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

Is Steak 'n Shake Bad For You?



Short answer

Meals at Steak 'n Shake, such as burgers, milkshakes, and sides, are high in calories, saturated fats, sugar, and sodium, which can be harmful if consumed regularly. Despite efforts to offer some lower-calorie items, a pattern of frequent fast food consumption is associated with chronic health issues like obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Enjoying these foods in moderation while favoring healthier options and being mindful of portion sizes can mitigate potential health risks.



Long answer

Calorie Content and Nutritional Profile of Popular Steak 'n Shake Items

When considering a meal from Steak 'n Shake, it's important to understand the calorie content and nutritional profile of its popular items to make an informed dietary choice. Each item's calorie count can significantly impact your daily caloric intake, especially if you're mindful of maintenance or weight loss goals. Alongside calories, we also need to dissect the balance of macronutrients - proteins, fats, and carbohydrates - and highlight any micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.

Original Double 'n Cheese Steakburger™: The flagship burger packs a sizeable caloric punch, as it contains around 750 calories, with 40 grams of fat, 35 grams of protein, and 50 grams of carbohydrates. Fifty percent of the fat content is saturated fat, which is noteworthy since saturated fats should be limited according to dietary guidelines. This burger also provides 20% of the daily value for calcium and iron, thanks to the cheese and beef patty.

Classic Milkshakes: A regular-sized classic milkshake can contain up to 700 calories, with significant amounts of sugar and fat. Approximately 20 grams of fat, with half being saturated fat, and an overwhelming 100 grams of sugar, which far exceeds the American Heart Association's recommended daily intake of sugar, are usually found in these creamy treats.

Frisco Melt: This indulgent sandwich serves up around 960 calories, where 70 grams of fat, 45 grams of carbohydrates, and 46 grams of protein come into play. It's also important to note the high sodium content, often exceeding 1500 milligrams, which is over two-thirds of the FDA's recommended daily limit.

Signature Sides: Typical sides such as fries and onion rings are often high in calories and fat. A small portion of fries contains approximately 240 calories and 11 grams of fat, while a similar serving of onion rings can contain around 360 calories and 16 grams of fat.

While Steak 'n Shake offers a variety of items, these are some of the fan favorites, and their caloric and nutritional values demonstrate that moderation is key when incorporating such items into a balanced diet. It's also beneficial to balance out these heavier options with lighter choices, such as side salads and water, to create a more nutritionally rounded meal. Alongside calorie count, be mindful of the hidden elements, such as sodium and added sugars, which can impact your overall health beyond the immediate concern of weight management.

Below is a simplified nutritional table for a quick reference to the popular items mentioned:

Menu Item Calories Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Carbohydrates (g) Sugars (g) Protein (g) Sodium (mg)
Original Double 'n Cheese Steakburger™ 750 40 20 50 - 35 -
Classic Milkshake (regular size) 700 20 10 - 100 - -
Frisco Melt 960 70 - 45 - 46 1500+
Small French Fries 240 11 - - - - -
Onion Rings (small) 360 16 - - - - -

Being aware of these figures can help you gauge the impact these menu items may have on your diet, fostering more conscious and healthier choices. Remember, it's not just about the calories, but the quality of those calories that counts towards nourishment and overall well-being.

Trans Fats and Sodium Levels in Steak 'n Shake Meals

When we dive into the nutritional composition of meals from Steak 'n Shake, two critical components that often raise health concerns are trans fats and sodium levels. Trans fats are a particular type of fat often found in processed foods, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, while our bodies need sodium to function correctly, excessive intake can lead to hypertension and cardiovascular issues.

First, let's tackle trans fats. Steak 'n Shake, like many other fast-food chains, has worked to reduce trans fats in their offerings. However, it's essential to understand that even small amounts of trans fats can be detrimental to heart health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fats. Therefore, diners should be vigilant about checking nutritional information for hidden trans fats in menu items.

  • Fried menu items – Despite reductions, some fried foods can still contain trans fats due to the oils used in the frying process.
  • Dairy dessert items – Milkshakes and other creamy desserts may include ingredients that have trans fats.
  • Partially hydrogenated oils – Be on the lookout for this term in ingredient lists, as it's indicative of trans fats.

