This is my third “healthy fast food eating” review. It all started with LovedbyGod7’s Burger King Write-off. Instead of a traditional review, I submitted a review that detailed how to eat at BK AND stay on your healthy diet. From that review, I received several emails asking about other restaurants. This has evolved into an ever-expanding review of how to eat healthy foods, on the run. This review will detail the healthiest – and least healthy – options at Jack-in-the-Box.
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A Little History on Jack in the Box
The history of Jack in the Box is as crazy as its clown-headed spokesman. Jack-in-the-Box was founded in 1951 by Robert O. Peterson, and acquired in 1968 by Ralston Purina Corporation. In 1985 the JITB management performed a leveraged buyout, taking the company private again. In 1997, the company went public with an IPO, but went private again in late 1998. 1992 had the company going public again, and the newswires all carried the 1999 photo of “Jack” ringing the bell on the NYSE on the first day of official trading under the corporate name JBX.
I grew up with Jack, the smiling clown logo. Some of you may be too young to remember this, but in one of the first “interactive” advertising programs, viewers got to vote on whether or not to blow up “Jack” (the clown). Alas, he was destroyed in a huge fireball … but resurrected years later, to launch a new line of advertisements with “Jack” back, this time in a suit & tie as the CEO, in the “Jack’s Back” campaign.
Jack in the Box has made major strides to establish itself as a leader in QUALITY fast food. This includes initiatives in the areas of farm-to-fork monitoring, microbial testing, restaurant level inspections, and legislative initiatives on food safety monitoring. This is all a strong PR response to the 1993 incident where Jack in the Box beef was found to carry E-coli, resulting in 2 deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations in the Pacific Northwest.
Jack Knows Fat…
If you’re looking for fat, you’ve found the right place. Next to Carl’s Jr., this is one of my favorite drive-through fast-food restaurants. The burgers are hot & fresh, chicken is spicy, tasty spicy curly fries, decadent ice cream shakes, and more…. Mmmm. If I weren’t counteracting all of that time at the gym, I could go “hog wild” and really blow out my healthy diet at Jack in the Box.
For example – the Jumbo Jack with Cheese has 640 calories, 38 grams of fat, 105 mg of cholesterol and 1340 mg of sodium. These go on sale on a regular basis for 99 cents; my hubby likes to pick up two of them for lunch and thinks he’s eating well because he skipped the fries. On of my favorites, the Sourdough Jack (bacon, Swiss cheese, fresh tomatoes and burger on sourdough toast) has 690 calories; this still pales next to the Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger’s 1020 calories – with 71 g of fat, 210 mg of cholesterol and 1740 mg of sodium. That’s 109% of the recommended daily value of fat, 70% of the cholesterol and 73% of the RDA of sodium for a 2000 calorie diet. Yikes…. That’s without the fries!
Jack in the Box also has a great Spicy Chicken sandwich (570 calories) and a killer Chicken Supreme (830 calories). You might think the fish & chips sound healthy? Think again, these will cost you 780 calories, plus an additional 210 calories if you eat them with tartar sauce. Turned into a combo, add 350 calories for a regular fry (430 for a jumbo size or 410 for the yummy spicy curly fries!) and 170 calories for a regular sized coke. That means that “Value” Jumbo Jack with cheese meal can total 1160 calories…. before going big! Don’t even think about the ice cream shakes – the Oreo shake has 740 calories (320 of which are from fat, by the way…), and the chocolate shake has 630 calories. Yikes… so what’s a health-conscious fast-food fan to do?
So what ARE the healthy options?
There are a few healthier options at Jack in the Box. And like Carl’s Jr., you can at least know that your healthy choices will still taste good. My favorite of these is the Chicken Fajita Pita. This is a half of a pita bread, filled with grilled chicken, lettuce, sautéed onions, cheese and salsa. At only 320 calories, with only 10 g of fat, 55-mg cholesterol, and 850 mg of sodium, this is a far better tasting – and better for you – option to the other JITB alternatives. Unfortunately, the chicken is pressed (not a breast, like Carl’s Jr.); nonetheless, it tastes far better than the Burger King BK Broiler and is still a very tasty sandwich.
