Smart Calories


Have you always wondered how to make the most of your calorie allowance? Maybe that’s not in the forefront of your mind and you prefer to think of your meals for the food itself, rather than the calories? Then that’s great! A smarter way to think about food is for health, and the nutrients that it holds, rather than focussing on your caloric intake. This food comparison will be a helpful tool to do exactly that.

The humble burger! Or not so humble if you like to lather your burger with rashers of streaky bacon, gooey melty cheese, sweet tomato relish, creamy salty mayo and a soft, sweet brioche bun.

According to Google, a guy called Fletcher claims to have invented the Burger in the US in the late 1800’s, so it’s been around for a long time! Fast food giant McDonalds first started serving their burgers in the 1940’s, and it’s been a classic at most local fish and chip shops since.  

Want to know more about what a burger actually offers nutritionally? Let’s get into the nitty gritty. We will nutritionally compare the energy (also known as calories, but measured in Australia as kilojoules or Kj), protein, carbohydrates, total fats, saturated fats, sodium and fibre content of three common burgers: McDonalds Big Mac, Grill’d Crispy Bacon and Cheese Burger, and a homemade beef burger.

Grill’d Crispy bacon and cheese

McDonald’s Big Mac

Homemade burger

 Big MacGrill’d Crispy Bacon & CheeseHomemade burger
Total Fat31.4g37.7g28.1g
Saturated Fat11.8g12.6g6.8g


Keep in mind that we usually call out “Yes please, throw in the chips and drink to make it a combo, thanks!”, which would add on average an extra .

You’ll notice that the homemade burger is almost has the same amount of energy as the Big Mac burger (2104Kj vs 2370Kj). Surprised? Unfortunately the fast food burger is pretty full of empty calories, a term we use to describe a food which has plenty of calories, but not much of the other stuff. Let me tell you why you should enjoy the homemade burger and get better quality nutrients all around. 

What about protein?

Let’s zoom in on protein. Protein is important to keep our muscles and organs healthy. The Grill’d burger beats the others in total protein. But what about the quality of the protein?  When you make a burger at home, you have control of your protein type, which means that you can pick up the good quality beef mince from the shelf, rather than a lower quality beef burger patties. This is a smart choice!

Fat and Sodium: heart health

Saturated fat is the one to keep an eye on in this meal. It’s the type that you’ll find in poor quality animal products, fried foods and full fat dairy. You could drop your saturated fat intake by almost half by cooking at home, helping to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy!

Looking at sodium now, the recommended intake of sodium (also known as salt) is 1200mg per day for good heart health. Choosing the Grill’d burger will send you way over your recommended intake per day. Even choosing the homemade burger would bring you up to almost half, so we can tell that this meal is a good option to have in moderation, not every day. Can you guess what one of main sodium ingredient is? Yep, Bacon! Trim it back and limit your bacon intake to make this meal even healthier.

Keep in mind that we usually eat this meal with a side of fried chips and a soft drink so the sodium and saturated fat content of the whole meal will be even higher.

Let’s talk fibre

And lastly, fibre. Fibre is the key nutrient to make sure that our bowels stay healthy. It is the part of grains, legumes, vegies and fruit which the body doesn’t actually use to create energy. It travels into the intestine where the good gut bugs use it for their fuel. A very important component of a healthy digestive system! The McDonald’s burger contains near to no fibre at all. The Grill’d burger is a little better, but the winner is the homemade burger. Adding some extra vegies and choosing a wholemeal, wholegrain burger bun or bread will help you in this department.

So, would you like an easy tip to cut almost 1000 Kj from your burger? Make it at home!

Want to know more about how to read nutrition information panels and food packets to help you make educated food choices? Stay tuned for upcoming blog on label reading.

Homemade Burgers & chips (makes 4)

  • 400g good quality beef or beef and pork mince
  • 4X whole grain burger bun/bread
  • Cheese (sliced)
  • 1 cup lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 small can of sliced beetroot
  • 5 Eggs
  • 1 onion (slices)
  • 1 large sweet potato, sliced into chips


  • Slice sweet potato into chips
  • Cook in the microwave for 5 minutes or so until they start to feel soft. The surface will go a little creamy
  • Top with olive oil, salt, pepper and other herbs and spices (paprika, garlic salt, chilli flakes, rosemary etc)
  • Cook in pre-heated oven for other 20 or so minutes until golden brown
  • In the mean-time, combine mince with 1 egg. You could add 2 tbs hamburger helper or breadcrumbs if you like. Set aside to cool in the fridge for a while
  • Sautee onion
  • Fry burgers and when cooked, add the cheese to melt on top. Cook eggs at this point 
  • Toast bread or burger buns
  • Assemble burgers with the lot.

You can top with a SMALL (less than 1tbs) amount of mayo/mustard/chutney/sauce if you like. And homemade chips and side salad.

Written by:
Monica Wellington,
Proactive Health & Movement

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