10 Healthy Fast Food Options at the Most Popular Fast Food Restaurants
Surprisingly, the healthiest option isn't always a salad. Find out your best nutritional bets at the most popular fast food restaurants.
Healthy fast food at Chipotle
Burrito Bowl with steak, fajita vegetables, lettuce, and tomato salsa: 200 calories, 6 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 22 grams protein
The beauty of Chipotle is that they have so many healthy fast food options that it’s easy to create your own meal. To keep both calories and carbohydrates in check, skip the burritos and go for a burrito bowl with minimal toppings, which is still a balanced meal. However, beware of adding rice, guac, and cheese—these fat-laden options will make your calorie count soar. “Guacamole is an excellent heart-healthy fat source, but can still add up in calories quickly,” says Kristen Smith, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Atlanta, Georgia. “If you must go for the rice, choose the brown rice option and limit to a one-half cup serving.” Here are 10 other nutritionist-approved eats at Chipotle and other fast food joints.
Healthy fast food at Burger King
Grilled chicken sandwich without mayo or honey mustard sauce: 370 calories, 6 grams total fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 2 grams fiber, 40 grams protein
Contrary to popular belief, Burger King actually offers healthy fast food options that are non-burger entrees—and the grilled chicken sandwich is always a good alternative for healthy fare. However, nutritionists stress ordering this one without mayo. Maegan White, RD, a clinical nutrition manager and the lead registered dietitian at Morrison Healthcare in Blue Ridge, Georgia, urges omitting mayo and cheese to save calories and asking for salad dressing on the side. If you want to be even healthier, choose vinaigrettes in place of creamy dressings.
Healthy fast food at McDonald’s
Regular hamburger: 250 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 gram fiber, 13 grams protein
Sorry to all you cheese lovers out there, but an extra slice of cheese can make quite a difference in your calorie and fat intake, says White. While the cheeseburger has 12 grams of fat and 300 calories, eliminating the saturated fats from the cheese portion gives the burger 250 calories and only 8 grams of fat in comparison. There’s not much to the classic hamburger, but with its nutrition stats, it’s guaranteed to fit into almost any calorie-controlled eating plan. Make sure to hold off on the sugary sauces and extra condiments. These are the healthiest things to eat at 25 fast food restaurants.
Healthy fast food at Subway
Veggie Delite: 200 calories, 2 grams fat, 5 grams fiber, 9 grams protein
If you want something a little more substantial than a salad, Lanette Kovachi, Subway’s in-house dietitian in New York, recommends one of their 6-inch Fresh Fit subs. All of them weigh in at less than 400 calories, are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and are free of artificial trans fats. “It’s a great source of fiber when made on 9-grain wheat bread and topped with all the fresh veggies,” she says. “It also has 20 percent of daily recommended iron and vitamin C.” At just 200 calories, the Veggie Delite is the lowest-calorie option and offers wiggle room for tasty toppings like honey mustard.
Healthy fast food at Chick-fil-A
Eight-count grilled chicken nuggets: 110 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 25 grams protein
Superfood side salad: 140 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams protein
Chick-fil-A is one of the best fast food joints to visit if you are craving a quick and healthy dish. Their eight-piece chicken nugget meal holds enough protein to keep you full, and adding the side salad (featuring kale, broccolini, dried cherries, and nuts) will provide the necessary vitamins and nutrients to complete the meal. According to Amy Goodson, RD, a sports dietetics in Fort Worth, Texas, “Grilled chicken will typically always have fewer calories and fat than its fried food counterpart. In addition, choosing a nutrient-rich side item like a fruit cup, yogurt parfait, or salad will add nutrients and take away added fat that is found in the typical french fries side item.” Don’t miss out on 14 other nutritionist-approved eats you can find at Chick-fil-A and other fast food restaurants.
Healthy fast food at Arby’s
Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad without dressing: 230 calories, 13 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 22 grams protein
This one doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it’s always a great choice if you want to eat as few calories as possible. While Arby’s may “have the meats,” their light and delectable salad option isn’t a bad choice either. Even with the greens, you’ll attain a solid dose of protein and fiber, all for less than 250 calories. In contrast, some McDonalds salads pack quite the caloric punch. The Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad has 520 calories, with 25 grams of fat. That’s in part because the chicken is deep-fried.
Healthy fast food at Wendy’s
Small chili: 160 calories, 4 grams fat, 6 grams fiber, 14 grams protein
Don’t underestimate the soup as one of the healthy fast food options on the menu; the small chili has 15 grams of high-quality protein and 4 grams of satiating fiber, all for less than 200 calories. Make this a complete meal by pairing it with a side salad. Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, a dietitian in San Diego, California, recommends adding the chili right on top of the salad in place of the dressing as an easy way to increase veggie intake. That way, you’ll increase your potassium and get a boost of carbohydrates while you’re at it. Just make sure you don’t order these 9 foods from fast-food restaurants that nutritionists would never eat.
Healthy fast food at Taco Bell
Soft fresco taco with steak: 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, 3 grams fiber, 9 grams protein
Janis Isaman, a nutritional coach and owner of My Body Couture in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, deems Taco Bell as her favorite fast food chain for their high level of customization. “Thanks to the use of nutritional powerhouse beans and the inclusion of vegetables, these meals have a healthy dose of protein, taste delicious, and pack in a mountain of nutrients while keeping you full,” she says. Moreover, this place is concrete proof that chicken isn’t always the healthiest option on the menu. The steak version of the fresco soft tacos have less fat and more protein than the chicken option. And for 150 calories per taco, don’t feel bad about splurging and ordering two.
Healthy fast food at KFC
Kentucky grilled chicken breast: 260 calories, 12 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 38 grams protein
Green beans: 25 calories, 0 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram protein
A single grilled chicken breast from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) offers more protein (and no more fat) than any combination of two other pieces of grilled chicken from KFC. Molly Cutler, a certified holistic nutritionist coach in Los Angeles, CA, also tells us that these two options are the items with the least added sugars and unhealthy inflammatory oils. Eat ’em both and your overall intake is still less than 250 calories. Here are 13 crazy things drive-through workers have seen at work.
Healthy fast food at In-N-Out
Protein-Style Hamburger with Onion: 240 calories, 17 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 13 grams protein
Healthy fast food options sometimes come down to tiny order changes. One solution at In-N-Out is asking for your burger protein-style next time you order; the bun is removed, and your burger and all the toppings are wrapped up in fresh lettuce instead. “The protein-style burger on In-N-Out’s secret menu is one of the healthiest food options available at the fast food chain,” says Brittany Stucklen, a former nutritionist at Medifast Weight Control Centers of California in San Diego, CA. “This hamburger sans bun includes lettuce, tomato, and a beef patty. This option is only 240 calories, compared to 330 to 480 calories for a typical cheeseburger.” Next, check out the 33 things your fast food worker isn’t telling you.
- Kristen Smith, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Atlanta, GA.
- Maegan White, RD, clinical nutrition manager and lead registered dietitian at Morrison Healthcare, Blue Ridge, GA.
- Lanette Kovachi, Subway's in-house dietitian, New York, NY.
- Amy Goodson, RD, sports dietetics in Fort Worth, TX.
- Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, dietitian in San Diego, CA.
- Janis Isaman, nutritional coach and owner of My Body Couture, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
- Molly Cutler, certified health and nutrition coach, Los Angeles, CA.
- Brittany Stucklen, a former nutritionist at Medifast Weight Control Centers of California in San Diego, CA.