Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Farmer Boys Restaurants' Food Bad For You?



Short answer

Farmer Boys menu items can be high in calories, trans fats, sodium, sugars, and preservatives, which may be detrimental to health if consumed in excess. Portion control, opting for lean proteins, selecting sides like salads or fruits, and avoiding calorie-dense additions can help make meals healthier. Balancing these with nutrient-dense food choices and physical activity supports maintaining a nutritious diet.



Long answer

Caloric Density of Farmer Boys Menu Items

Understanding the caloric density of menu items at Farmer Boys is crucial for making informed dietary choices. Caloric density refers to the number of calories in a given weight of food, which impacts energy intake and can contribute to weight gain if not balanced with energy expenditure. Farmer Boys, known for its hearty portions and farm-fresh ingredients, offers a range of options with varying caloric content. Below, we'll delve into the specifics of some menu items and discuss how their caloric density fits into a balanced diet.

Farm-to-Table Breakfasts: Breakfasts at Farmer Boys often come packed with calories due to generous servings. A typical 'Farmer's' breakfast plate, replete with eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast, can easily surpass 1000 calories. The eggs alone provide protein and nutrients but consider that the sides often amplify calorie counts substantially.

Burgers and Sandwiches: Farmer Boys' burgers and sandwiches are a staple of their menu. A signature burger may range from approximately 700 to over 1000 calories, largely due to the size of the beef patties, cheese, and additional toppings like bacon and avocados. Combining these with fries and a sugary beverage can mean consuming upwards of 1500 calories in a single meal.

Salads and Healthier Choices: Farmer Boys also offers salads and other options labeled as healthier. However, it's important to pay attention to the additions such as dressings, croutons, and cheese, which can raise the caloric content. A chicken salad might start at 400 calories, but with a liberal addition of dressing and toppings, it may double in caloric density.

Side Dishes: Side dishes at Farmer Boys, like onion rings and fried zucchini, are often deep-fried, contributing a high concentration of calories in a relatively small volume, making them calorie-dense choices. A medium serving of their onion rings, for instance, can be nearly 500 calories.

Impact on Daily Caloric Intake: When considering the caloric density of these items, it's essential to recognize how they contribute to your daily caloric intake. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that adult women and men should consume between 1,600-2,400 calories and 2,000-3,000 calories per day, respectively, depending on age, sex, weight, height, and physical activity level. A single meal at Farmer Boys can, in some cases, approach or exceed half of those daily recommendations.

Portion Sizes and Caloric Density: One way to manage the caloric density of meals at Farmer Boys is by being mindful of portion sizes. Opting for smaller portions can help keep calorie intake in check. Sharing a meal or saving half for later are strategies that can reduce immediate caloric intake, adapting it to energy needs.

Below is a table summarizing the approximate caloric content of popular Farmer Boys menu items, which can serve as a guide for those monitoring their calorie consumption:

Menu Item Approximate Calories
Farmer's Breakfast 1000 - 1500
Signature Burger 700 - 1200
Chicken Salad 400 - 800 (varies with toppings & dressings)
Onion Rings (medium) 500
Fried Zucchini (medium) 400

It's worth noting that this table is not exhaustive, and actual caloric values can vary based on individual preparation and portion size. Consulting the nutritional information provided by Farmer Boys or asking for tailored options can help manage calorie intake more effectively. Studies show that regular, consistent monitoring of caloric intake can support weight management and reduce the risk associated with chronic diseases linked to diet, such as diabetes and heart disease.

In conclusion, while the caloric density of Farmer Boys menu items can be high, thoughtful selection and portion control can help align these choices with one's nutritional goals. It's always advisable to balance these more indulgent meals with physical activity and a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.

Trans Fats and Cholesterol Content in Fast Food

When evaluating the nutritional quality of fast food, trans fats and cholesterol content are two crucial factors to consider. Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are a type of unsaturated fat which have been hydrogenated to extend shelf life and improve texture of food. Historically, they've been common in fast food due to their cost-effectiveness and ability to withstand the high temperatures of commercial frying. However, they are notorious for their negative impact on heart health, raising LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lowering HDL ("good") cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods, are not "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) for use in human food. By January 1, 2021, PHOs have been phased out of all foods. This regulatory shift has led many fast food restaurants, including Farmer Boys, to revise their cooking processes and ingredients to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their menus.

