Fast Food Fix: A healthy take on Texas favorite, Whataburger

Pressed for time? You can still enjoy that burger, without all the regret

Homemade bunless burger (Homemade bunless burger)

HOUSTON – Let’s face it, as much as we all try to eat healthy, life gets busy and from time to time we need to hit up the drive-thru window.

So, we challenged certified nutritionist Krystal Hammett to find the healthiest menu items at popular fast food places around town to help busy families on the go.

We’re kicking off the series with Texas favorite, Whataburger!


Bunless Whataburger with Cheese (370 calories, 27g fat, 6 carbs, 25g protein, 1130mg sodium)

  • Includes large beef patty, tomato, lettuce, pickles, diced onion, mustard and cheese


  • Omit the cheese to reduce calories and sodium
  • Sub the fries and onion rings for a side garden salad or sliced apples
  • Go light on condiments and sauces, hold the mayo
  • Cut the extra empty calories and sugar by skipping fountain drinks and desserts

Don’t want to spend a lot of time in line making a healthier choice? Krystal has a solution for that too!

“You can check out their website before you even come to Whataburger and you can build your own meal. It gives you everything, the macro, the micronutrient breakdown, the calories, all that good stuff.”

For additional ways to create healthy options at Whataburger via the app, or for “hidden” menu items visit the links below.

Healthier Eating

Hidden Menu Items

Now, if you can spare some time and skip the drive-thru, then you’ll want to listen up.

Krystal has done the drive-thru menu homework for us, but sometimes, you just can’t help but crave fast food. We get it, there’s two kinds of people in the world. So what’s the solution?

You can still get your fast food fix by recreating menu options from the comfort of your home, but with a healthier twist. (Let’s make healthier decisions in 2020.)

Registered dietitian Mary Ellen Phipps with Milk and Honey Nutrition shares how to recreate Whataburger’s bunless burger from your own kitchen, and without any excuses.


“You can do any kind of burger you want… ordering from any fast food restaurant in general can limit your options on toppings, but if you’re at home you have a little more freedom to amp up the nutrition value of those greens.” – Mary Ellen Phipps


Homemade bunless burger

Homemade bunless burger (Homemade bunless burger)

- Include a leafy green with large wide leaves like collard green or spinach, or go for a refreshing crunch from romaine or butter lettuce

- Choose a 100% beef patty. Make it easy enough by grabbing it from the frozen food section of your grocery store

- Add in higher quality condiments if you can. Take the recipe up a notch by adding in sautéed onions and mushrooms for a little extra flavor

Now it’s time to eat! Keep in mind these easy 5 steps when you’re building your own homemade bunless burger.


Bunless burger toppings (Bunless burger toppings)
  1. Wash & dry 2 leaves. Cut out the stems and fold each leaf long ways
  2. Place your beef patty on the middle of your leafy green
  3. Add your healthy toppings and condiments on top
  4. Fold the sides of the leaves over the toppings to have them overlap. To secure, wrap once more by using the second leaf and repeat the folds
  5. Stick a toothpick in the middle to serve, and enjoy

You now have your entrée, but you can’t forget the side!

A typical fast food meal can get a little carb heavy by the time you have a large bun and French fries.

But, if you’re like us and don’t want to miss out on fries, Mary Ellen has a quick and easy fix.

Fries (Fries)

“One thing I love about doing a bunless burger is like I said, if I’m going to pick my carb choice, I’d rather have French fries than bread, personally. There are some great brands available in the frozen section of the grocery store. When you think about it, they fry those and freeze them. But then at the restaurant they are fried, frozen and then fried again. So these (homemade) are fried only once and a great choice to go with your bunless burger.”

H/T Krystal Hammett and Mary Ellen Phipps

About the Authors:

Erin Montoya is an award-winning producer, middle child and mom of two boys.

Catherine Sorto is a native Houstonian, a true crime junkie and loves flamin' chips.