by Marion Nestle
Apr 19 2010

KFC as a standard for fast food evaluation? The Double Down Gluttony Index

Statistician Nate Silver uses KFC’s nutritional analysis (which nobody seems to believe, for good reason, as you can see from the added note below) to create a Double Down Index for evaluating the nutritional quality of fast food based on fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

I’ve created an index based on the amount of fat, sodium and cholesterol that the Double Down and a variety of comparable sandwiches contain as a portion of the USDA daily allowance. (In the fat category, saturated fats are counted double and trans-fats are counted triple.) The index is scaled such that the Original Recipe version of the sandwich receives a score of 1.00, a measure of gluttony that will hereafter be known as The Double Down (DD).**

** To calculate Double Downs for your own favorite sandwich, apply the following formula: divide the number of mg of cholesterol by 469, the number of mg of sodium by 3,754, the number of grams of total fat by 133, the number of grams of saturated fat also by 133, and the number of grams of trans-fat by 66. Then sum the result.

He also calibrates Double Downs per Calorie (DDPC): “Take the above result, divide by the number of calories, and multiply by 540.”

His charts are great. Take a look.

Thanks to Richard Einhorn for sending.

Additional note: My NYU colleague Lisa Young, author of The Portion Teller, wrote the company to correct the calorie calculations.  She says:

I’ve done my own calculations for calories obtained from USDAs website….Even the grilled chicken version has nearly 600 calories, and that is without any sauce. Also the actual product looks bigger than the serving size info provided to me which would suggest that the breadless sandwich may even contain more calories than I have listed below.

2 3-oz pieces fried chicken = 441 kcal
2 slices Monterey Jack cheese (1 oz each)=211 kcal
2 slices bacon, medium, cooked= 87 kcal
TOTAL= 739 kcal

2 3-oz pieces grilled chicken = 282 kcal
2 slices Monterey Jack cheese (1 oz each)=211 kcal
2 slices bacon, medium, cooked= 87 kcal
TOTAL=580 kcal

  • Molly
  • Anthro

    I take it you are saying that the calorie count for this thing IS accurate after all? Wow–I really thought it must be more. It’s still a nutritional nightmare, but not as caloric as one would think!

  • rjm

    The re-calibration by Calorie is actually misleading. Even though the other items which contain many more Calories contain /some/ good stuff, that doesn’t matter. Taking in such a large quantity, when the body won’t utilize it all, has adverse effects. Heck, even the double down around at ~540 Calories is too much for the average person to consume in one sitting.

    on the caloric content of the sandwich:
    Suppose it had two serving sizes of chicken (~240 kcal)
    Two slices of bacon (~100 kcal)
    Two slices of cheese (~200 kcal)

    That sums to ~540 kcal but that doesn’t include
    Calories from oil and sauce, which would
    raise it a bit. So no doubt, the 540 figure is
    a lower estimate.

  • rjm

    Interesting, these companies aren’t required to use a calorimeter? Based on your additional note, I’m not surprised it is that much. In fact, I know it is more, because you have to factor in the sauce used, etc. And no telling how much cooking oil is used. I think the number lies somewhere between 850kcal and 1000kcal. At that point, we are pushing nearly twice as many Calories as stated. Which makes for a significant error!

  • Emily

    Frankly, it would still be repulsive if the calorie count were reasonable. And I don’t expect that most folks are eating this little gem by itself. Add a side dish or two and a soft drink and there’s your whole day’s calories in one disgusting meal!

  • teewye

    As ridiculous as the KFC “sandwich” is (is it a sandwich with no bread?), it pales in comparison to some of the things on this site:

    Just check out the Chubby Girl Scout: Bacon wrapped Samoa Girl Scout cookies deep-fried and topped with maple syrup and powdered sugar. Hmm.

  • Anthro

    Thanks for the added note! I knew it!

    @Emily – I don’t think it’s repulsive at all! It looks very tempting even though I don’t eat anything that’s in it.

    @teewye – I’m thinking that “sandwich” (in a broad sense) means “filling between two layers of something else” (not strictly bread).

    Marion: Information that I glean from this blog keeps coming into conversations I have with my husband. The other day he commented that I should start a blog because I know so much about “all this food stuff”! I had to come clean and tell him where I’ve acquired all that info. I’ve almost got him ready to actually read “Food Politics”.

  • Forget about KFC’s nutritional content; the company is morally reprehensible. Undercover investigations of KFC chicken suppliers, conducted by PETA (, have shown chickens being beaten, thrown against walls, abused and even spray-painted by malicious workers. The actions of KFC suppliers against chicken are so unbelievably cruel and inhumane that even the Dalai Lama has spoken out against it. Read about them here:

  • Pete

    So its all about dietary fat & cholesterol? I guess the refined carb count in those other sandwiches doesn’t account for much huh? It’s both amusing and painful to watch the public catch up with real science – not govm’t propogated, agenda driven pseudoscience.

  • It’s amazing, our local KFC is probably the busiest fast-food outlet in the whole high street, they do a roaring trade..there is a standard 15 minute wait to get served (not that I have visited it, mind you!) just shows that people generally don’t really care about good nutrition at all.