Despite these changes, there may still be naturally occurring trans fats from animal products in fast food, though these are generally present in smaller amounts compared to artificial trans fats. The current dietary guidelines recommend limiting total trans fat intake as much as possible.

Cholesterol, on the other hand, is a waxy substance found only in animal-derived foods, such as meats and dairy products. While your body needs cholesterol to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones, too much cholesterol can be detrimental to your health, especially in terms of cardiovascular risk. Fast-food menus, known for items rich in meat and cheese, can be high in dietary cholesterol. Notably, however, recent research has started to differentiate between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels, suggesting that for many people, eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect their blood cholesterol levels. Still, some individuals, particularly those with certain genetic factors or preexisting conditions, are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol.

According to The American Heart Association, adults should aim to consume less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day, and those with heart disease or high blood LDL cholesterol should consume less than 200 milligrams per day. A typical fast-food meal can easily exceed these recommendations.

Farmer Boys, like many modern fast food establishments, publishes nutritional information for their menu items. Examining some of their popular offerings, we can see that choices vary significantly in terms of both trans fats and cholesterol content. For the best health outcomes, it is recommended that consumers carefully review nutritional information when available and make more informed choices when dining at fast food restaurants.

Below is a table representing a selection of Farmer Boys food items along with their approximate trans fat and cholesterol content:

Menu Item Trans Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg)
Classic Cheeseburger 0-0.5 80
Farmer's Burger 0-1 120
Hearty Farmer's Club Sandwich 0-0.5 95
Crispy Zucchini 0-0.5 5
Onion Rings 0-0.5 0

Note: The actual trans fat and cholesterol content can vary based on portion size and specific ingredients used. The figures shown are approximate and based on standard serving sizes. The presence of 0-0.5 grams of trans fat indicates that the item may have negligible amounts of trans fat, as FDA labeling guidelines allow products with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to be rounded down to 0.

Sodium Levels in Farmer Boys Dishes

When discussing the nutritional aspects of restaurant food, one key factor often scrutinized is the sodium content. Sodium is essential for bodily functions, including nerve transmission and muscle contraction; however, excessive intake can lead to health issues such as hypertension and an increased risk of heart and kidney disease. Therefore, understanding the sodium levels in Farmer Boys dishes is crucial for individuals monitoring their intake for health reasons.

Farmer Boys, like many fast-casual restaurants, features a variety of menu items that can be high in sodium. Typically, fast food is known for its convenience and flavor, which is often aided by generous sodium use for seasoning and preservation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, which can be quite a challenge when dining out.

Below is a breakdown of the sodium levels in some popular Farmer Boys dishes:

Menu Item Sodium Content
The Farmer’s Burger® Approx. 1,740 mg
Farmers Big Cheese® Approx. 1,590 mg
Hearty Pastrami Sandwich Approx. 2,190 mg
Cobb Salad Approx. 1,380 mg
Chili Bowl with Cheese & Onions Approx. 1,010 mg
Zucchini Sticks Approx. 720 mg

As seen from the table, some menu items contain sodium levels that approach or exceed the daily recommended allowance in just one meal. For those consuming multiple meals per day, it's important to be mindful of such figures. In particular, items like the Hearty Pastrami Sandwich can singlehandedly surpass the advised limit, indicating that diners with sodium-related health concerns should exercise caution or consider alternative options with lower sodium content.

It is also essential to note that condiments and additional sides, which are frequently chosen to accompany meals, often contain high amounts of sodium. For instance, a packet of ketchup or a side of dressing can add several hundred milligrams to the overall sodium intake. Individual variance in menu items due to preparation differences means that the exact sodium content may vary slightly. For the most accurate information, consulting the restaurant's nutritional guides or asking the staff directly about sodium content is advisable.

