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Laura Dolson

KFC Double Down: Health Horror or Good Low-Carb Alternative?

By April 13, 2010

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KFCBy now, you've probably heard of the KFC's latest creation, the "Double Down" sandwich, which is being critiqued by everyone from physician's groups to comedian Craig Ferguson. It looks to me as though the most common adjective is "artery-clogging", apparently due to the fact that saturated fat provides 16-18% of the calories (though how the grilled version manages that 16% is a mystery to me). The Double Down consists of two chicken patties (there is a fried and a grilled version -the fried version is breaded) with cheese, bacon, and sauce between them. No bread, so the carbs are pretty low - 11 grams for the fried version, and only three for the grilled.

From a taste standpoint, the main complaints that people are having about the sandwich seem to be: 1) can't taste the "fillings" on the fried version, as the chicken overwhelms the rest of it 2) it's salty (no surprise as it's quite high in sodium, 3) it sits heavy in the gut. On the other hand, many admit to liking it.

As far as nutrition goes, for all the complaining, the Double Down has fewer calories than a Big Mac (fried version, 540 calories; grilled version 460 calories) and comparable sodium. The fat we don't worry about (for those new to this site, the evidence against fat is weak at best). I don't recommend fast food restaurants as great places to get healthy food, but if you're going to hit one, at least the Double Down won't send your blood sugar though the roof.

Update: Check out the comments section for an ingredients list. KFC's food does have a LOT of junky additives.

Photo: David Silverman/Getty Images

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April 14, 2010 at 1:43 am
(1) Arlo says:

Fair enough, but man, have you seen the ingredient list? Sorry for the huge post, but the double down (which I will try once just for curiosity if it arrives in Canada), which should be just two chicken filets, cheese, bacon and sauce/spices, ends up being a whole heck of a lot more. When I grill a piece of chicken, it’s just chicken and spices. Here’s the ingredients just for the grilled chicken if it’s the regular filet:

Fresh Chicken Marinated with Salt, Potassium and Sodium Phosphates.
Seasoned With: Maltodextrin, Salt, Bleached Wheat Flour, Partially
Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Monosodium Glutamate, Secret Kentucky Grilled Chicken Spices, Palm Oil, Natural
Flavor, Garlic Powder, Soy Sauce (Soybean, Wheat, Salt), Chicken Fat, Chicken Broth, Autolyzed Yeast, Beef Powder, Rendered
Beef Fat, Extractives of Turmeric, Dehydrated Carrot, Onion Powder, and Not More Than 2% Each of Calcium Silicate and Silicon
Dioxide Added As Anticaking Agents.

If it’s the “Tender” chicken:

Glazed Chicken Breast Filets With Rib Meat, Binders Added, Caramel Color Added Containing: Seasoning (Salt, Sugar, Monosodium
Glutamate, Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten and Soy Proteins, Onion Powder, Soy Sauce Solids [Soybeans, Wheat, Salt], Spices,
Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Silicon Dioxide (as
Anticaking Agent), Natural Flavor, Caramel Color, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate), Soy
Protein Concentrate, Rice Starch and Sodium Phosphates. Pre-dusted With: Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil,
Maltodextrin, Salt, Dextrose, Dehydrated Onion, Spice, Nonfat Dry Milk, Dehydrated Garlic, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Calcium
Silicate (As Anticaking Agent), Natural Flavor, Paprika, Extractives of Turmeric.

Holy heck! Did your eyes glaze over too? Then there’s the sauce:

Soybean Oil, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Egg Yolk, Sugar, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Paprika, Xanthan Gum, Monosodium Glutamate,
Spice, Chicken Broth, Garlic Powder, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Potassium Sorbate, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Soy Sauce (Soybean,
Wheat, Salt), Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat, Dehydrated Chicken and Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten.

I’ll skip the bacon and cheeses, but even they have more ingredients in them than usual.

So for something that should have only a handful of ingredients, you’ve got the potential for 102 ingredients in something that initially sounds so simple. 102! I’m not even going to go into how many times a variation on sugar, soy, corn, msg, etc shows up on the list (sometimes multiple times for the same item).

Sorry if this comment sounds harsh, but one thing I’ve come to realize is that the nutritional information simply isn’t enough, and unfortunately even looking at the ingredients and checking out what they really are on the web isn’t enough either. If you watch Food Inc you learn that many of the packaged and fast food hamburgers in the states contain beef filler that’s been washed in ammonia to make sure there’s no e-coli (since the cows stand around in their own feces all day).

I’m so frustrated because food is such a pillar for our well being, but we have to do so much work (or spend so much money, say, on grass fed beef) just to fulfill that.

April 14, 2010 at 6:45 am
(2) gharkness says:

@Arlo, well, you said it all…saved me a bunch of electrons :-) This type of food has so much potential, but darn if they would just leave the food alone, we could maybe actually eat it. As it is, I’ll pass by and wish they had actual food available for sale.

See, it’s more than just about the carbs….

April 14, 2010 at 10:48 am
(3) lowcarbdiets says:

Thanks for providing this additional information.

I totally agree with what you are saying, which is why I don’t go so far as to recommend most fast food. KFC is particularly bad about loading their foods with junk. I do talk about this in my KFC review (linked at the bottom of the blog).

