Fast food can be a double edged sword. That sensation of happiness you get from biting into a crispy, salty French fry or a dripping cheeseburger releases endorphins that tell your brain, “this is good.” However, when it comes to your body, happiness is not always the outcome. Bloating, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and weight gain can result from feeding your body fast food. (I think most of us have seen "Super Size Me.") Nevertheless, life is all about balance, and eating fast food in moderation is OK. If you're looking to be mindful of what you feed your body, here's what 500 calories in fast food actually looks like. 

1. Dunkin' Donuts

2 glazed donuts = 520 calories sweet, pastry, dough, bread, doughnut
Lissane Kafie

One glazed donut has 260 calories, but no one is about to eat just one doughnut. If we’re counting calories, eating two glazed doughnuts means consuming 520 calories in one sitting. That is, without counting the large Mocha Iced Coffee (340 calories) you’ll be wanting to drink to wash down the doughnuts.

However, don’t be discouraged. Dunkin’ Donuts has a pretty good DDSMART menu that has options that have less caloric content as well as fat, sodium, and sugar content. This menu can help you make wise choices while still enjoying a quick breakfast or coffee trip to Dunkin’. 

2. McDonald's

1 cheeseburger + 1 small fries = 520 calories

Essentially, 500 calories at McDonald's is a Happy Meal without a drink or ketchup. But who in their right state of mind doesn’t eat fries with ketchup? I’m sorry, but that’s utterly unacceptable to me. Sadly, a Big Mac will set you back about 540 calories, and without fries. But a Happy Meal is still Mcdonald’s, right? 

3. Chick-fil-A

1 spicy chicken sandwich + ¼ Chick-fil-A sauce pack = 500 calories

The sad thing about this is that a spicy chicken sandwich and only ¼ of a Chick-fil-A sauce packet (I know, this is like a crime), without fries (again, crime!), adds up to 500 calories. Honestly, what’s the point of going to Chick-fil-A if you don’t get to dip your fries in three or five different sauces? 

4. Domino's Pizza

1 ¼ slices of a large Pepperoni Feast Pizza = 500 calories

Who stops at 1 1/4 slices of pizza anyway? Domino’s Pizza sounds so good, especially after a night out where you come back to your dorm room completely famished and out of control. You open up the box and the smell pierces your senses. One slice turns into the entire box. And when you least expect it, you’ve eaten basically a day’s worth of calories in one sitting (that is, without counting the Ranch dressing you dipped the pizza in). But you probably ate some fruit for breakfast the next day, so like I said, it's all about moderation.   

5. Shake Shack

1 Shackburger (no fries) = 490 calories

A Shackburger from Shake Shack offers 490 calories all together. However, I don’t think I’m the only one that adds ketchup, mustard, and mayo to my burgers. This of course is also not including their fries and and a milkshake, which I'm not sure going to Shake Shake is totally worth it without these additions, too.

6. Subway

6 in Spicy Italian on Italian Herb and Cheese: 520 calories

Hey, it’s no foot long, but a Spicy Italian on a 6 in Italian Herb and Cheese has 520 calories, about 16 g of fat, and about 1,260 mg of sodium. Yikes. While Subway may seem like a “healthier” option, as with anything, appearances may be deceiving. Other low-calorie options at Subway may seem healthy, like the veggie sub, but when you look at the fat and sodium content... not so much. 

7. Panera Bread

1 small cup of Mac and Cheese = 480 calories

This one breaks my heart. I’m sorry to disappoint all Panera lovers out there, but a small mac and cheese has a total of 480 calories. Sadly, that’s not nearly enough to fill me up, and it’s also meant to be a side to one of your favorite Panera sandwiches or salads. A trip to Panera could add up to an entire day’s worth of calories if you’re not mindful. 

8. Panda Express

1 serving of fried rice = 520 calories

A single serving of fried rice means a total of 520 calories. If we’re being honest, why go to Panda Express if you’re not getting their famous Orange Chicken (380 calories per serving) or Beijing Beef (470 calories per serving) anyways? Please don’t hate me for this.

9. Raising Cane's 

3 chicken tenders + 3/4 Raising Cane's sauce = 510 calories

At Raising Cane’s, three chicken tenders and ¾ of their specialty sauce will add up 510 calories. Unfortunately, and almost annoyingly, that does not include their crispy crinkle fries (291 calories), a beverage, or their famous Texas toast bread (120 calories), which is “butterly” divine.

As a disclaimer, pointing out the calorie content in your favorite fast food meals was not meant to put a damper on your day. Instead, knowing exactly what 500 calories of fast food looks like can help you make wiser choices when dining in the future. Ultimately, understanding the nutrition behind some of your favorite fast food options will allow you to learn to find a balance between enjoying your favorite foods and living a healthy lifestyle.