For those looking to reduce sodium intake while eating at Farmer Boys, options may include:

  • Ordering "no salt" or requesting seasoning adjustments where possible.
  • Choosing smaller portions or splitting dishes to share in order to decrease overall sodium consumption.
  • Opting for menu items with inherently lower sodium content, such as salads without dressings or sandwiches without cheese or sauces.
  • Favoring water or other low-sodium beverages instead of sodas or flavored drinks, which also contain sodium.

Careful consideration and active choices can help manage sodium intake while still enjoying meals from Farmer Boys or any similar establishment.

High Fructose Corn Syrup and Added Sugars in Menu Options

When examining the nutritional content of restaurant meals, identifying hidden sugars is paramount for those concerned with maintaining a balanced diet. Farmer Boys restaurant, like many others, incorporates sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and added sugars in various items on their menu, which could impact your health if consumed regularly.

HFCS is a sweetener made from corn starch that has been processed to convert some of its glucose into fructose. It's commonly found in processed foods and drinks because it's cheaper and sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). The presence of HFCS in the diet is a concern due to its potential link to obesity, diabetes, and other health issues when consumed in large amounts.

Added sugars contribute additional calories without essential nutrients to foods. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars to no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) for most women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams) for most men. However, just a single meal or beverage with high sugar content can exceed these recommendations.

Listed below are typical menu items from Farmer Boys that may contain HFCS or added sugars:

  • Salad Dressings and Sauces – Many dressings and sauces can be rich in added sugars, including HFCS, contributing to higher calorie intake.
  • Soft Drinks – Sodas served are often sweetened with HFCS and can provide a significant amount of sugar in one serving.
  • Milkshakes and Desserts – These sweet treats usually come with high sugar content, in some cases sourced from HFCS, making them a less healthy option.
  • Breads – Sandwich buns and rolls may include HFCS or added sugars to enhance flavor and texture.
  • Breakfast Items – Certain breakfast choices, particularly those that are carb-centric like pancakes or sweetened oatmeal, can also harbor added sugars.

It's important to note that Farmer Boys provides nutritional information and ingredients for their menu items, allowing customers to make informed decisions. However, the transparency of HFCS and added sugars in particular menu items can be improved for customer awareness. When dining out, consider the frequency and quantity of menu items consumed that might contain these sweeteners. Opting for water or unsweetened beverages, selecting sauces and dressings with care, and moderating the intake of sweetened desserts can help manage sugar consumption.

To further illustrate the content of HFCS and added sugars in certain Farmer Boys menu items, refer to the nutritional information provided by the restaurant. Reviewing this information may reveal that what seems like a healthy choice could, in fact, include more added sugar than expected. Diners seeking to reduce their intake of HFCS and added sugars should ask for modifications to their orders when possible, like requesting dressings and sauces on the side or choosing menu options labeled as having 'no added sugar'.

Current research continues to deepen our understanding of how added sugars, including HFCS, affect our long-term health. Studies have cited the overconsumption of sugars as a contributing factor to chronic diseases, reinforcing the recommendation for careful monitoring of sugar intake. Keeping abreast of this research and recognizing the elements in your diet that contribute to excessive sugar consumption are crucial steps toward better health.

The Role of Preservatives and Additives in Fast Casual Dining

When we step into the world of fast casual dining, we undoubtedly encounter a common aspect of modern food preservation and preparation: the use of preservatives and additives. The role they play in the food we consume at restaurants like Farmer Boys is multifaceted, impacting shelf life, flavor, and sometimes, unfortunately, our health.

Preservatives are chemicals added to food to extend shelf life by preventing spoilage from bacteria, molds, fungus, and yeast. Additives, on the other hand, might enhance taste, improve texture, or add a desirable appearance. Here’s an exploration of how preservatives and additives can influence your dining experience, particularly in fast casual settings.

