Fast food has gotten quite the reputation for being “unhealthy.” And at one point, it was and in a way, still can be. If you’ve ever seen the documentary Supersize Me then you know exactly what we’re talking about. And if you haven’t, the movie basically showed point-blank just how awful fast food can be on your health.
Fast food has come a long way since the documentary’s debut in 2004 – and thank goodness for that. Menus now offer healthier options for every diet whether you’re watching your sodium or sugar intake, avoiding gluten, or are just trying to get more veggies in your diet.
Wondering where to head for your next meal? Here is a roundup of the healthiest options at the most popular fast food places.
McDonald’s – Classic Cheeseburger
Bet you didn’t expect to see a cheeseburger on this list – especially from McDonald’s. But according to health experts, the classic cheeseburger is spot-on with its portion sizes. For only $1, you get a pure beef patty, a slice of American cheese, pickles, chopped onion, ketchup, and mustard. It’s the perfect amount of food for any meal! Plus, with only 300 calories you can add a side salad for only 15 calories more.
Taco Bell – Taco Fresco Style
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up tacos. Whether you’re gluten-free, low-sodium, or just watching your calories – tacos are the single, most amazing food for every diet. Whether you go soft or crunchy (side note: soft taco shells add sodium!) you’ll get seasoned ground beef topped with fresh lettuce. Fresco style removes the cheese and adds fresh tomatoes and onions instead which saves you a whole 20 calories. Now, with just 150 calories per taco, go ahead and order two – guilt-free!
Wendy’s – Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
As far as salads go, Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken salad might by far be one of the best fast food salads on the market. Dare we even say it’s comparable to Panera’s salads? In both the full and half size you’ll get grilled chicken, red and green apples, dried cranberries, roasted pecans, crumbled blue cheese all placed over a bed of lettuce dressed with a pomegranate vinaigrette. Who said healthy salads have to be boring?
Burger King – Grilled Chicken Sandwich without Mustard
A grilled chicken sandwich may not be as appealing as a burger, or even a crispy chicken sandwich. But considering you save over 130 calories by making the switch to grilled and it tastes almost as good – we’d say it’s worth it. This grilled chicken sandwich is made with flame-grilled chicken, lettuce, and tomato all on a toasted bun. Take off the honey mustard and you get a filling, low-sugar yet still delicious sandwich.
Chipotle – Burrito Bowl
Chipotle is a great one-stop-shop for all your dietary needs – especially the burrito bowl. The best part about it is that you can fill it with whatever you want to meet your dietary needs. Need fewer calories? Pick lower-calorie fillings! Looking for more fat? Add guacamole on the side. Can’t eat dairy? Skip out on the sour cream and cheese. Whatever you need, Chipotle can do. One low-calorie combination is steak, pinto beans, fajita vegetables, fresh tomato salsa, and lettuce.
Five Guys – Bunless Little Hamburger
The Five Guys menu doesn’t exactly make it easy to eat healthily, BUT there are options! One of those being the bunless little hamburger. Don’t let the name fool you. This burger is actually the size of a normal burger but with one patty instead of two. Ask for it “all the way” to get it with mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, mushrooms, ketchup, and mustard. Or dress it with whatever your taste buds want. Just make sure you ask for it without the bun!
Dominos – Thin Crust Veggie Pizza
The other option at Dominos was thin-crust pineapple and ham pizza, but for reasons unbeknownst to us, people aren’t a fan. So, thin-crust veggie pizza it is! Whoever said pizza couldn’t be part of your diet didn’t understand the beauty of portion sizes. As the name suggests, it has light cheese with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and roasted red peppers all on a thin crust. For only 202 calories a slice, you can have two slices for under 500 calories!
KFC – Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast
KFC has been known for its fried chicken since what seems like the beginning of time. But if you’re watching what you eat, fried isn’t exactly on the menu. Thankfully, grilled is. KFC’s grilled chicken is just as juicy as the fried and with the perfect seasoning and grill marks you won’t even miss the crunch. Plus, the low calories gives you the freedom to order a side. Try adding on the green beans for just 25 calories more.
Buffalo Wild Wings – Traditional Wings
Let’s just say that there aren’t many low-calorie options at Buffalo Wild Wings. So this isn’t exactly a diet-friendly choice. Rather it’s more of a low-carb, high-protein option for you keto followers. If you order the small traditional wings plain, they have zero carbs (woo!) and you can add any of the dry seasonings for only 1 more gram of carbs.
Subway – Whole Grain Sandwich
The nice thing about Subway is that, like Chipotle, it’s extremely customizable and most menu options are healthy depending on your choices. Adding sauces, cheeses, oils, and various meats can rack up those calories so beware of adding too much. Our favorite go-to is a 6-inch whole-grain sandwich with roast beef, cucumber, red onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. Feel free to add provolone cheese for an extra 50 calories!
