Despite the sluggish consumer environment, fast food in South Africa is still a growing market.
In its most recent financial reporting, Famous Brands – one of the biggest players in the segment – reported adding 162 restaurants to its portfolio, with plans to add nearly 200 more in the coming year.
Fast food chains – known as quick service restaurants (QSR) – have been one of the fastest growing market segments in recent years, and still provide one of the best franchising opportunities in the country.
But the fast food market historically, is synonymous with cheap highly processed food, containing large amounts of carbohydrates, added sugar, and unhealthy fats and sodium, and cholesterol.
And while there is a move towards healthier options, many kilojoule heavy items remain on the menu. The kilojoule content of foods depends on the amount of carbohydrates, fats and proteins present, and the portion size.
Foods that are high in fats and added sugars will have the highest kilojoules.
BusinessTech takes a look at some of the meals from South Africa’s most popular fast food franchises that carry the highest kilojoule counts.
With the energy counting below, we considered fast food meals, which in many cases includes fries. Because we’re looking at the largest meals for a single person. That means no family combos and similar specials.
Pizza is a bit of a special case, because in theory one large pizza isn’t intended to be eaten by a single individual. But it is possible. So we’ve added an extra layer of detail to pizza options, showing the kilojoules per slice.
While the carbs vs fat debate rages on, note that nothing here should be considered nutritional advice, or taking a side on the matter – we’re simply looking at the meals that pack the most kilojoules in South Africa.
Sodium, fat and carbohydrate content is included for added information. All nutritional values have been converted to kilojoules where applicable.
Accessing nutritional information
Access to nutritional information is becoming a higher priority for many people in South Africa, who are looking to find out exactly what it is they’re putting into their bodies.
However, not all fast food outlets make nutritional information openly available. We asked the franchises, as customers, for nutritional information on their menus, and several did not provide any by the time of publishing. This includes Nando’s, Chicken Licken and the Fish and Chip Co.
Other franchises did not provide nutritional information.
Pizza Perfect said it is still in the process of compiling nutritional information booklets, and Domino’s directed us back to its website, where no nutritional information is available.
Rocomama’s said that it would soon be adding a nutritional guide to its website.
Wimpy (Fast Food) – Fully Loaded Dagwood
Wimpy offers casual dining and fast food dining. For this list, we skipped the grills and sit-down meals, and looked solely at what you would likely pick up at the take-out desk.
Here, the Fully Loaded Dagwood still comes out with the highest kilojoule count, despite new options like the Crispy Stack Burger also packing quite a few kilojoules (4,787kJ).
At 5,236 kilojoules, the double-patty and egg Dagwood is one of the lighter offers on the list, but still eats up 60% of your daily recommended intake.
|Fully Loaded Dagwood (incl. chips)|
|Total kilojoules||5 236 kJ|
|Fat (g)||69 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||76 g|
|Sodium (mg)||1 926 mg|
|% of RDA||60%|
KFC – Streetwise 5
KFC sells its chicken by the piece, so the most kJ-filled meal you could eat at the fast food outlet would depend on how many pieces of chicken you can stomach.
At 830 kilojoules per piece, you would have to stop at 10 pieces to avoid blowing past the daily recommended limit.
In the 2018 list, a large Double Crunch Burger (large chips and buddy coke) loaded you up with 5,640kJ – but the 2019 burger accounts for only 2,500kJ, adding large chips (1,300kJ) and a buddy coke (770kJ) amounts to 4,570kJ.
For the biggest single meal on the menu, the Streetwise 5 with large chips reaches 5,456kJ – just ahead of the Fully Loaded lunch box (5,181kJ).
|Streetwise 5 with chips|
|Total kilojoules||5 456 kJ|
|Fat (g)||64.1 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||85 g|
|Sodium (mg)||3 260 mg|
|% of RDA||63%|
Simply Asia – Honey Duck
Local Thai food outlet Simply Asia offers a number of meals in the 2,000 to 2,500 kilojoule range, with only a few items stepping over the 4,000 kilojoule mark.
The heaviest of these is the Honey Duck, which covers 5,514 kilojoules – and also has one of the lowest sodium counts featured.
|Total kilojoules||5 514 kJ|
|Fat (g)||85 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||78 g|
|Sodium (mg)||389 mg|
|% of RDA||63%|
FishAways – Good Life Meal
Billed as the healthier option, seafood can certainly avoid most of the pitfalls of fast food – but if you’re eating fried fish, along the delicious chips that make their appearance on most of the meals in this article, it can pack a caloric punch.
