Amy's, pioneers of better-for-you freezer and pantry options, opened its first drive-thru cafè two years ago in California. But recently, the company made headlines with its announcement of expanding its drive-thru to a nation-wide franchise, taking on fast food empires like McDonald's.

Amy's Drive Thru is the first 100 percent vegetarian fast food restaurant. It offers organic, non-GMO, and local versions of fast food favorites, with vegan and gluten-free options available for almost all items on the menu. 

The cafe offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and beverages, including coffee drinks and fresh squeezed OJ.

As someone with a master's in human nutrition (who also got a hold of Amy's nutritional information), I thought it might be interesting to do a comparison of the nutritional stats of Amy's to see how it stacked up to those of major fast food chains. 

Some of the comparisons may surprise you, but keep in mind health is not measured by calorie counts alone, and the ingredients matter. All foods can be part of a good-for-you diet, but filling up on whole, plant-based foods is definitely a solid choice if you're looking to improve your healthy eating game. 

There's a lot more to health than tracking macros and avoiding food groups, but taking a peak at what's in your fast food can definitely help you make informed choices for your body and brain.

1. Amy's "The Amy" Burger vs. McDonald's Big Mac

Photos courtesy of @amysdrivethru and @mcdonalds via Instagram

Amy's double burger comes with two patties, two slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, Fred Sr.'s secret sauce, and tons of flavor. Weighing in at 770 calories, it's a filling option with 40 grams of fat, 10 grams saturated fat, 35 mg of cholesterol, 33 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber.

If you order it vegan, the calories scale back to 750, the saturated fat drops to 6 grams, and cholesterol zeros out. 

A McDonald's Big Mac actually has fewer calories (540) and less fat (28 grams). However, Big Macs also have more cholesterol (80 mg), a third of the fiber content (3 grams), and less protein (25 grams).

Not to mention, McDonald's also has "one or more dough conditioners," including DATEM, ascorbic acid, mono and diglycerides and enzymes, as well as calcium prioinate (a preservative), and other fun additives like hydrolyzed corn, caramel color, and potassium sorbate.

It's also doubtful that McDonald's has the same commitment as Amy's does to using organic, non-GMO, and/or locally sourced ingredients.

Bottom Line: Amy's has more calories, but McDonald's has way more sketchy ingredients.

2. Amy's Organic Vegan Burrito Bowl vs. Chipotle Sofrita Bowl with Brown Rice

Photos courtesy of @amysdrivethru and @chipotle via Instagram

Both are veggie-friendly Mexican-inspired dishes filled with fiesta-worthy flavors. Amy's classic bowl includes red beans, red rice, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and Fred Sr.'s chipotle salsa (Fred's got a lot of sauces). 

Nutritionally, the Amy's burrito bowl has 300 calories, 7 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber, and 1030 mg sodium. 

A Chipotle Sofrita bowl with beans, cheese, romaine lettuce, fajita veggies, and brown rice contains 625 calories, more than double the Amy's version. It also contains 14 grams of filling fiber, 27 grams of protein, and 1300 mg (a full day's worth) of sodium. 

Bottom Line: Both are decent, yet salty, options for a vegetarian Mexican-inspired fix.

3. Amys' Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese vs. Noodles & Company Wisconsin Mac & Cheese

Photos courtesy of @amysdrivethru and @noodlescompany via Instagram

Amy's has both regular and vegan mac. The "traditional" dairy version with broccoli and topped with breadcrumbs has a similar nutrition profile, with 530 calories, 24 grams of fat and 4 additional gram saturated fat, as well as 15 grams protein, 1250 mg sodium, and 65 mg cholesterol. 

The vegan version is made with non-dairy cheese, broccoli, and bread crumbs, and packs 520 calories, 22 grams of fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 5 grams fiber, 9 grams of protein, 1150 mg sodium, and 0 mg cholesterol.

Noodles & Company's famous Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, by comparison, contains more than double the caloric content, totaling at 1050 calories per regular-sized bowl. It also contains 46 grams fat, 26 grams saturated fat, and 140 mg cholesterol.

Just like Amy's, Noodle's mac contains 5 grams fiber. Noodle's contains more protein (40 grams), and at 1300 mg, a full-day's worth of sodium. 

I should mention that the Amy's vegan and gluten-free options are also great for those with allergies or dietary restrictions. Noodle's has gluten-free pasta, but no dairy-free options. But again, their mac does have more protein, if you're into that kinda thing. 

Bottom Line: Amy's, dairy or not, is certainly lighter in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium.

4. Amy's Organic Cheese Pizza (Single Serve) vs. Subway Cheese Pizza

Photos courtesy of @amysdrivethru and @tregotti_kingin via Instagram

Amy's Drive Thru offers cheese or margherita pizza, with vegan and gluten-free options available. The regular cheese pizza contains 540 calories, 24 grams of fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 20 grams of protein, 4 grams fiber, and 30mg cholesterol.