Starbucks – Sous Vide Egg Bites
Starbucks has saved all of us fast-food breakfast loving, healthy eaters with their sous vide egg bites. Pair your caffeine with a side of these beauties for a breakfast that will save you from your morning slump. Thanks to their egg white base, two of these have 12g of protein and 8g of fat for a combo that will satisfy your tastebuds and your hunger levels. Dairy-free eaters beware – these egg bites are made with Monterey jack cheese!
Red Lobster – Grilled Salmon Lunch
Red Lobster might not be as fast as some of these other options, or as affordable, but it’s a popular go-to for lunch and we wanted to give you a healthy option. Especially since seafood can easily become unhealthy thanks to the way they’re cooked and dressed. Fourtanetly, the grilled salmon gives you a safe option. When ordering, ask for the grilled salmon cooked without oils or fats. The salmon alone has 310 calories but if you add a side of seasoned fresh broccoli the total clocks in at 350.
Red Robin – Lettuce Wrapped California Chicken Burger
Red Robin is another not so fast food restaurant that is still a common go-to for many American families. Unfortunately, most of their menu items aren’t low calorie, low sodium, or low carb – but you do have options! The California Chicken Burger is a fan favorite, but the bun racks up the calories and carbs. To solve this little issue, just ask for it without the bun! You still get all of the good stuff like the chicken, house-made guac, cheese, pickles, and tomatoes, it’ll just be wrapped in lettuce instead.
Papa Johns – Mediterrarian Veggie Pizza
Papa Johns has made it incredibly simple for healthy eaters to find their diet friendlier menu options. Just look under their “Papas Lighter Choices!” That’s where we found the Mediterranian veggie pizza. Even with a regular crust, one slice is still around 300 calories. So, if you want to eat more slices, opt for the thin crust instead. It’ll shave off 70 calories per slice – you’re welcome!
The Mediterranean veggie pizza sports a ton of veggies – obviously – including olives, red onions, banana peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes, so you might as well just call this a salad minus the lettuce. At least that’s what you can tell yourself.
Dairy Queen – Grilled Chicken BLT Salad
If you are able to go to Dairy Queen and skip the ice cream, you get some major props. Even more so if you order a salad. Thankfully for all of us healthy eaters, Dairy Queen’s Grilled Chicken BLT salad is just as good as their ice cream – okay, maybe it’s not that good. But it’s still good. The base is a crunchy salad topped with either grilled or crunchy chicken, cheese, tomatoes, bacon, shredded carrots, and your choice of dressing.
The nutrition facts below do not include the salad dressing.
Dunkin Donuts – Veggie Egg White Sandwich
As sad as it is, donuts do not make this list unless you’re in some alternate universe where donuts are magically low in sugar and calories. Instead, you’re going to have to opt with the veggie egg white sandwich which is arguably just as delicious in a more savory way. This sandwich has an egg white omelet with red peppers, mushrooms, and onions topped with melted cheese sandwiched between an English muffin. Insider tip… don’t ruin this healthy breakfast with a sugary coffee. If you do, you might as well just get the donut.
Jimmy John’s – Club Lulu Unwhich
For those of you new to the healthy Jimmy John’s club, you can order your sandwich unwhiced. In other words, without the bread and wrapped in lettuce. Our favorite unwhiched sandwich with the club lulu which has turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise all wrapped up in a crunchy piece of lettuce. This little sandwich is so low in calories and carbs that you can add a bag of chips on the side – guilt-free.
Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. – Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
Your dietary needs are completely unique to you. But if you aren’t looking to cut back on calories and are just looking for something more balanced, the Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich is the best option for you. Coming in at just under 400 calories, this chicken sandwich is anything but plain. In fact, it’s brimming with flavor and has a good ratio of fats, carbs, and proteins for a meal that will keep you energized all day. The charbroiled chicken breast is dressed in a tangy BBQ sauce on a soft honey bun. For a healthier option that’s lower in calories, carbs, and sodium – order the sandwich wrapped in lettuce without the bun.
Arby’s – Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad with Light Italian Dressing
If you’re eating healthy or following a diet of any kind, you’ll want to stay far, far away from any of Arby’s calorically-dense sandwiches. Instead, order their roast turkey farmhouse salad with light Italian dressing. Even though salads aren’t nearly as fun as a sandwich, this one has chopped fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, bacon, and roasted turkey that makes for a nutritionally dense, satisfying meal. And, depending on your dietary needs, you can order a snack fry for a meal that is below 500 calories.
Orange Julius – Light Strawberry Smoothie
Sometimes you’d just rather drink your meal rather than eat it. Or maybe you just got wisdom teeth out and literally cannot chew. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to order a small light strawberry smoothie from Orange Julius. This sucker does contain 44g of sugar, so if you’re diabetic or just watching your sugars avoid Orange Julius at all costs.
When you’re not in the mood for the traditional, unhealthy version of fast food, try one of these options! Thanks to the above restaurants, you can still eat healthy even if you’re short on time and/or money. Want more healthy options? Check out this blog on 27 Guilt-Free Healthy Fast Food Lunches.