McDonald's vs Starbucks: Which lunch is healthier?

Updated on 18 May 2011 | 0 Comments

Find out who's the real gutbuster in the battle of the coffee shop and burger joint!

It might feel like a fairly wholesome place to grab your lunch, but is the grub at Starbucks any better for you than a nosh up at Maccy D’s? 

You might not think of it as fast food, but the prolific coffee shop chain has just  jostled into third place behind the golden arches and Subway to become the number three restaurant food chain in the USA. 

Coffee and cake aside, the salads and sarnies look harmless enough - and customers certainly perceive it to be a healthier option than burgers and chips. 

After all, the Starbucks website declares their “passion for good food” with “natural ingredients”.

There are nutritious offerings like houmous with vegetable sticks, falafel paninis and fruit salad, but what about their core range of menu options? 

We took a closer look at the nutritional values of some of their lunch items with similar offerings at McDonald’s. You might be a little surprised at what we found. 


Starbucks Tuna Melt and Mature Cheddar Panini, 459 calories, 11.9g sat fat, 2.3g salt 

McDonald’s Fillet-o-Fish, 350 calories, 3g sat fat, 1.7g salt 

The Tuna Melt is a classic lunchtime treat, but the Starbucks version is over half of a woman’s daily recommended allowance of saturated fat. If you grabbed a Fillet-o-Fish from McDonald’s you’d have over 100 extra calories to play with for the rest of the day. 


Starbucks Roasted Chicken and Tomato Panini, 321 calories, 1g sat fat, 2g salt

McDonald’s McChicken Sandwich, 385 calories, 2g sat fat, 1.6g salt 

McDonald’s doesn’t come out on top with their take on the good old chicken sandwich up against this particular Starbucks’ panini. But be warned, Starbucks has some other belt-busting chicken offerings. The Chicken and Beef Pastrami Panini contains 411 calories, and the Toasted Club Sandwich a whopping 534 calories. 


Starbucks Steak and Cheese panini, 420 cals, 6.9g sat fat, 1.8g salt

McDonald’s Cheeseburger, 295 cals, 6g sat fat, 1.5g salt 

The meat will be processed and it’ll only take minutes to eat, but if you’re trying to keep your calories down then the McDonald’s Cheeseburger is the better option. There’s not much in it saturated fat and salt wise though, and would you be able to resist the fries?! 


Starbucks Chicken with Red Pesto pasta salad, 390 cals, 1.8g sat fat, 0.5g salt 

McDonald’s grilled chicken and bacon salad, 165 calories, 2g sat fat, 1.1g salt  

Starbucks like to put carbs in their salad offerings which considerably boosts the amount of calories compared to McDonald’s salads. They do look appetizing though and are hardly nutritional criminals. 


Starbucks Italian Mozzarella  and Slow Roast Tomato Panini, 419 calories, 7.9g sat fat, 1.5g salt 

McDonald’s Vegetable Deluxe, 410 Calories, 2g sat fat, 1.6g salt  

Although there’s not much difference in calories or salt, the saturated fat content of the Starbucks panini is pretty high compared to the veggie burger thanks to the Mozzarella cheese.   

Who wins the lunch war?

You’re clearly getting a lot more than just a coffee shop vibe if you opt to grab your lunch from Starbucks. There are a lot more calories, saturated fat and salt in pretty nutritious looking options than you’d first think. 

But how many people are strong-willed enough to go into McDonald’s and hold off on ordering a side orders of fries with their burger? A medium portion of fries will add an extra 330 calories, and if you’re tempted by a medium chocolate milkshake you can stick an extra 415 calories on top of that. 

Personally I’ll stick to packed lunches! 

Also worth your attention 

KFC stops targeting finger-licking fatties 

Subway? I’d rather have a Big Mac 

This man changed the face of fast food forever


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