If you are working on your fitness and nutrition, it can be a challenge to eat healthy when dining out at a fast-food restaurant. To help, we’ve taken out the guesswork for you and put together this list of the 15 healthiest picks at 5 common fast-food chains.
- Healthiest pick: Premium Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken
Why it made the cut: This salad is stacked with real grilled chicken breast that boasts of no preservatives. We love the variety of greens in this salad—baby kale, spinach and romaine—along with a veggie blend of snow peas, bell peppers and edamame. Hello veggies!
Stats (without dressing): 270 calories, 9g fat, 18g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 32g protein
Dietitian’s tips: The salad comes with a packet of low-fat sesame ginger dressing that clocks up an additional 80 calories and 14 grams of sugar! Slash your added sugar intake by choosing the low-fat balsamic vinaigrette for 35 calories and 5 grams of sugar per packet.
- Egg White Delight
If you’re in a hurry and need a quick breakfast, the Egg White Delight is an egg-cellent stand-in for your traditional egg breakfast. It packs a decent amount of protein from the egg whites, Canadian bacon and cheddar cheese. Order a small nonfat latte to go with it for an additional 100 calories and a whopping 10 grams of protein!
Stats: 250 calories, 8g fat, 30g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 18g protein
- Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
While the buns are not 100% whole-grain, if you’re craving something carbo-licious, this sandwich will surely satisfy for under 400 calories. Just skip the fries and soda, of course.
Stats: 360 calories, 6g fat, 43g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 33g protein
Restaurant: Burger King
- Healthiest pick: Chicken Caesar Garden Fresh Salad with Grilled Chicken and Citrus Caesar Vinaigrette
Why it made the cut: Caesar salad can make a satisfying meal, especially with a generous serving of grilled chicken like in this one at BK. BK’s version sticks to the basics—chicken, tomatoes, croutons and Parmesan cheese, all served on a bed of romaine lettuce.
Stats: 450 calories, 27g fat, 20g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 35g protein
Dietitian’s tips: If you need a bit less to meet your goals, skip the croutons or go halfsies on the dressing to slash the calories.
- BK Veggie Burger (Without Mayo)
Vegetarians, rejoice: This sandwich makes it easy to meet your protein needs when fast food is the ticket. This burger serves up a MorningStar Farms veggie patty with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles on a toasted sesame seed bun. Ditch the mayo to shave 80 calories and 9 grams of fat from the original.
Stats (without mayo): 310 calories, 7g fat, 42g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 22g protein
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Without Mayo)
While a brioche-style bun isn’t the most wholesome choice, this grilled chicken sandwich is a healthier alternative to your typical greasy burger and fries.
Stats (without mayonnaise): 350 calories, 9g fat, 40g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 26g protein
- Healthiest pick: Grilled Market Salad
Why it made the cut: When you need a fast-food fix and you’re trying to eat healthy, a salad is an easy standby because at least you’re getting your veggies and minimizing processed grains. With Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Market Salad, you get 2 servings of veggies and 1 serving of fruit in addition to lean grilled chicken breast.
Stats: 200 calories, 5g fat, 17g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 23g protein
Dietitian’s tips: Holy toppings! This salad comes with granola, nuts and apple cider vinaigrette on the side. To shave over 100 additional calories, choose the reduced-fat berry balsamic vinaigrette instead and the whole meal will dial in at 310 calories!
- Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap (Without Dressing)
This high-fiber wrap is a great source of protein but contains a sneaky calorie bomb if you add the avocado lime dressing that it’s served with. If you’re feeling saucy, choose the light Italian dressing instead to save nearly 300 calories and 30g of fat!
Stats (without dressing): 340 calories, 13g fat, 30g carbohydrates, 15g fiber, 36g protein
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich: This pick is low-calorie and high-protein, and we love the juicy tomato slices, green-leaf lettuce and multi-grain bun. Just be sure to pass on the Honey-Roasted BBQ Sauce that’s served with it to slash unnecessary calories and added sugar.
Stats: 320 calories, 5g fat, 40g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 30g protein
Restaurant: Taco Bell
- Healthiest pick: Chicken Cantina Power Bowl
Why it made the cut: The Chicken (or Steak) Cantina Power Bowl is a great option for lunch or dinner on the go. The downside is that it is served over a bed of white rice (boo …). Luckily, it has some satisfying and nutritious layers, such as the black beans, chicken, lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheddar cheese and avocado ranch dressing.
Stats: 490 calories, 20g fat, 49g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 29g protein
Dietitian’s tips: Clocking in at 490 calories and 20g of fat, this meal is on the higher side for calories and fat from our top picks. Ask that they hold the cheese and sour cream and serve the avocado ranch dressing on the side to cut back on calories and fat.
- Chicken Fresco Burrito Supreme
If you’re craving a burrito, try this Fresco option that doesn’t add cheese. One drawback is that it’s made with enriched rather than whole grains.
Stats: 310 calories, 7g fat, 42g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 22g protein
- 2 Steak Fresco Soft Tacos with a Side of Black Beans
By ordering these soft tacos with a side of black beans, you can up the protein and fiber without adding a lot of extra fat.
Stats: 380 calories, 9.5g fat, 44g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, 28g protein
Restaurant: Steak ’n Shake
- Healthiest pick: Grilled Chicken Salad with Zesty Italian Dressing
Why it made the cut: We’re impressed by the variety of toppings on this salad because simply placing lettuce and tomato into a bowl does not a salad make! Steak ’n Shake’s version tops off with a colorful array of chicken, carrots, red cabbage, shredded cheese and croutons.
Stats: 350 calories, 18g fat, 32g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 26g protein
Dietitian’s tips: You’ve got your choice of dressings, and we recommend the Zesty Italian. It’s got the right amount of calories and fat to keep you on target toward reaching your fitness goals, as long as you’re not tempted by the milk shakes, of course.
- Turkey Club
Oven-roasted turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo are served between two slices of Texas toast. Go topless to save calories by ditching one slice of toast. Pass on the side of fries and sub in a side salad instead.
Stats (original sandwich): 420 calories, 16g fat, 45g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 24g protein
- Cup of Chili
It’s a great option for the colder months. Skip the mountain of cheese that comes with the Deluxe Chili to avoid tacking on an additional 170 calories and 13g of fat.
Stats: 440 calories, 24g fat, 38g carbohydrates, 10g fiber, 20g protein
Next time you’re in the drive-through, refer to this list for whole food options at your traditional fast-food restaurants. And if you want more suggestions when dining out, check out our blog on The Healthiest 400-Calorie (or Less) Picks at Popular Fast Food Chains.
Tags: 500 Calories fast food healthy restaurant
Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN is a sports dietitian in Orlando, FL and co-author of the Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies. She writes the food and nutrition blog, Love & Zest, where she shares recipes, life, and nutrition. Connect with her outside of the blog on Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.