Subway's cheese pizza has 680 calories, 22 grams of fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 32 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 35mg cholesterol. A nice bonus of the Subway option is that you can add veggies as desired, which is a great way to up your micronutrient and fiber intake.

The pizzas are comparable in terms of numbers, but Subway has been known to add a preservative or two that sometimes creep people out. 

While the alleged 'yoga-mat' ingredient has since been removed from Subway's pizzas and was safe for human consumption in the first place, Amy's commitment to all-natural ingredients gives it a leg up for those avoiding preservatives.

Bottom Line: Both are decent options for a pizza craving; Amy's has a leg up on local/organic/non-GMO ingredients, but Subway lets you pack on the veg. 

5. Amy's Chili Cheese Fries vs. Arby's Loaded Curly Fries

Photos courtesy of @amysdrivetrhu and @arbys via Instagram

Amy's Chili Cheese fry dish comes with fries, vegetarian chili, cheese, and other yummy fixings. With 510 calories, 26 grams of protein, 12 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 1210 mg (almost an entire day's worth) of sodium, the hearty dish is sure to satisfy a French fry craving.

Compare this with the popular Arby's Loaded Curly Fries, which come with cheese, bacon, and other fixin's, and pack 700 calories, 46 grams fat, 1990 mg sodium, 14 grams of protein, and 5 grams fiber.

Bottom Line: Amy's has more fiber and fewer calories/fat. But loaded fries aren't supposed to be a health food anyways, so just enjoy the ones you love when a craving hits.

6. Amy's  Vanilla Shake vs. Dairy Queen Vanilla Shake

Photos courtesy of @amysdrivethru and @dairyqueenindo via Instagram

Shakes are yummy. That's why Amy's offers them in dairy and non-dairy form. The Amy's dairy version contains 560 calories, 31 grams fat, 20 grams saturated fat, 50 grams of sugar, and 120mg grams cholesterol.

A medium vanilla shake at DQ contains 660 calories, 23 grams of fat (16 of which are saturated, and 1 of which is trans fat), no fiber, 85 grams of sugar, and 60 mg cholesterol.

Also noteworthy, the DQ menu has trans fat (although a small amount), which has been linked to cardiovascular disease and has been banned from packaged foods in the US and restaurant foods in New York City. 

Bottom Line: Both make for sweet treats, with Amy's containing less calories, sugar, and cholesterol, but slightly more fat.

7. Amy's Super Salad Vs. Sweetgreen Spicy Sabzi

Photo courtesy of @amysdrivethru and @itsmad3line via Instagram

Amy's offers enticing salads. The vegan Super Salad contains seasonal lettuces, hummus, baked tofu, shredded carrots, shredded purple cabbage, and pumpkin seeds. It contains 300 calories, 14 grams fat, no cholesterol, 14 grams protein, and 6 grams of fiber.

It's worth noting that this is without dressing, and Amy's offers three organic dressing varieties, including Ranch, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Another vegan option at Sweetgreen, the Spicy Sabzi, contains quinoa, tofu, greens, beets, and sprouts, and contains 430 calories, 30 grams of fat,  14 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fiber.

Bottom Line: Both make for filling, delicious veggie-packed meals.

8. Amy's Fresh Squeezed Lemonade vs. Chick-Fil-A Lemonade

Photo courtesy of @amysdrivethru and @chickfila via Instagram

Amy's freshly squeezed lemonade is made with real sugar, and contains 160 calories and 37 grams of sugar per 16 ounce serving.

Chick-Fil-A's version contains significantly more sugar (55 grams per serving), and more calories (220 per serving).

Impressively, both use real lemon juice and sugar, which is definitely a step up from beverages sweetened from high-fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup has been linked to some less-than-pleasant health issues, including increased fat in the liver.

Bottom Line: Sugar-sweetened beverages are fun in moderation, and since both use sugar over high fructose corn syrup, they're both better options than most sodas. 

The Bottom Line

While it can be fun to compare nutrition stats, keep in mind that the ingredients matter, too. Even if something is low in calories, it is not necessarily better than a version made with real, whole food ingredients. Most importantly, eating food that makes you feel good — physically and mentally — is far more important than the numbers on a nutrition label. 

Amy's Drive Thru makes filling fun and delicious versions of fast-food classics to prove that vegetarian and vegan versions of fast-food can be better-for-you, and taste delicious, too.

Not only that, but they're making fast food fun again for many with allergies, dietary restrictions, people who look for whole foods, those avoiding artificial junk, and those who simply want to enjoy a darn good meal guilt-free.