For South Africa’s biggest fast food fish franchise, FishAways, this comes in the form of its Good Life Meal, which combines a regular hake, rice, chips, calamari strips and coleslaw for a total of 5,976kJ.
If you are so inclined, you can size up the hake to a medium, which will add an additional 420kJ taking it to 6,397kJ.
|Good Life Meal|
|Total kilojoules||6 397kJ|
|Fat (g)||92 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||61 g|
|% of RDA||74%|
Burger King – Triple Whopper Meal
Burger King’s Whopper has steadily increased to a Triple Whopper which carries 4,610 kilojoules for the burger alone.
Adding a large chips and a Pepsi pushes the total to 7,290 kJ – leaving you with just over 1,400 kJ of the recommended daily intake spare.
|Triple Whopper Meal (XL)|
|Total kilojoules||7 290 kJ|
|Fat (g)||68 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||168 g|
|Sodium (mg)||2 030 mg|
|% of RDA||84%|
McDonald’s – Big Tasty Meal Supersize
McDonald’s keeps pace with Burger King through its range of double burger meals. However, it’s the double cheese, double patty and extra saucy Big Tasty Burger meal that will make you feel a little heavier.
The burger itself has the highest kilojoule count at 4,181kJ – but it’s the XL fries (3,383kJ) and soda (1,695kJ) that pushes this meal to a whopping 9,259 kilojoules.
|Big Tasty Meal (XL)|
|Total kilojoules||9 259 kJ|
|Fat (g)||110 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||244 g|
|Sodium (mg)||1 928 mg|
|% of RDA||106%|
Roman’s Pizza – Chicken Mayo and Feta Pizza
Roman’s Pizza is a popular pizza take-out franchise thanks in large part to its double-pizza prices. The chain sells its pizzas in twos, with both thin and thick base options.
The Chicken Mayo and Feta Pizza has been the heftiest offering on the menu for some times, but is being given a run for its money with the Tangy Russian (9,715kJ) and Fetaroni pizzas (9,645kJ).
A single slice of the Chicken Mayo and Feta pizza accounts for 1,227kJ.
|Chicken Mayo and Feta (thick base, large)|
|Total kilojoules||9 815 kJ|
|Per slice||1 227 kJ|
|Fat (g)||109 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||214 g|
|Sodium (mg)||5 060 mg|
|% of RDA||113%|
Steers – Mighty King Steer Burger
Steers has upped its game from simply offering the king of all burgers, to giving the king a bigger brother in the Mighty King Steer Burger (three patties).
With last year’s heftiest burger (the MexiKing) now off the menu, the triple-pattied Mighty King is now the biggest belt buster on the menu (5,469kJ). Add in large chips (4,493kJ) and a Coke (770kJ), and this meal will cover 123% of your daily recommended intake.
|MexiKing Burger Meal (large)|
|Total kilojoules||10 677 kJ|
|Fat (g)||170 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||130 g|
|Sodium (mg)||6 473 mg|
|% of RDA||123%|
Pizza Hut – Meat Lover’s
Pizza Hut has significantly expanded its menu in South Africa.
The group’s Meat Lover’s pizza with a pan base carries almost 2,000kJ per slice on a large, which comes close to 16,000kJ when eating an 8-slice pizza.
The group also offers an EPIC size pizza.
Just slightly below the Meat Lover’s pizza is the Super Supreme, which carries just over 1,900kJ per slice.
|Meat Lover’s Pizza – Large, pan base|
|Total kilojoules||15 731 kJ|
|Per slice||1 966 kJ|
|Fat (g)||216 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||296 g|
|Sodium (mg)||7 760 mg|
|% of RDA||181%|
Debonairs – Meaty Cram Decker
Debonairs’s menu includes the most kilojoule-heavy offering from all the pizza chains.
Triple stacked, and stuffed with a cheese griller sausages, eating an entire large pizza on your own will fill you with 19,880 kilojoules (more than double the daily recommended intake).
Even a single slice covers more than quarter the daily recommended intake, at 2,485 kilojoules.
If you’re simply looking for a ‘normal’ pizza slice from Debonairs, a large Something Meaty pizza is the heaviest item on the menu, totalling 8,039 kilojoules.
|Meaty Cram Decker (large)|
|Total kilojoules||19 880 kJ|
|Per slice||2 485 kJ|
|Fat (g)||183 g|
|Carbohydrates (g)||540 g|
|Sodium (mg)||6 134 mg|
|% of RDA||229%|
Read: Here’s how well your favourite fast food chain is doing in the current economy