of the healthier fast food fish sandwiches out there. It’s the lowest in calories and sodium, compared to the others, says Yelena Wheeler, MPH, RDNof MIDSS.
It’s also lower in sugar and carbs, and has a “decent amount” of protein (16 grams) and fiber (2g), Beam adds. Another thing to note, Wheeler says, is that the fish on the sandwich is Alaskan pollock, which the the company says is “100% sourced from sustainable fisheries.”
Per sandwich: 390 calories, 16g protein, 39g carbs (2g fiber, 5g sugar), 19g fat, 580mg sodium
2. Long John Silver’s Wild Alaska Pollock Sandwich
Calorie-wise, the Wild Alaska Pollock Sandwich is comparable to the Filet-O-Fish. But, it contains more than double the amount of sodium.
“The [sodium] amount in just one sandwich makes it a hard no for anyone needing to reduce or restrict sodium,” says Kimberly Gomer, RD, LDNdirector of nutrition at Body Beautiful Miami.
The protein count is decent, but with only one gram of fiber, you’re also eating a bunch of empty carbs, which is only heightened by the fryer.
Gomer adds that Long John Silver’s serves several grilled fish itemswhich are solid options.
400 calories, 14g protein, 14g protein, 44g carbs (1g fiber, 0g sugar), 16g fat, 1,230 mg sodium
3. Arby’s Crispy Fish Sandwich
When you think about Arby’s, you might be more likely to think roast beef and curly fries, but the restaurant chain also serves a Crispy Fish Sandwiches.
And, it’s one of the highest in protein, but it’s also larger in size than some of the other sandwiches, Gomer says. It has more carbs (a bunch of which are from sugar) and calories, too.
566 calories, 20g protein, 65g carbs (3g fiber, 9g sugar), 25g fat, 986mg sodium
4. Checkers Crispy Fish Sandwich
the Crispy Fish Sandwiches at Checkers/Rally’s is nutritionally similar to Arby’s fish sandwich, but it contains less protein and fiber. It’s also on the high side for sugar (credit the bun).
Gomer adds that its lower fiber and protein counts won’t fill you up as much as other fish sandwich choices—and that might tempt you to overeat.
530 calories, 15g protein, 52g carbs (2g fiber, 8g sugar), 29g fat, 760mg sodium
5. Culver’s North Atlantic Cod Filet Sandwich
Unlike most of the other fish sandwiches, Culver’s version is made with cod. MacDonald says cod (although it’s similar to pollock) is slightly higher in protein and vitamins and minerals, like B vitamins, iron, potassium, and zinc.
And while the protein count is solid, there are too many empty carbs and not enough fiber in this sandwich to help you stay full for a long time.
600 calories, 27g protein, 49g carbs (1g fiber, 6g sugar), 33g fat, 750mg sodium
6. Burger King Big Fish
It’s low in fiber, high in sugar, and threatening in its sodium count if you’re concerned about sodium counts. The protein count is okay, but lots of empty carbs in this one too.
570 calories, 18g protein, 55g carbs (2g fiber, 9g sugar), 30g fat, 1,275mg sodium
7. Captain D’s Giant Fish Sandwich
Captain D’s Giant Fish Sandwich is excessive.
The sandwich houses about double the calories of other fish sandwiches, the carb count is jacked up, and the sodium count is … concerning.
“It might be delicious, but there are equally delicious, healthier options available,” Beam says.
1,010 calories, 25g protein, 82g carbs (3g fiber, 4g sugar), 73g fat, 1,940mg sodium
Erica Sweeney is a writer who mostly covers health, wellness and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.