April 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm
(4) steve85 says:

It doesn’t matter if it’s grilled or not, it’s still far too many calories for one meal. Nevertheless, this is what America wants. We are moving away from the carb counting craze of the 2000′s and back to our fatty roots. http://www.weltbranding.com/blog/ has a good look at it. I agree with their description that nobody wants to go to fast food and eat healthy. Also, I like their progression of how foods are reverting back to the unhealthy nature, because after all, we are a fat nation. It’s science.

April 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm
(5) Wayne64 says:

Too many calories for one meal? That is about average for me, then toss in snacking. All depends on what you are doing. Exercise, especially with weights, your body wants (and needs) calories

April 14, 2010 at 7:18 pm
(6) Kathy Hall says:


If you read this post you’ll see that this meal contains the omega 6 oils that are the problem. Like others have said the ingredients would be ok WITHOUT all the additives and especially without the omega 6 oils.

April 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm
(7) Jimbo2000 says:

“back to our fatty roots.” Do you mean the “fatty roots” we had BEFORE the USDA and American Heart Association told us we need to start eating “whole grains” and eating “vegetable fats?” Because that’s right about the time that the U.S. saw a huge increase in heart disease, cancer and diabetes. We’ve survived off of a high saturated fat, high protein diet with NO grains for nearly 4 million years. Why did these two groups suddenly tell us we need Grains and Vegetable fats in our diet in order to be healthy?

Kathy Hall
You’re close (and I like that link!) But Omega-6 fatty acids are a very necessary part of human diet – please don’t avoid them! The problem with Omega-6 is when it’s in a higher proportion to the Omega-3 fatty acid in the foods you eat. Animals fed grains (or chickens fed a “all vegetarian diet” like that’s supposed to be good for them) produce meat and eggs with much higher rations of O-6 to O-3. Another reason grass fed beef and pastured or “free range” chickens are so much better for us.

This sandwich, on the other hand, has a whole host of other problems as Arlo posted. “Partially Hydrogenated Oils” (arent’ they illegal in some states now?), all that added sugar with clever names (“Maltodextrin, Dextrose”), salt and vegetable oils. And my favorite ingredient in a “chicken” sandwich: “BEEF POWDER.” What the heck is that?!

Still, you slap a bun on this sucker and it’s 10x worse for you. That doesn’t mean the bun-less version is anywhere near healthy though.

April 15, 2010 at 7:12 pm
(8) Debbie says:

Yeah, I think I’d rather eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger without the bun! As long as you get just the regular burger the ingredients for the meat are just 100% beef. It’s only if you go for the new “Angus burgers” that you get a list of frankenfood ingredients that rivals that of the KFC chicken.

April 17, 2010 at 1:33 am
(9) Sarah says:

I’ve had it and it’s not bad at all.

This isn’t something I’d eat on a regular basis but when you are away from home in a small town with limited options, it gives you a quick alternative.

April 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm
(10) Linda says:

We stopped in a KFC with a few friends, thought the grilled chicken was a nice choice. I ended up having a asthma attack within 1/2hour.
When I got home looked at the ingredients on line, and pinned it to the msg( in three different names), and have been staying away from it since.
Wow its in everything. Also staying away from High Fruitose Corn Syrup.

April 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm
(11) Karianne says:

I had one just tonight for the first time and loved it. It is delicious and I’ll have them from time to time.

April 20, 2010 at 9:13 am
(12) Sweet Pickles says:

I believe the only alternative is to cook your own food. I totally stay away from fast foods. When I cook, I know what goes into the food that I’m going to eat. I eat fresh vegetables, grilled or broiled meats and plenty of water! No fast food for me!

May 6, 2010 at 9:25 am
(13) badmf says:

Laura Dolson, I sure hope this post was a belated April’s Fools.

May 12, 2010 at 7:24 pm
(14) James says:

Vegetable fats… such as avocado are now being touted as the veggie of the week, until someone else finds out that the fats within (and often over-eaten as in guacamole) are lowering the LDL’s and raising the HDL’s. Give us a break…

Which is the perfect fat-free or low-fat food that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to buy or make? Tell me its not tofu; I’m so sick of tofu, I sweat it… Everything is fattening, causes some form of cancer or the Surgeon-General says it’s bad for us.

Damn it! I’ll eat my meat raw — as I don’t see the animal kingdom getting sick from eating red meat, some grasses and a few bugs, and drinking water from a big watering hole…

September 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm
(15) Sunny says:

when KFC and other fast food restaurants began to capitalize on the low carb craze a few years ago, i remember a commercial that advertised the KFC original recipe breast only had 12g of carbs.

September 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm
(16) Jake says:

If you have kids and are strapped for time inevitably you will eat at a fast food restaurant like it or not. I am on a nazi-like extreme version of the South Beach diet for weight loss and muscle gain – I aim to eat less than 20g of carbs a day. If you get a grilled double down, and pass on the sauce, you will eat 1g of carbohydrates; 440 calories, 60g of protein. When I forgo carbs the weight flies off. I’m actually glad I ate it – felt so good. (I felt worse about the server kid slipping me REAL root beer instead of diet!)

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