  • Nitrates and Nitrites: Often found in processed meats which can feature in burgers and sandwiches, these compounds help preserve color and protect against bacterial growth. A clear concern with these preservatives is their potential to form nitrosamines, compounds that have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer when consumed in high amounts over time (Source: American Cancer Society). It is Worth noting, however, that some restaurants, are now opting for naturally cured meats without added nitrates or nitrites.
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is a flavor enhancer commonly added to a variety of foods. While the FDA has classified MSG as 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS), there is ongoing debate about possible side effects such as headaches and other symptoms referred to as "MSG symptom complex" (Source: FDA). Consumer demand for transparency has prompted some restaurants to eliminate MSG from their offerings.
  • Phosphates: These are used in food processing to enhance texture and moisture retention, especially in meats. Excessive consumption of phosphates is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney issues, leading health professionals to caution against high intake (Source: Journal of the American Heart Association).
  • Artificial Colorings: Bright, uniform colors are appealing, making artificial colorings a mainstay in the fast food industry. However, certain artificial colors have been associated with hyperactivity in children and other potential health risks, prompting consumers to be wary (Source: Journal of Pediatrics).
  • Trans Fats: Often found in the form of partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats are used to improve the texture and shelf life of foods. Highly criticized for their adverse effects on heart health, these fats have been largely phased out of the food industry due to FDA directives (Source: FDA).

Farmer Boys, like many in the fast casual realm, may use some of these preservatives and additives to achieve the desired taste and freshness of their foods. However, the specifics of their usage and quantities are vital to assess the impact on health. Transparency is key here, and nutritional information provided by restaurants can help consumers make informed choices.

Educating oneself on these additives and their potential health effects plays a significant role in dietary decision-making. As a diner, understanding which additives may be harmful in the long term can guide you in making healthier choices while enjoying the convenience of fast casual dining.

It's important to recognize that not all preservatives and additives are inherently negative. Some may even be derived from natural sources, and their inclusion is essential for ensuring food safety. The balance lies in moderation and awareness. Responsible consumption coupled with restaurants' willingness to provide healthier options with minimal additives can contribute to a more wholesome dining experience.

Balancing Farmer Boys Meals with Healthy Eating Habits

Navigating the nutritional landscape of restaurant menus can be a challenge, especially when indulging at a place like Farmer Boys. Known for hearty portions and comfort food, maintaining a balance between enjoying their offerings and sticking to healthy eating habits requires strategic planning. Here are ways to incorporate Farmer Boys meals into a balanced diet:

  • Review Nutritional Information: Before you order, take a moment to review the nutritional content of Farmer Boys' menu items. Look for calorie counts, sodium levels, and the amount of saturated fats. Knowledge of what you're consuming can help you make more informed choices.
  • Portion Control: Farmer Boys is known for generous servings, but eating the whole portion in one sitting can lead to overeating. Consider splitting a meal with someone else or saving half for another meal to help manage portion sizes.
  • Incorporate Vegetables: Aim for balance by adding vegetables to your order. Opt for salads with a light dressing on the side, veggie burgers, or simply request extra tomato, lettuce, and onion on your burger.
  • Choose Grilled over Fried: Whenever possible, choose grilled protein options to decrease the intake of added fats. For example, opt for a grilled chicken sandwich instead of fried chicken.
  • Skip the Extras: Additional items like cheese, bacon, sauces, and dressings can significantly increase the caloric and fat content of your meal. Ask for these items on the side or omit them completely to keep your meal lighter.
  • Smart Sides: Select sides that are lower in fat and calories. Substitute fries with a side salad or fruit if available. If opting for fries, consider the smallest size or share with others.
  • Beverage Choices: Sodas and milkshakes can add a significant amount of sugar to your meal. Choose water, unsweetened tea, or other low-calorie beverages to stay hydrated without extra sugar intake.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. If you're no longer hungry, it's okay to stop eating, even if there's still food on your plate.
  • Plan the Rest of Your Day: If you plan to eat at Farmer Boys for one meal, consider eating lighter, nutrient-dense meals the rest of the day. This will help balance out the higher calorie indulgence and maintain overall dietary goals.