Steak 'n Shake's efforts to reduce trans fats are commendable, yet consumers should remain mindful of the potential presence of these unhealthy fats.

Tackling sodium, Steak 'n Shake meals tend to contain high levels of salt, a common trait in fast-food restaurants to enhance flavor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. However, a single meal at Steak 'n Shake can come close to or even exceed this limit.

  • Burgers – A signature item, these can be extremely high in sodium, sometimes exceeding 1,000 milligrams.
  • Fries – Often an accompaniment to burgers, the added salt boosts the sodium levels even further.
  • Soups and salads – While they may seem like healthier options, dressings and broths can be laden with salt.

It's worth noting that some individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of sodium than others. People with hypertension, kidney disease, or a family history of heart disease should be particularly mindful of their sodium intake.

Menu Item Estimated Sodium Content
Classic Burger ~1,000 mg
Regular Fries ~340 mg
Chicken Fingers ~900 mg
Beef Taco Salad ~1,500 mg

When considering a meal at Steak 'n Shake, it's advisable to review the nutritional information provided by the restaurant carefully. Opt for items with lower sodium content when possible and keep a watchful eye for the presence of trans fats. Making informed choices can significantly impact one's overall health, particularly concerning these two critical areas.

Additives and Preservatives in Fast Food

When considering the impact of dining at fast-food establishments like Steak 'n Shake, it's critical to understand the role of additives and preservatives in their menu offerings. These substances are commonly used to enhance flavor, maintain product consistency, and extend shelf life but may have health implications for consumers.

One of the most common preservatives found in fast food is sodium phosphate, often used in shakes and cheese products to maintain texture and prevent separation. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that high phosphate levels can impact bone health negatively and potentially lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(2):489-497).

Artificial flavors and colorings, such as Red 40 or Yellow 5 found in sodas and desserts, can have adverse effects, especially in children. Research has linked artificial colorants to behavioral issues in children prone to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as seen in a study from the journal Lancet (Lancet. 2007;370(9598):1560-1567).

Additionally, monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer, is often present in savory fast food items. While the FDA classifies MSG as generally recognized as safe (GRAS), some people may experience a condition known as 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' with symptoms like headaches and nausea after consumption (FDA - MSG Questions and Answers).

Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, once a staple in fast-food fryers, have been largely phased out due to their strong correlation with increased heart disease risk. Still, it's essential to be cautious of their presence in some fast-food items (N Engl J Med. 2006;354:1601-1613).

Finally, nitrates and nitrites, used in curing meats can convert into potentially carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines during high-heat cooking processes such as grilling. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, partially due to these substances (IARC - Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat).

The FDA regulates all these additives and preservatives, considering them safe at the amounts typically used in food. However, dietary moderation is advised, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and individuals with specific health conditions. Readers are encouraged to make informed choices by checking nutrition and ingredient information, which Steak 'n Shake and other fast-food restaurants provide both in-store and online.

  • Sodium phosphate - Used to maintain product consistency; potential health concerns related to bone health and cardiovascular disease.
  • Artificial flavors and colorings - Can contribute to behavioral issues in children prone to ADHD.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) - Generally recognized as safe but may cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Trans fats - Largely phased out, but still present in some items; linked with increased heart disease risk.
  • Nitrates and nitrites - Used in curing meats; can form nitrosamines when cooked at high temperatures, classified as carcinogens.

It's important for consumers to be aware of these substances not just in the context of Steak 'n Shake but within the broader landscape of fast food. Understanding your sensitivities and dietary needs can help guide you toward healthier choices when dining out.

Link Between Fast Food and Chronic Health Conditions

Fast food, like the offerings from Steak 'n Shake, can play a significant role in the development of chronic health conditions, especially when consumed regularly. The connection between fast food consumption and health concerns is a topic of extensive research. While indulging in a burger or milkshake on occasion may not be inherently detrimental, it's the pattern of frequent consumption that raises flags among nutrition experts.

