How many calories is a side of fries at a restaurant?

When ordering a side of french fries at a restaurant, one of the biggest questions is often how many calories are in that serving. The number of calories in restaurant french fries can vary quite a bit depending on the type and size of fries, how they are prepared, and what toppings or condiments are added. Understanding approximately how many calories are in a side of fries can help you make informed choices when dining out.

Typical Calorie Counts for Restaurant French Fries

As a general guideline, here are some typical calorie counts for a side order of french fries from various restaurants:

  • McDonald’s small french fries: 230 calories
  • McDonald’s medium french fries: 320 calories
  • McDonald’s large french fries: 510 calories
  • Burger King small french fries: 230 calories
  • Burger King medium french fries: 325 calories
  • Burger King large french fries: 475 calories
  • Wendy’s natural-cut small fries: 270 calories
  • Wendy’s natural-cut medium fries: 380 calories
  • Wendy’s natural-cut large fries: 450 calories
  • Five Guys regular fries: 530 calories
  • Steak ‘n Shake french fries: 370 calories
  • Red Robin steak fries: 460 calories
  • The Cheesecake Factory skinnylicious fries: 460 calories

As you can see, calorie counts can vary greatly depending on the restaurant and size of fries ordered. At most fast food chains, a small serving of fries ranges from 230-270 calories, medium orders are 320-380 calories, and large fries are between 450-510 calories. At sit-down restaurants like Red Robin or The Cheesecake Factory, fry servings tend to start around 460 calories and go up from there.

Factors Affecting Calorie Count

There are several factors that account for the wide calorie counts among restaurant french fries:

Type of Fries

The basic french fry starts with potatoes, but the type of potato and how it is processed and cut affect the calorie count:

  • Regular-cut – These are usually 0.5 inch thick strips or cubes of potato that provide crispy outsides and fluffy insides. Calories are moderate.
  • Shoestring/skinny fries – These slimmer and smaller cuts of potato have more surface area, resulting in more oil absorption during frying and higher calories.
  • Waffle fries – Waffle and crinkle cuts have more surface area and absorb more oil like skinny fries. They are typically higher in calories.
  • Steak fries – Thicker than regular fries, steak fries have a lower ratio of surface area to volume and absorb less oil. Calories are slightly lower.
  • Sweet potato fries – Due to natural sugars, sweet potato fries are mildly higher in calories than regular potato fries.

Preparation Method

How the fries are prepared also affects their calorie content:

  • Fried – Frying is the traditional way of cooking french fries. The oil adds a significant number of calories.
  • Baked – Oven-baking uses little or no oil, resulting in a lower calorie count.
  • Air-fried – Air fryers use rapid hot air and minimal oil to produce crispy fries with less calories.

Portion Size

Larger portions mean more fries and more calories:

  • Small – Ranges from 230-270 calories at fast food chains.
  • Medium – Ranges from 320-380 calories at fast food chains.
  • Large – Ranges from 450-510 calories at fast food chains.

At most restaurants, small and medium sizes are the smart options for limiting calories. Large restaurant fries can pack over 500 calories!

Add-Ons and Condiments

Extra toppings and condiments add more calories:

  • Ketchup, ranch, mayo, cheese sauce – 50 to 150 extra calories
  • Bacon bits, chili, cheese curds – 75 to 180 extra calories
  • Gravy – 80 to 180 extra calories

Ordering fries “plain” with no toppings or sauces is an easy way to shave off extra calories.

Lower Calorie Fries Tips

Here are some tips for ordering lower calorie french fries when dining out:

  • Choose regular cut or steak fries over skinny, waffle, or sweet potato fries
  • Opt for a small or medium portion
  • Request baked, roasted, or air-fried preparation if available
  • Skip the add-ons like cheese, gravy, bacon, etc.
  • Limit condiments or choose lower calorie options like ketchup
  • Share a large order with multiple people
  • Remove a portion of fries from plate and set aside for leftovers

With smart choices, you can enjoy delicious french fries when eating out while still watching your calorie intake.

