For Burger King's Satisfries, 'Healthier' Is a Very Relative Term

Photograph by Masterfile

Go ahead and order apple slices with your fast-food burger, but sometimes there’s no resisting the hot, crispy box of fries and all their greasy calories. Now Burger King is taking steps to redeem a bit of the unhealthy reputation of deep-fried potatoes with an alternative pitched as significantly less fatty and caloric than the original.

Burger King’s Satisfries made their debut Tuesday with a coating designed to be less porous and absorb less oil, reducing fat by 40 percent and calories by 30 percent over McDonald’s fries. The new product took two years of development with McCain Foods, which can’t sell them to any other fast-food clients. Satisfries will cost between 20 cents and 30 cents more than regular fries.

Burger King’s not the first to try a low-fat fry. Back in 1997, Ruby’s Diner served up Skinny Fries made by J.R. Simplot, which discontinued the product because the fruit pectin coating used to reduce grease absorption became too expensive, according to Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. Ruby’s tried again in 2004 with another Simplot product, although nine years later the so-called FitFries also appear to have fallen off the chain’s menus. (Ruby’s and Simplot didn’t immediately respond to interview requests.)

Burger King’s new fries aren’t a replacement for the old recipe, and spokeswoman Adrianna Lauricella emphasized that the healthier option will only be served “based on guests’ response.” The menu is already crowded with a diversity of deep-fried sides, including sweet potato fries, onion rings, and in some locations mozzarella sticks. McDonald’s, on the other hand, only serves regular fries from its bubbling oil vats. For comparison’s sake, a medium order of Satisfries has 40 fewer calories and 5 fewer grams of fat than the medium-size fries at McDonald’s, but the serving size for Burger King’s medium box is also about a third larger, 157g vs. 117g.

With an oxymoron like healthy fries, everything is relative. The chart below looks at how Burger King’s deep-fried finger foods stack up against each other—and some of these foods could surely benefit from a grease-resistant coating of their own.

( Corrects comparison of Burger King and McDonald's French fries in the second paragraph. )
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