There used to be a Carl’s Jr. in my neighborhood that was the definition of foul. You know what I’m talking about – that fluorescent-bulb buzzing, greasy-smelling, un-swept trash on the floor, poorly-lit parking-lot-mugging sort of joint. Not being a big fast food eater, I didn’t have a reason to go there very often, but despite this, I ate there exactly twice. Both times, it was after midnight, I was starving after a cross-country plane trip where there had been no meals, and I had refused to pay the inflated airport price for sub-par food. (I’m looking at YOU, LAX McDonald’s!!!) The burgers I consumed from Carl’s Jr. were greasy, bloated and messy — pretty typical fare, and not the worst thing if you’re famished, but I always felt like I was doing a real disservice to my arteries, waistline, lymph nodes, etc.
That being said, I really wanted to like Carl’s Jr.’s recent foray into “healthy food.” I thought it would help me overcome my deeply-ingrained mistrust of this particular fast food chain and expand my list of low-fat fast food options. (A girl can only order a 6-inch turkey sub from not-so-skinny Jared so many times). So when the new TV ads hit, proclaiming that Carl’s Jr. had enlisted the renowned nutrition experts of “Eat This, Not That” and Men’s Health to develop a trio of leaner burgers for the menu (the Teriyaki Turkey Burger and the Guacamole Turkey Burger are the other two), I was down to try it, despite the fact that I lack the Y chromosome. I thought to myself, Hey, Self, if the “Eat This, Not That” folks can endorse this product, I figure I can help them out a little, maybe satisfy my burger jones while avoiding the unhealthier items on the menu. I figured that a burger under 500 calories would be okay to eat, even if it’s still about 200 more calories than what I would normally ingest in one sitting.
They weren’t lying when they said each burger was under 500 calories, but they just barely squeaked by with that count – the Charbroiled Turkey Burger, the plainest of the three has 490 calories. Really, Carl’s Jr.? You boast about making sandwiches under 500 calories when the caloric difference is two sticks of sugar-free gum. Yes, most of your burgers are in the 700-1100 calorie range, and this burger is much less than that, but that’s kind of like being the air traffic controller who snores the most quietly while on duty. I wouldn’t call slapping together a sandwich that barely meets the “healthy” criteria an awesome accomplishment. Even the turkey burger you doused in sugary teriyaki sauce has fewer calories than your regular one! Do you see how strange that is, Carl’s Jr.? And don’t get me started on the 1,000+ milligrams of sodium.
Let’s start with the patty. It is ground turkey, and we all know that turkey is the most dignified of all poultry. It’s the only bird that gets its own holiday, and the only bird we dress up in jaunty Pilgrim hats and shiny black shoes with buckles. However, the Charbroiled Turkey Burger patty is supremely unseemly. It looks like something straight out of an elementary school cafeteria or a maximum security prison mess hall. Pale and stiff on the outside, chewy and flavorless on the inside. They probably serve this turkey burger in Hell. How could something so bland contain so much salt? The fixins are standard – I counted two pieces of lettuce, one tomato slice, and a couple teensy pickles. The pile of sliced red onion was a nice touch, but it didn’t make up for the overall lack of flavor. Lastly, there was a glob of mayonnaise on the bottom bun and a slathering of “special sauce” with chopped onion on the top. The special sauce was clearly mayo mixed with ketchup. NOT SPECIAL. Thankfully, the burger wasn’t too messy, but that was probably because the decently-toasted, whole-grain bun soaked up all the spread.
Carl’s Jr. and their partners were really trying to make something healthy here, and I commend them for their efforts. It’s just too bad that the end result tastes like a half-hearted attempt. I expected something meaty and tasty with fewer calories than their usual burgers, and I got school district leftovers. Carl’s Jr. understands that people want better choices for their quick-service meals, but I think they could’ve done a lot better with this burger, especially with the assistance they received from “Eat This, Not That.” They got so preoccupied with looking out for our expanding guts that they left our taste buds out in the cold.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 Charbroiled Turkey Burger (268g) – 490 calories, 200 calories from fat, 23 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1010 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein.)
Item: Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Turkey Burger
Size: 1 turkey burger
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Burger Jones. Under 500 calories. Two X Chromosomes. Red onions. Eat This, Not That. Turkeys in doublets, breeches, and tall, black hats with buckles.
Cons: Bland, school-lunch-grade meat. Really, really close to 500 calories. Enough sodium to blast your blood pressure into the stratosphere. Buying fast food at the airport. Maximum security prison.