Let's delve into the identified health risks associated with a diet high in fast food:

  • Obesity: High-calorie meals with large portions are typical of fast food restaurants. A study by the CDC suggests that fast food intake is linked to increased calorie intake and higher obesity rates. Steak 'n Shake menu items, often rich in sugars, fats, and carbohydrates, can contribute to excessive calorie consumption and weight gain when not balanced with physical activity.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: The consumption of foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, common in fast food menus, can lead to insulin resistance. Over time, this can result in elevated blood sugar levels and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as detailed by the American Heart Association.
  • Heart Disease: Fast food is notorious for being high in trans and saturated fats, which can contribute to the buildup of harmful cholesterol in the arteries. The American Heart Association has linked these dietary patterns to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
  • Hypertension: High sodium levels in fast food can lead to elevated blood pressure. As the American Heart Association notes, consistent intake of high-sodium foods can increase the risk of hypertension, a leading risk factor for heart disease.

In addition to these, frequent fast food consumption is also associated with:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Fast food often lacks dietary fiber, which is essential for digestive health. A low-fiber diet can lead to gastrointestinal discomforts such as constipation and may increase the risk of developing digestive disorders.
  • Poor Nutritional Quality: Despite efforts to introduce healthier options, fast food generally offers poor overall nutritional quality when compared to whole foods. The lack of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in fast food meals can contribute to nutritional deficiencies, impacting overall health and wellness.

While individual menu items may not be harmful in isolation, the cumulative effect of regularly consuming fast food can be detrimental to health over time. It is important for individuals to consider not just the taste and convenience of fast food, but also the long-term implications on their health. Moderation, along with a well-rounded diet and active lifestyle, is key to mitigating these risks.

For those concerned with the health impacts of fast food, being mindful of choices and opting for lower-calorie, lower-fat, and lower-sodium options can help. Paying attention to portion sizes and frequency of consumption can also assist in reducing the risk of chronic health issues.

Researchers and dietary experts continue to study the direct and indirect impacts of fast food on health, taking into account factors such as individual metabolism, genetics, lifestyle, and overall diet quality. While the occasional trip to Steak 'n Shake may be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, consumers should be aware of the potential health implications of frequent fast food consumption.

Steak 'n Shake Versus Other Fast-Food Chains: A Health Comparison

When placing Steak 'n Shake in the competitive landscape of fast-food chains, it is essential to assess how their menu items stack up nutritionally against their counterparts. This comparison isn't just about calories; it also takes into account the quality of ingredients, the balance of macronutrients, and the prevalence of processed options.

Caloric Comparison: A study of fast-food restaurants reveals that the caloric content of a standard meal can vary significantly. For instance, a typical burger at Steak 'n Shake may contain roughly 500-700 calories, which is comparable to what you'd find at chains like McDonald's or Wendy's. However, opting for their specialty or signature items can quickly double that count, a trend also noted in rivals such as Five Guys or Shake Shack.

Sodium Content: The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with an ideal limit of 1,500 mg for most adults. A single meal at most fast-food chains, including Steak 'n Shake, can often come dangerously close to or exceed this daily limit. This is a widespread concern within the fast-food industry, where high sodium levels are used to enhance flavor.

Quality of Ingredients: The clean eating movement has prompted many fast-food chains, including Steak 'n Shake, to reevaluate their ingredient sourcing. Chains like Chipotle have garnered attention for their commitment to organic and non-GMO ingredients. In contrast, traditional fast-food establishments often source ingredients that may not adhere to these higher quality standards.

Fat Content and Quality: Trans fats, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, are no longer a concern as they've been phased out of most fast-food restaurants following FDA regulations. However, saturated fat remains high in many menu items at Steak 'n Shake and its competitors. This form of fat should be limited according to dietary guidelines to reduce the risk of heart-related health issues.

Processed Foods Prevalence: Processed items are typical in fast-food menus, and Steak 'n Shake is no exception. Regular consumption of processed meats and foods has been linked to various health complications. Increasingly, some chains are trying to incorporate more whole food options, but these changes are slow to become industry standards.

Nutrient Density: Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial substances with relatively few calories. Fast-food chains traditionally focus more on taste and satisfaction rather than nutrient density. However, some chains, such as Subway with its "Fresh Fit" choices, offer more nutrient-dense options compared to a typical meal at Steak 'n Shake.

Dietary Accommodations: Variability in accommodating dietary restrictions or preferences, such as gluten-free or plant-based diets, can differ greatly among fast-food chains. Steak 'n Shake offers a select few items that could fit into these categories, similar to other mainstream fast-food restaurants, but specialty chains like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are known for their broader range of plant-based alternatives.

