Updated on 8/24/16 by Melissa Rudy|
Your fridge is stocked with fresh produce, lean meats and low fat dairy products, there’s a whole grain baguette in the bread box, and your pantry has been purged of tempting junk foods. Eating healthy at home is a breeze.
But when you’re out and about in the midst of a hectic day of errands and you have precisely 30 minutes to scavenge and wolf down lunch before your next appointment, squeezing in food of any sort becomes a challenge—a challenge to which fast food restaurants have risen. Tasty, convenient, and cheap, there are plenty of reasons they’re popular. But if you’re watching your weight, or watching your health, a fast food menu is like a minefield! One wrong step and a 2,100-calorie sandwich winds up in your stomach (and later on your thighs). But if you’re careful, you can come out intact, with a meal in your hands, not on your hips.
Dining at a fast food restaurant doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. We’ve scoured the top 10 most popular fast food chains for their healthiest picks, so you don’t throw all of your hard work out the (car) window. Use this list as a guide, or visit the websites provided to tally up totals for your preferred favorites. And remember that these selections are healthier options for the occasional fast-food meal, but they may have other nutritional flaws (like high sodium), so you might not want to make it a regular part of your nutrition plan.
With its fresh ingredients and wide choice of wholesome fixings, Chipotle has the potential to be one of the healthiest fast-food restaurants. Below are some of the smarter choices; visit www.chipotle.com for more nutritional info.
Chicken Burrito Bowl: High in fiber and protein, this version has pinto beans and fresh tomato salsa. 320 calories, 8g fat, 3g sat. fat, 125mg cholesterol, 1160mg sodium, 22g carbs, 11.5g fiber, 38g protein
Sofritas Salad: We added Romaine lettuce, sofritas, fajita veggies and fresh tomato salsa. 200 calories, 10.5g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 1275mg sodium, 16g carbs, 6.5g fiber, 10g protein
Go beyond the java and try some of this coffee chain's healthy lunch and breakfast options. Learn more at www.starbucks.com.
Zesty Chicken and Black Bean Salad Bowl: Fresh spring greens are tossed with tomatoes, feta cheese, quinoa, roasted corn, jimaca and black beans.
360 calories, 15g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 30mg cholesterol, 840mg sodium, 38g carbs, 8g fiber, 14g protein
Spinach, Feta and Egg Breakfast Wrap: Start your day right with this high-protein, low-calorie vegetarian wrap.
290 calories, 10g fat, 3.5g sat. fat, 20mg cholesterol, 830mg sodium, 33g carbs, 6g fiber, 19g protein
Go beyond the donut with these healthier choices. Visit www.dunkindonuts.com for more nutritional info.
Ham and Cheese on Multigrain Flatbread: 330 calories, 12g fat, 5g sat. fat, 45mg cholesterol, 970mg sodium, 35g carbs, 3g fiber, 19g protein
No one can say that McDonald’s isn’t convenient—you can find one on just about every corner in some cities. But can it be healthy, too? Depends on what you choose. Visit www.mcdonalds.com for more healthy ideas.
Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Instead of mayo, this chicken breast filet is flavored with a juicy marinade and vinaigrette dressing.
380 calories, 6g fat, 2g sat. fat, 95mg cholesterol, 960mg sodium, 44g carbs, 3g fiber, 37g protein
Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad: Seasoned grilled chicken and black beans, corn, roasted tomatoes and pepper in every bite will make this feel like a cheat meal.
350 calories, 12g fat, 4.5g sat. fat, 110mg cholesterol, 930mg sodium, 27g carbs, 6g fiber, 37g protein
Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait: If you’re looking for a guilt-free sweet treat, this is a winner. Made with low-fat yogurt and topped with low-fat granola, strawberries and blueberries, it’s far less sinful but just as tasty as ice cream.
150 calories, 2g fat, 1g sat. fat, 5mg cholesterol, 80mg sodium, 30g carbs, 1g fiber, 4g protein
This popular bakery and sandwich shop has some lighter fare made with fresh ingredients. All nutritional information is posted at www.panera.com.
Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad: 340 calories, 13g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 80mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 31g carbs, 6g fiber, 25g protein
Bistro French Onion Soup: 310 calories, 16g fat, 8g saturated fat, 20mg cholesterol, 1960mg sodium, 33g carbs, 4g fiber, 11g protein
Try these best picks for your next lunch on the run. Get more nutrition facts at www.wendys.com.
Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad, Half-Size: This quinoa- and hummus-enriched salad packs a powerful protein-filled punch.
240 calories, 9g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 50mg cholesterol, 520mg sodium, 22g carbs, 5g fiber, 20g protein
Grilled Chicken Wrap: Tender grilled chicken is wrapped in lettuce and cheddar cheese with honey mustard sauce.
270 calories, 11g fat, 3.5g sat. fat, 55mg cholesterol, 620mg sodium, 24g carbs, 2g fiber, 20g protein
A salad and veggie burger top the healthy list at Burger King. Their website, www.bk.com, offers more nutrition information.
Garden Grilled Chicken Salad: Fresh greens are topped with tomatoes, cheddar cheese and light vinaigrette dressing.
320 calories, 14g fat, 6g sat. fat, 115mg cholesterol, 650mg sodium, 16g carbs, 2g fiber, 36g protein
MorningStar Veggie Burger: A wholesome veggie patty is topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles. 390 calories, 15g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 5mg cholesterol, 1060mg sodium, 42g carbs, 5g fiber, 22g protein
When you order “fresco style,” the regular cheese and sour cream are replaced by a flavorful combo of tomatoes, onions and cilantro, all fresh (and much healthier). More nutrition facts are available at www.tacobell.com.
Fresco Soft Taco - Shredded Chicken:
140 calories, 3.5g fat, 1g sat. fat, 15mg cholesterol, 470mg sodium, 16g carbs, 2g fiber, 10g protein
Fresco Crunchy Taco - Beef: This menu item is much lower in sodium but still loaded with flavor.
150 calories, 8g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 20mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 13g carbs, 3g fiber, 6g protein.
Sandwiches from the Subway "Fresh Fit" menu each have fewer than 6 grams of fat. Visit www.subway.com for more information.
6" Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast:
233 calories, 5g fat, 45mg cholesterol, 610mg sodium, 5g fiber
6" Veggie Delite: A great option for vegetarian diners or for those watching their cholesterol. Order it on Italian bread and it’s vegan, too.
162 calories, 2.5g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 5g fiber
For the healthiest fare, steer clear of the roast beef sandwiches altogether or visit their website, www.arbys.com, to see more choices.
Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad:
230 calories, 13g fat, 7g sat. fat, 55mg cholesterol, 870mg sodium, 8g carbs, 2g fiber, 22g protein
Just because it isn't beef doesn't mean it's always better—especially when the chicken is breaded and fried. Try the items below, or see all the facts at www.chickfila.com.
Jack in the Box
Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap: 340 calories, 13g fat, 4.5g sat. fat, 60mg cholesterol, 900mg sodium, 30g carbs, 15g fiber, 36g protein
Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich:
320 calories, 5g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 800mg sodium, 40g carbs, 3g fiber, 30g protein
Grilled Market Salad: Top with reduced fat berry balsamic vinaigrette.
320 calories, 14g fat, 3g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 600mg sodium, 26g carbs, 6g fiber, 26g protein
Whole grains, from this fast food joint? Believe it! Visit www.jackinthebox.com for more menu items.
Grilled Chicken Salad:
430 calories, 15g fat, 6g sat. fat, 91mg cholesterol, 1093mg sodium, 26g carbs, 7g fiber, 35g protein
Chicken Fajita Pita: The pita is made with whole grains, which are rarely seen at fast food restaurants. Hold the salsa.
346 calories, 12g fat, 6g sat. fat, 57mg cholesterol, 1,117mg sodium, 36g carbs, 4g fiber, 24g protein
Steer clear of big, meaty burgers and try these chicken options instead. The Carl's Jr. Website, www.carlsjr.com, has all of the nutritional information.
This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople's Licensed and Registered Dietitian, Becky Hand.
Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich:
390 calories, 7g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 60mg cholesterol, 990mg sodium, 50g carbs, 3g fiber, 30g protein
Charbroiled Chicken Salad: Choose the low-fat balsamic dressing.
320 calories, 11g fat, 3.5g sat. fat, 75mg cholesterol, 770mg sodium, 27g carbs, 3g fiber, 31g protein
Share your healthy and diet-friendly fast-food picks in the comments section!