Implement these strategies consistently to better integrate Farmer Boys meals into a healthy eating plan. Remember, moderation is key when enjoying restaurant foods without compromising your commitment to a nutritious diet.

Seeking Healthier Alternatives at Farmer Boys restaurants

For those dining at Farmer Boys restaurants and looking to make healthier choices, it’s important to be mindful of the menu options available. This restaurant chain, known for its hearty farm-to-table offerings, can pose a challenge for those wanting to stay on track with a nutrient-rich diet. However, there are strategies to navigate the menu for a more balanced meal.

Analyze the Menu: Before you visit, take the time to review the menu online. This preemptive step allows you to consider the nutritional content of various dishes and plan your meal accordingly.

Select Lean Proteins: Choices such as grilled chicken or turkey burgers are typically lower in saturated fat and calories compared to their fried counterparts or beef burgers. Selecting lean proteins can significantly reduce caloric intake while still providing essential nutrients.

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich (opt for whole grain bun if available)
  • Turkey Burger (ask for lettuce wrap to reduce carb intake)

Vegetable-Forward Options: Look for menu items that feature vegetables as a primary ingredient. Salads can be a great choice, but be wary of calorie-dense dressings and toppings like croutons or fried onions.

  • Farmers Market Salad (dress lightly with olive oil and vinegar instead of creamy dressings)
  • Side of Seasonal Vegetables

Be Selective with Sides: Instead of choosing fries or onion rings, opt for a side salad or a fruit cup to add more fiber and essential vitamins to your meal without excessive calories.

  • Side Salad (limit high-calorie toppings)
  • Fruit Bowl

Control Portions: Portion sizes at restaurants are often larger than necessary. Consider sharing a meal or taking half to go to manage portion control.

Customize Your Order: Don’t hesitate to ask for modifications. For example, ask for sauces and dressings on the side, or replace mayonnaise with mustard to cut down on fats.

Beverage Choices: Sugary drinks can add a significant number of calories to your meal. Choose water, unsweetened iced tea, or other non-caloric beverages to stay hydrated without the extra sugar.

A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights that individuals can consume significantly fewer calories by choosing water over caloric beverages during meals (source).

Watch the Add-Ons: Extra cheese, bacon, and special sauces can quickly increase the calorie and fat content of your meal. Avoiding these will help maintain a healthier option.

Remember that making health-conscious decisions at restaurants like Farmer Boys doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or enjoyment. With a focus on fresh ingredients and a little menu savvy, it’s possible to have a satisfying and nutritious dining experience.

Frequently asked questions

For a low-sodium diet, look for items like salads without dressings or sandwiches with no cheese or sauces. Requesting 'no salt' or specific seasoning adjustments can also help. Always review nutritional information or consult staff for the most accurate sodium content details.

Eating at Farmer Boys can fit into a weight loss diet with careful menu selection and portion control. Opt for lower-calorie items like lean proteins or salads with light dressing, and watch for calorie-dense toppings and sides. Being mindful of total caloric intake and physical activity levels will help balance occasional indulgences.

To avoid trans fats and high cholesterol, select menu items that are grilled rather than fried and limit intake of cheeses and processed meats. Since Farmer Boys has phased out partially hydrogenated oils, their menu items are likely to have reduced trans fat content.

Limit sugar intake at Farmer Boys by opting for water or unsweetened beverages instead of sodas, requesting dressings and sauces on the side, and choosing items with 'no added sugar.' Also, consider reducing the intake of desserts and menu items known to contain high fructose corn syrup and added sugars.

Ask a question about Farmer Boys Restaurants and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased caloric intake
  • potential digestive discomfort

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • heightened blood cholesterol levels
  • potential increase in blood pressure
  • risk of chronic diseases like diabetes

Ingredients to be aware of


  • protein and nutrient intake from eggs
  • fresh ingredients
  • adaptability to dietary needs

Healthier alternatives

  • grilled chicken sandwich
  • turkey burger
  • farmers market salad
  • seasonal vegetables
  • side salad
  • fruit bowl
  • water or unsweetened tea

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-12-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-12-2024

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