Cheeseburgers stacked sky high.

It’s National Cheeseburger Day. Here’s the Healthiest Burger You Can Order, According to a Dietitian

30-Second Takeaway 

  • Fast food restaurants are offering deals September 18th through 22nd in honor of National Cheeseburger Day. 
  • Deals include $0.01 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers with a Wendy’s purchase, and $0.50 Double Cheeseburgers at McDonald’s when you order through the app. 
  • Cheeseburgers can be healthy, but fast food cheeseburgers tend to be more processed and higher in saturated fat and sodium than a burger you’d make at home. 
  • To order a healthier fast food burger, load it up with veggies, and limit condiments, American cheese, and fatty and fried add-ons. 

Nothing is easier (or cheaper) than hitting the drive-thru for a quick lunch. And thanks to National Cheeseburger Day, the cheesy, beefy goodness just got cheaper. In honor of the national holiday, a long list of fast food restaurants (including classics like McDonald’s and Wendy’s) are slinging burgers at a fraction of the price now through the end of the week.

The question is: Should you indulge? A cheeseburger doesn’t exactly scream healthy meal, but it does have a few good things going for it. Registered dietitian Imashi Fernando, MS, RDN, CDCES likes that cheeseburgers tend to include a balance of all three macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs).

“If you haven’t hit up the drive thru in a while, it’s totally okay to have a cheeseburger today,” Fernando says. To help you make the most important decision you’ll make all day, we rounded up the best National Cheeseburger Day deals, how those burgers stack up in nutrition, and Fernandos playbook for ordering healthier burgers, below.

Best National Cheeseburger Day Deals 2023

Want to cash in on the cheeseburger deals closest to you? Here’s the top discounts you’ll find at the fast food drive-thru this National Cheeseburger Day.

  • Wendy’s: Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers are only $0.01 with purchase (Monday 9/18 through Friday 9/22).
  • McDonalds: Double Cheeseburgers are $0.50 for customers that order through the McDonald’s app (Monday 9/18 only).
  • Burger King: Royal Perks members can get a free cheeseburger (Monday 9/18), free Whopper Jr. (Tuesday 9/19), or $3 Whopper (Wednesday 9/20) with a $1 purchase.
  • Carl’s Jr.: Get half off a double cheeseburger (up to four burgers) when you order through the Carl’s Jr. app or online (Monday 9/18 only).
  • Dairy Queen: Get a free Single Original Cheeseburger with a $1 purchase.
  • Smashburger: Classic Singles (Beef Burger, Turkey Burger, or Black Bean Burger) are only $5 (Monday 9/18 through Wednesday 9/20). Order in-store or use the code SMASH23 on the smashburger app or website.

National Cheeseburger Day Nutrition Facts

Got your eye on that Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger? Here’s how it stacks up to all the other burgers in the National Cheeseburger Day lineup for calories and macros.

National Cheeseburger Day burgers, compared on chart

Are Cheeseburgers Healthy?

Cheeseburgers can be healthy, but fast food cheeseburgers typically aren’t your healthiest option. Fernando’s concern is less about the ingredient makeup of a cheeseburger, and more the quality of ingredients used at most fast food joints. “Most fast food places don’t use lean beef for their burgers,” she explains.

A classic cheeseburger features highly processed ingredients like American cheese and refined burger buns, which add calories to your meal but less nutritional value than a slice of cheddar or swiss cheese or a whole grain bun. “Cheeseburgers also tend to be very high in sodium, thanks to the addition of seasonings, American cheese, pickles, and condiments like ketchup and mayo,” Fernando adds.

In Fernando’s perfect world, everyone would celebrate National Cheeseburger Day by making their own cheeseburgers at home. “A cheeseburger can be a healthy and balanced meal when you get to pick and choose which ingredients you use,” she explains. “Choose lean ground beef (grass-fed if able), whole grain buns, light mayo, low-sodium ketchup, quality cheese slices, and veggies.”

How to Order a Healthier Cheeseburger

Just because cheeseburgers aren’t the healthiest option on a fast food menu, doesn’t mean you can’t tweak your order to make it healthier. On this, Fernando has advice:

Prioritize veggies

“Add on as many veggies as possible—greens (lettuce, spinach, or arugula), tomato, onion, cucumber, mushrooms, peppers, etc. This helps pack more fiber into your meal,” explains Fernando. If your menu options are limited, sub the fries for a side salad.

Stick to a single patty

Since fast food beef tends to be higher in fat, Fernando recommends sticking to a single patty, even if you’re looking for a high-protein fast food option. “The benefits of higher protein content don’t outweigh the negative health effects of higher saturated fat,” she explains.

Skip the American cheese

“Try to avoid American cheese if possible as it’s highly processed and much higher in sodium,” says Fernando. “Cheddar is a much better alternative.”

Avoid fatty and fried add-ons

Since fast food cheeseburgers tend to be high in saturated fat, you’ll want to skip on adding more toppings that are rich in saturated fat. “Avoid toppings like bacon, onion rings, really any deep fried toppings,” says Fernando.

Limit condiments

You can’t control how Wendy’s seasons their beef patties, but you can scratch things like pickles and condiments which are loaded with a sneaky high amount of sodium, per Fernando.

Have a bun, sometimes

Although many fast food burger buns are made with highly refined carbs, Fernando is a proponent of eating a burger how it was meant to be—between a bun. “The bun provides the carbs that make it a balanced meal. Plus, eating the bun alongside protein and fiber should help prevent blood sugar spikes,” she explains. If it’s available, always go for whole grain.

The one exception: If you eat a lot of burgers (like more than four times a week). “At that point, explore cutting out the bun or asking for a lettuce wrap,” Fernando says.