Nutritional Profile of Restaurant French Fries

In addition to calories, restaurant french fries provide carbohydrates, fat, protein, and various vitamins and minerals. Here is the full nutritional profile for a medium serving of french fries from McDonalds:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 320
Total Fat 16 g
Saturated Fat 2.8 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 190 mg
Total Carbohydrates 39 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 4 g
Vitamin C 6% DV
Iron 2% DV
Calcium 0% DV

As you can see, the majority of calories come from carbohydrates (39g) and fat (16g). There is also a decent amount of fiber (3g), vitamin C (6% DV), and iron (2% DV). The protein is lower at just 4 grams.

Calorie Comparison to Other Sides

To put the calorie count of french fries in perspective, here is how they compare to other common side dishes at restaurants:

Side Dish Calories
French fries (medium) 320
Onion rings 450
Potato chips 360
Rice pilaf 200
Baked potato 220
Steamed broccoli 30
Garden salad 150
Coleslaw 180
Sauteed spinach 60

While a medium serving of french fries clocks in at 320 calories, you can see there are many lower calorie vegetable sides like steamed broccoli, spinach, and garden salads. Even rice, baked potatoes, and coleslaw have fewer calories than fries. So opting for a veggie side dish is an easy way to cut calories at a restaurant.

Calories in Fries from Fast Food Chains

Looking specifically at fast food chains, here is how the calorie count of a medium serving of french fries compares:

Restaurant Calories (medium)
McDonald’s 320
Burger King 325
Wendy’s 380
Arby’s 337
KFC 360
Jack in the Box 378
Carl’s Jr. 400
Sonic Drive-In 460
Checkers 357
Popeyes 393

McDonald’s, Burger King, and Arby’s have slightly lower calorie options ranging from 320 to 337 calories. On the higher end, Sonic Drive-In, Carl’s Jr., and Wendy’s have medium fries with 380 calories and up. When comparing fast food chains, opting for smaller sizes and regular cut fries can help minimize calories.

Ways to Reduce Calories in Fries

If you want to enjoy french fries but reduce the calorie count, here are some tips:

Size Down

Order a small versus a medium or large size. A small McDonald’s fry is only 230 calories versus 320 for a medium and 510 for a large.

Share with Friends

Split a large order of fries between multiple people so you get a taste without overdoing your portion.

Alternate Bites

Intermix fry bites with bites of a lower calorie side like a salad or fruit.

Dip Selectively

Only use a small amount of condiment for dipping rather than drowning the fries.

Air Fry at Home

Make air fried fries at home for a crispier lower calorie alternative.

Sweet Potato Swap

Choose sweet potato fries for a somewhat healthier option with more fiber and nutrients.

Oven Bake

Make oven baked fries at 400 F for 25-35 minutes to mimic the crispiness without the fat.

Sub a Veggie

Opt for a low calorie vegetable side dish like broccoli or salad in place of the fries.

Healthiest Fries Options

To make your french fry order as healthy as possible, here are the best options to choose at restaurants:

  • Size – Small or medium
  • Type – Regular cut or steak fries
  • Preparation – Baked, roasted, or air-fried
  • Condiments – None or ketchup only
  • Frequency – Occasional treat vs regular order

The healthiest fries have a crisp exterior with a fluffy interior and little or no condiments to limit fat, sodium, and calories. Enjoy them occasionally in sensible portions.

Making Healthy Fries at Home

To get the tastiness of french fries without the extra fat and calories, try making them at home. Here is a healthy baked french fry recipe:


  • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch fries
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a bowl, toss the cut potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika until coated.
  3. Arrange fries in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway, until crisped and browned.
  5. Serve hot and enjoy with your favorite condiment or dip!

Baked at home with minimal oil and seasoning, these french fries are delicious and light. Make them on healthy meal nights for a crispy, satisfying side.

The Bottom Line

So how many calories are in a side of restaurant french fries? A small serving ranges from 230-270 calories, medium is 320-380 calories, and large packs 450-510 calories depending on the restaurant. The healthiest options are small portions of regular cut fries prepared baked or air-fried with limited toppings. At home, bake fries tossed lightly in oil for a crispy, guilt-free treat. With sensible choices, you can still enjoy fries as an occasional side!

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