Another relatively healthy option is the 5 pc. Chicken Breast Pieces – boneless, skinless breaded chicken breast chunks. These are all white, real meat, very nice and tasty, and only 360 calories. Add 45 calories for BBQ sauce or 10 calories for the Red Hot Buffalo Dipping Sauce, and you have a healthy and tasty meal. A side salad only has 50 calories and will round out your meal instead of fries, if you need a little more filling meal, but get the low calorie Italian dressing for only 25 calories (vs. the house dressing of 290 calories).
If you are watching your fat calories specifically, you can get the Chicken Teriyaki Bowl. It’s a large rice bowl, with grilled chicken, broccoli and teriyaki sauce. It has a hefty 670 calories; however, only 40 of those are fat calories (that’s less than 6% calories from fat!). Most of the calories come from the 128-g of carbs (from the rice). Skip the egg roll, though, as it adds another 150 calories but almost half of those are from fat.
My final healthy recommendation is the Garden Chicken Salad, with only 200 calories and 9 g of fat. Add the low calorie Italian dressing for 25 calories and you have a healthy fast-food meal at a bargain – calorically, at least. It’s not the best tasting chicken salad I’ve had, but in a pinch it’s a nice option. On the other hand, the chicken Fajita pita is so much better that I have trouble ordering anything else.
Breakfast is an area where Jack in the Box falls down, health-wise. Like most fast-food places, there are a lot of options, but almost all of them are heavy on the calories and fat. The Sausage Egg & Cheese Biscuit, for example, has 510 calories, including 36 g of fat, 220 mg of cholesterol and 1050 mg of sodium (that’s like ingesting 73% of your cholesterol at breakfast, by the way…). The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich has 600 calories, 34 g of fat, 410 mg of cholesterol and 1480 mg of sodium (that’s 137% of your cholesterol and 62% of your sodium… for your first meal of the day). French Toast sticks with syrup sound better, but actually they total up to 550 calories. The Sausage Croissant is worse yet, at 660 calories (48 g of fat, 240 mg of cholesterol, and 860 mg of sodium). Finally, if you make any of these a “Meal”, you add hashbrowns and orange juice – an additional 320 calories to add to your day’s allotment.
There are only two healthy options that I know of. The Breakfast Jack has only 280 calories, 12 g of fat, and 190 mg of cholesterol and 750 mg of sodium. Unfortunately, this is served on a hamburger bun, which takes all of the charm out of it for me. The other option is a plain biscuit with jelly, adding up to only 230 calories (9 g of fat, 0 mg cholesterol and 55 mg of sodium). This is, unfortunately, a little hard to prepare on the road (take it from a woman who once inadvertently flung a jelly covered knife across the car while driving… whoops!).
Kid Friendly? Sure…
Jack-in-the-Box, like most other fast food places, has a series of kid’s meals that include a burger (or cheeseburger, etc.) with fries and drink and toy. They offer unique toys, such as the Jetsons toys. These aren’t the cheapest meals or the trendiest toys; however, my kids happily eat them when we drive through. I don’t see many JITB restaurants with playgrounds, but we use it primarily as a drive-through source.
The Bottom Line
There are several good-tasting and healthy options for eating at Jack in the Box, if you can order well. Get the Chicken Fajita Pita (I get mine without onions, since I can’t stand onions!) and add a side salad if you’re really hungry. There are a few other healthy options; however, the rest of the menu is filled with fat-laden, sodium-heavy options. That isn’t to say they don’t taste good <GRIN> and I, for one, have been known to cut loose and indulge in a big, greasy Sourdough Jack (my favorite) when I feel “the need”. Nonetheless, I hope that this review has provided you some ideas on healthier options to grab when you don’t want to blow your diet, but need to pick up something quick and easy.
Note: I thrive on your comments. Please let me know if this has been useful to you, and why, plus what (if anything) you’d like me to do differently next time! Thanks!
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