Is Panda Express Healthier Than Other Fast Food Restaurants?

Panda Express is a fast casual or fast food restaurant that specializes in serving Chinese-American food. Many people either believe that Panda Express is much healthier than other fast foods or a lot more worse, or unhealthier.

To understand the nutrition of Panda Express, we have to examine what its food’s main ingredients are. Depending on what meal you get, you’re looking at getting different meats such as chicken, beef, or shrimp. So if we’re comparing those meals with other restaurants, we could say the types of meat are pretty similar.

Because Panda Express serves Chinese-inspired food, it is hard to compare it to other fast food restaurants head-to-head. It would be like comparing apples and oranges. So the best we can do is compare their meals or entrees to ones from other fast food restaurants based on the types of meat.

Panda Express Nutrition

Orange Chicken from Panda ExpressSince we decided that it would be hard to compare meals from Panda Express to those of other fast food restaurants, we will compare them based on type of meat they are created with.

Chicken Entrees

Let’s start off by comparing Orange Chicken and Mandarin Chicken from Panda Express to the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich from McDonald’s.

Orange ChickenMandarin ChickenPremium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich
Calories420310350
Calories from Fat18015080
Total Fat21g16g9g
Saturated Fat4g4g2g
Cholesterol95mg115mg65mg
Sodium620mg740mg820mg
Carbohydrates43g8g42g
Dietary Fiber0g0g3g
Sugars18g8g8g
Protein15g34g28g

Source: PandaExpress.com and McDonalds.com

As you can see in the first comparison above, the Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich from McDonald’s easily wins the nutrition comparison against the Orange Chicken. It has fewer calories, fat, cholesterol, and sugars, while having a lot more protein.

When compared with the Mandarin Chicken, the comparison is much closer. The Mandarin Chicken has the advantage of having fewer calories, carbohydrates, and sodium while having more protein.

It’s worth noting that many Chinese foods are sweet in nature, so their sugar content will be much higher, as shown with Orange Chicken. However, some foods, such as the Mandarin Chicken, have reasonable sugar content.

Beef Entrees

Next, we’ll look at how Panda Express beef entrees compare to other beef-based fast foods from other restaurants.

In this comparison, we’ll look at the Beijing Beef and Shanghai Angus Steak meals from Panda Express in comparison with the McDouble burger from McDonald’s.

Beijing BeefShanghai Angus SteakMcDouble
Calories690220390
Calories from Fat36060170
Total Fat40g7g19g
Saturated Fat8g2g8g
Cholesterol65mg50mg65mg
Sodium890mg910mg850mg
Carbohydrates57g19g33g
Dietary Fiber4g1g2g
Sugars25g13g7g
Protein26g21g23g

Source: PandaExpress.com and McDonalds.com

In the comparison above, we see a similar situation as with the chicken entrees. The Beijing Beef is noticeably much less nutritious than the McDouble, due to having much more calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sugars. But the Shanghai Angus Steak does much better in comparison. It has fewer calories, fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates than the McDouble, while the protein content is very similar.

Verdict

So what’s the verdict? Is Panda Express healthier than other fast food restaurants such as McDonalds? Our opinion is that the answer to that question will highly depend on what meals you are comparing. But we cannot conclusively say that either of the restaurants is any better or worse than the other when it comes to nutrition.

As mentioned previously, Chinese foods tend to be very sweet, so there might be high sugar content in some of the meals. We would recommend looking at each meal and selecting the one that has the lowest calories, fats, and sugars, while having plenty of protein.

Panda Express Prices

Now that we know the nutrition in Panda Express meals is not necessarily better or worse for you than any other fast food meal, what about the price?

Panda Express prices will be much higher if you go with their custom plate meals. However, if you choose to purchase just an entrée, it will run you only about $3.50. In comparison, the Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich from McDonalds will be about $3.99. As expected, the grilled chicken sandwich is of higher quality, so it’s not surprising that it’s a little more expensive.

If we compare the beef meals, the Panda Express one will still be $3.50, however, the McDouble is on the McDonald’s dollar menu, which means it is only $1.00. The beef fast food industry has had so much time to evolve and grow that the beef burgers will be much cheaper than almost any other meal.

Conclusion

So there you have it! Panda Express is no better or worse than every other fast food restaurant in terms of nutrition.  As always, we suggest eating in moderation and choosing meals low in calories and fats, while offering plenty of protein.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments.

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5 Comments

  1. That was an article with information? LOL!!! The conclusion would be obvious to a third grader… and without all the other filler (in other words the entire article absent the final paragraph.

    HA!

  2. “That was an article with information? LOL!!! The conclusion would be obvious to a third grader… and without all the other filler (in other words the entire article absent the final paragraph.”

    This is true about 95% of blog posts and articles written on the internet nowadays. They’re just there to capture your search queries and offer no useful information. Is it just me or is Google feeling less useful because of this?

  3. This article demonstrates exactly why the Internet is full of misinformation about nutrition. This article omits the option of getting mixed veggies (80 calories) in lieu of fried rice (520 calories) as a side. Additionally, it declines to mention the healthiest chicken and beef entrees like the mushroom chicken (170 calories) and the broccoli and beef (150 calories). You can certainly hit up to 1500 calories with just two entrees and a side, but you can also choose healthier options.

  4. I’ve been eating fast food regularly about 8-10 times a week for the last 20 years. I’m 6 foot tall 160 lbs. I have not been to a doctor in over 10 years. I’m not on medication for any health issues and I’m still alive and feel healthy. How can that be. Just shows how people worry about the wrong things in life…….

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