In summary, when assessing whether Steak 'n Shake is bad for you relative to other fast-food chains, it's important to consider personal health goals, dietary needs, and choices made within the menu. Just like any other fast-food establishment, mindful selection and moderation are key to enjoying their offerings without negative health impacts.

Mindful Eating at Steak 'n Shake: Tips and Alternatives

When dining out at restaurant chains like Steak 'n Shake, a typical outing can quickly turn into a calorie-laden affair. However, by practicing mindful eating and making informed choices, you can enjoy your visit without compromising on health. Here are practical strategies to savor the experience while keeping nutrition in check:

  • Understand Portion Sizes: Restaurant servings are often larger than recommended portion sizes. Consider sharing a meal or taking half to go for another meal to ensure proper portion control.
  • Preview the Menu: Research the menu online before you visit. Many restaurants, including Steak 'n Shake, provide nutritional information for their dishes, enabling you to make a well-informed decision.
  • Opt for Lean Proteins: Pick dishes with leaner cuts of steak or alternative protein sources like grilled chicken. This choice can help reduce saturated fat intake while still providing essential nutrients.
  • Substitute Sides: Swap out fries or onion rings for a garden salad or a cup of vegetable soup. Adding more vegetables to your meal can increase fiber intake and add essential vitamins and minerals with fewer calories.
  • Beware of Condiments: Request sauces and dressings on the side. This allows you to control how much is consumed, as these seemingly small additions can contribute a substantial amount of hidden sugars, fats, and calories.
  • Limit Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Avoid the added sugars from milkshakes and sodas by opting for water, unsweetened iced tea, or another sugar-free beverage option.
  • Be Selective with Appetizers and Desserts: If you desire a starter or dessert, seek items that are fruit-based or share with the table to keep portion sizes in check.

Here are a few alternatives you can look for on the menu:

Traditional Menu Item Nutrition Conscious Alternative
Double Steakburger with Cheese Single Steakburger without Cheese
Fries Apple Slices or Baked Beans
Milkshakes Fruit Cup or Low-Fat Milk
Classic Milkshakes Side by Side Milkshakes (Smaller Size Option)

Remember, the key to mindful eating is not about strict limitations, but about balance and enjoying food in a way that also nourishes your body. By making these mindful choices and adjustments, you can experience the full pleasure of dining out without the guilt that often accompanies less healthful options.

It's also important to mention that health is not just about one meal; it's about the overall pattern of your eating habits. Occasional indulgences at places like Steak 'n Shake are part of life and can be managed within the context of a balanced diet. The essential take-away is to always approach your diet with a sense of awareness and intention.

Frequently asked questions

While Steak 'n Shake is known for its indulgent, calorie-heavy items, those seeking nutrient-rich options may look for garden salads or grilled chicken sandwiches. When ordering, you can request modifications such as no dressing or cheese to further improve the nutritional profile of your meal.

To make a Steak 'n Shake meal more diabetes-friendly, focus on reducing sugar and refined carbohydrate intake. Choose a burger without the bun, opt for a side salad instead of fries, and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages like milkshakes and sodas. Always monitor portion sizes to better control blood sugar levels.

Saturated fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Many Steak 'n Shake meals contain high levels of saturated fat, particularly in their burgers and milkshakes. The American Heart Association recommends a diet low in saturated fat, so it's best to consume these items in moderation and balance them with foods lower in saturated fat.

To enjoy Steak 'n Shake's menu items while consuming less sodium, opt for simpler items like the Single Steakburger without cheese or added sauces, as these tend to have lower sodium content. You can also ask for condiments on the side to control salt intake. Be particularly cautious with items like the Frisco Melt and fries, which are typically high in sodium.

Ask a question about Steak 'n Shake and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased caloric intake
  • elevated blood sugar levels
  • digestive discomfort
  • sodium-induced bloating

Possible long-term side effects

  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • nutritional deficiencies

Ingredients to be aware of


  • convenient meal options
  • sources of protein and calcium
  • iron intake from beef

Healthier alternatives

  • leaner proteins
  • garden salads
  • vegetable soups
  • water or unsweetened beverages
  • fruit-based desserts
  • smaller portion sizes

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-03-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-03-2024

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