Pulling into the drive thru of your favorite fast-food restaurant can be so satisfying when you’re craving something savory, need a quick solution to your hunger pains, or are just in the need of an affordable lunch option you can take on the go. Some people can enjoy a burger, chicken sandwich, or handful of nuggets without any sauce at all, but others may not feel like their fast-food meal is complete without their preferred dipping sauce.
Even though dipping sauces can add a boost of flavor to your meal, pairing them with your fast-food order can be the thing that derails some of your health goals if you’re trying to stay in a certain range for calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. The problem with sauces is that we assume that just because the servings are small, that they can’t make a difference. But even just one packet of some fast-food dipping sauces can be the tipping point in your meal. And even if the nutrition facts don’t seem that high at first, it’s important to consider that your fast-food dish is already going to be heavy on the calories, fat, etc.
Thankfully, not all dipping sauces are the same when it comes to their nutritional value, and there are ways to be prepared when you’re faced with decision time. To learn more about some of the unhealthiest options, take a look at our list of worst fast-food dipping sauces out there, as well as a few alternatives you can try. Then, check out 60 Healthy, Low-Calorie Fast-Food Meals Under 500 Calories.
Per serving: 110 calories, 9 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 120 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (0 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 0 g protein
Honey mustard is the perfect combination of sweet and savory, and it can be much more satisfying than a regular ol’ yellow mustard. And while you can pretty much find a version of honey mustard at most fast-food places, the option at KFC is one of the worst. With 1.5 grams of saturated fat in your dipping sauce alone, this sauce may push you over the edge of your daily recommend saturated fat limit of around 13 grams. This is especially true if you down more than one packet, or if you have a saturated fat-heavy meal. Which, at a place known for their Kentucky fried chicken, is probable.
For a bit of a healthier honey mustard option, try McDonald’s. This one only contains 3.5 grams of total fat less than one gram of saturated fat.
Per serving: 110 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (1 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 0 g protein
BBQ sauce is a nice way to get a bit of tangy sweetness on your chicken sandwich or alongside your chicken nuggets. But if you’re going to choose this sauce, you may want to steer clear of Culver’s BBQ sauce. This dip is loaded with a whopping 26 grams of sugar, most of which come from its main ingredient: high fructose corn syrup.
For that smoky BBQ flavor but with much less added sugar, opt for Chick-fil-A’s Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce instead. You’ll feel much better eating its 2 grams of sugar versus the 28 grams from Culver’s.
Per serving: 120 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 1 g protein
Another common dipping sauce among fast-food joints is a classic buffalo sauce, which can add some spice to your meal. One of the worst options of buffalo sauce is the Buffalo Ranch from KFC. This dipping sauce has 13 grams of total fat and 2 grams of saturated, as well as almost 300 milligrams of sodium. When you consider the fact that the daily recommended maximum of sodium is 2,300 milligrams, 300 for just one packet of sauce is quite a lot!
Truthfully, it’s hard to find a healthier alternative to buffalo sauce because even if you go with a lower-calorie option like the one from McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A’s version, you’re then going to be getting almost 600 milligrams of sodium per serving. Instead, if you’re looking for a hint of spice, grab some hot sauce and save yourself the excess fat and sodium.
Per serving: 140 calories, 15 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein
Let’s face it—even though ranch as a dipping sauce is tangy, creamy, and oh so satisfying, it’s almost always going to be high in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium. This is especially true when it comes to fast-food ranch. For instance, the ranch at Popeyes is one of the worst out there, coming in at 150 calories, 15 grams of total fat, and 3 grams of saturated fat. When you consider that these numbers would all be in addition to the calorie-dense meal you’re already going to be eating, it can certainly cause you to overdo it.
We don’t claim to know of any healthy ranch options at popular fast food restaurants, and most of them are similar in nutrition facts. If you want something with a little less fat and fewer calories, you can try the ranch from McDonald’s instead, which has 110 calories and 12 grams of total fat.
Per serving: 110 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (0 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 0 g protein
Some people prefer ditching the cream-based sauces for their chicken nuggets and opting for a sweet and sour variety instead. This type of sauce isn’t as common in fast-food restaurants, but Chick-fil-A has their own version, which they call their Polynesian Sauce. Unfortunately, even though it’s delicious, it’s full of unnecessary sugar that comes from corn syrup.
Honestly, there aren’t many sweet n’ sour options that we would consider “healthier” than Chick-fil-A’s. McDonald’s has their own version that is lower in calories, but it still has 10 grams of sugar, which also comes from high-fructose corn syrup.
Per serving: 140 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (0 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 0 g protein
A lot of fast-food places have their own signature dipping sauces, which can be a lot of fun to order if you’re wanting to try something different. For example, fans of Chick-fil-A know that their signature sauce (appropriately named Chick-fil-A sauce) is going to give them the same creamy, tangy, smoky combination every time. While this sauce is certainly worth the hype in the flavor department, its calories, total fat, and saturated fat are not ideal to pair with an already calorie-dense meal.
To make this choice a bit healthier, try only using a little bit, or at least just stick to one container only. It’s easy to go overboard on these sauce packets without realizing it.