Typically, “fast food” and “healthy” don’t appear in the same sentence together. However, it’s a new age. With the rise of the health movement spreading across the U.S., many fast food chains have added several healthy options to their menus that are low in calories, fat, and sugar, and are more nutrient-rich. Read on to discover 12 healthy fast food options to go for when you need a quick, nutritious meal.
The Healthiest Fast Food Options
Below you’ll find some healthy fast food options for those times when you’re on the road and need a quick bite without the guilt. Every dish contains less than 500 calories and avoids the “common” fast food traits of being deep-fried, saturated in fatty sauces and dressings, or loaded with sugar. Instead, these entrees are centered around protein and veggies, making them filling and acceptable as a healthy meal.
Just because it’s a burger doesn’t mean it can’t be healthy. Some simple swaps, like substituting the bun for a lettuce wrap and forgoing the signature spread, while loading up the onions and tomato, can turn a burger into a satisfying and healthy indulgence. A Protein Style Cheeseburger with Onions weighs in at just 330 calories with 18 grams of protein – and that’s with the signature spread. Looking for other healthy options from In-N-Out? Check out the In-N-Out Nutrition page.
Chipotle’s Burrito Bowls are a great option for filling yourself up on quality meat and a ton of veggies. To keep this dish under 500 calories, get the bowl with brown rice, pinto beans, onions, peppers, and spicy salsa for a kick. But if that’s not your thing, we get it, and put together this Chipotle Nutrition page to help you pick healthy alternatives at your next visit.
Salads have come a long way in recent years, even when it comes to fast food. Instead of a few shreds of lettuce and cucumber, you can now indulge in greens loaded with quinoa, chickpeas, fire-roasted veggies, sun-dried tomatoes, grilled chicken, and crumbled feta – and get 480 calories with 43 grams of protein! But, of course, that’s not the only healthy option they offer, and you can check out the Wendy’s Nutrition page for more healthy bites.
Craving a chicken sandwich, minus the calories and extra fat? Keep it simple with McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich. This marinated, all-white-meat chicken breast is sandwiched between an artisan roll and tomato, topped with a light vinaigrette dressing, and it comes in at 360 calories with 37 grams of protein. To see the rest of the stats the Artisan Grilled Chicken sandwich has, check out the McDonald’s Nutrition page.
Panera Bread’s Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken is a seasonal salad that comes around in the spring and leaves you feeling nothing but satisfied. It features hearts of romaine, topped with chicken raised without antibiotics and dusted with a special blend of citrus and spice, strawberries and blueberries, fresh pineapple, mandarin oranges, and pecans for a bit of crunchy texture. It has 340 calories and 29 grams of protein. If you want to see more, check out the Panera Bread Nutrition page.
For a donut company, their healthy menu items are surprisingly clean. The best choice for a meal-type breakfast at Dunkin’ is their Egg White Veggie Sandwich, which contains an omelet filled with diced red and green bell pepper, mushrooms, green onions, and a slice of American cheese all nestled between two slices of fresh bread. It offers 340 calories and 18 grams of protien with a surprising 25% DV of calcium. But if you want to see their other healthy 24/7 breakfast offerings, check out the Dunkin Donuts nutrition page.
The Garden Party Pizza gives you a generous two slices for under 500 calories. As part of Pizza Hut’s brand makeover, they added the Garden Party toppings to their menu, which feature crushed tomato sauce topped with green bell peppers, fresh red onions, fresh mushrooms, diced Roma tomatoes, and spinach, drizzled with balsamic sauce. Check out the Pizza Hut Nutrition page for other healthy options.
For the vegans and vegetarians, have no fear. Burger King has your craving for a healthy “burger” covered. The BK Veggie Burger is made with a Morningstar Farms® Garden Veggie Patty topped with tomatoes, onions, pickles, and lettuce, all on a sesame seed bun. To keep it clean, avoid adding extra sauces or spreads. But, if you’re not into nixing the add-ons, it still only comes in at 410 calories with all the spreads and toppings, for other stats on the BK Veggie Burger, check out the Burger King Nutrition page.
It turns out you can stop for coffee at your favorite cafe and find a healthy breakfast option that isn’t a pastry. Starbucks offers a Spinach, Feta, and Cage-Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap that is vegetarian-approved and rich in protein and whole-grains. This wrap is pretty healthy, coming in at 290 calories with 19 gram of protein and 10 grams of fat, it’d make a healthy fast breakfast option. But if you’re getting sick of it, check out other healthy grabs from Starbucks on the Starbucks Nutrition page.
If you’re looking for a healthy chicken option at Chik-Fil-A that isn’t breaded (or on a salad), look no further than the Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap. This wrap features sliced grilled chicken breast beside red and green lettuce, shredded cabbage, cheddar cheese, and avocado lime dressing rolled into a flaxseed flour flatbread – with just 370 calories and 37 grams of protein, it’s sure to satisfy any chicken cravings. Check out the Chick-Fil-A Nutrition page for other stats on this sandwich.
Typically, when you hear “Shake Shack,” you probably assume their menu doesn’t feature many healthy options. However, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised: Shake Shack offers a ‘Shroom Burger for veggie lovers, so you don’t have to choose between health, convenience, or taste. The ‘Shroom features a slow roasted portobello mushroom as the burger “patty,” adding a rich, meaty texture reminiscent of beef, but with fewer calories than their single, you can eat it guilt-free.
Reach for this taco “Fresco style,” and you’ll have yourself a healthy taco option. The Chicken Burrito Supreme features chopped chicken breast, tomatoes, onions, refried beans, lettuce, and “Fresco” pico de gallo instead of sour cream. Forgo extra sauces to keep this fiesta clean. Although, the “stock” chicken supreme burrito has far fewer calories (390) than their 5-layer burrito, so even if you add all the extras, it’s still a decent choice. (See Taco Bell Nutrition for comparison information.)
As a general rule for sides at any fast food restaurant, it’s best to keep it simple.
First things first: if there are veggies available, or a side salad, grab these and forgo extra dressings or sauces.
Secondly: Search for fruit. Many fast food restaurants offer sides like a piece of fruit or a fruit cup.
Thirdly: Avoid fries, sauces, dips, and anything bread-like. This will help keeps your calories down and keep your meal healthy and filling.
What are your go-to healthy fast food options? Comment below to share your favorite nutritious meals.