We’re all about cooking from-scratch meals using whole foods and nutrient-dense ingredients, but we get it. Sometimes you don’t have time to cook your meals. Or maybe you find yourself in an on-the-go situation where you have no choice. Other times, you might be traveling or want to tag-along with a group that’s headed to the nearest fast-food establishment for lunch. It happens to the best of us! There is always a situation where you might want to know which are the healthiest fast food options, so we figured it out for you!
Keep in mind that most fast food options are high in fat and sodium, so you should try to keep your intake to a minimum. You should also avoid ordering liquid calories (in the form of flavored coffees or soda) and watch out for the extra condiments, which can pile on the calories. That being said, we did find a surprising number of meals that are around or under 500 calories that also have enough protein to keep you feeling full. So here are the healthiest fast food options for when you need something on-the-go.
Chick-Fil-A is one of of our favorite fast food restaurants when we want to eat healthy. That’s because they use grilled chicken breasts on many of their menu items, giving you lean protein while keeping the fat and calories down. Check out the entire menu’s nutrition information here, but these are a few of our favorites.
- Grilled Nuggets: 140 calories, 3.5g fat, 2g carbs, 25g protein (plus 30 to 140 calories for the dipping sauce)
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 310 calories, 6g fat, 36g carbs, 29g protein
- Market Salad: 330 calories, 15g fat, 25g carbs, 27g protein
- Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap: 350 calories, 14g fat, 29g carbs, 38g protein
- Best dipping sauces: Barbecue Sauce, Sriracha Sauce, or Honey Mustard (45 calories) or Zesty Buffalo Sauce (30 calories)
In general, it’s easy to eat a healthy meal at Chipotle if you can control your toppings and live without rice. The burrito bowls have the least number of calories, as each tortilla adds 320 calories to your meal. You’ll also want to skip the cheese, sour cream, and consider ordering without rice (which has 210 calories whether you go for brown or white). Use their nutrition calculator to create your favorite menu item, or order one of the options below. Since black beans and pinto beans have the roughly the same nutrition, you can choose either.
- Chicken Burrito Bowl with beans, fajita vegetables, roasted corn salsa, and tomatillo salsa: 425 calories, 10g fat, 46g carbs, 44g protein
- Carnitas Tacos on Crispy Corn Tortillas with fajita vegetables and tomatillo-red chili salsa: 460 calories, 21g fat, 38g carbs, 27g protein
- Steak Salad with beans, fresh tomato salsa, and guacamole: 545 calories, 29.5g fat, 37g carbs, 32g protein
You might be surprised to learn that Taco Bell is actually one of the healthiest fast food options out there! In fact, despite the deep-fried chalupa and Doritos taco options, 3/4 of their menu is actually under 500 calories. In addition to finding all the nutrition info on their website, you can also order any menu item “Fresco style” to reduce the fat by 25 percent.
- Soft Taco Fresco Style: 150 calories, 4g fat, 17g carbs, 10g protein
- MexiMelt: 250 calories, 13g fat, 19g carbs, 14g protein
- Burrito Supreme (Beef): 400 calories, 15g fat, 52g carbs, 17g protein
- Power Bowl (Veggie): 480 calories, 19g fat, 65g carbs, 14g protein
Not all of Wendy’s menu options are healthy (and some of the salads are surprisingly calorie-laden!), but there are a number of things you could order. Their full nutrition information is on their website if you’re interested. It’s always an option to order a chicken sandwich without the bun, or you could look to one of these menu items instead.
- Chili (large): 250 calories, 7g fat, 23g carbs, 23g protein
- Grilled Chicken Wrap: 270 calories, 10g fat, 24g carbs, 20g protein
- Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe: 340 calories, 19g fat, 27g carbs, 16g protein
- Bacon Cheese Baked Potato: 440 calories, 14g fat, 64g carbs, 17g protein
- Harvest Chicken Salad (full): 570 calories, 23g fat, 47g carbs, 42g protein
McDonald’s doesn’t exactly have a reputation of having healthy choices, but the fast-food giant has made serious strides in creating healthier options for their patrons. They’ve added calorie counts to their menu (and all the information is available on their website), and they’re including more health-conscious options in Happy Meals for kids. Here are our top picks for the healthiest fast food options at McDonalds.
- Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad: 350 calories, 11g fat, 27g carbs, 37g protein
- Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 380 calories, 6g fat, 45g carbs, 36g protein
- McDouble: 390 calories, 18g fat, 33g carbs, 22g protein
- McRib (when available): 480 calories, 22g fat, 45g carbs, 24g protein
The best thing about Burger King? You can have it your way! That means you can skip the fat-filled mayonnaise or extra slices of cheese with no judgment. Check out their full nutritional information to customize your own order, or pick up one of the options below.
- Chicken Nuggets (4 piece): 170 calories, 11g fat, 11g carbs, 8g protein
- Regular Hamburger: 240 calories, 10g fat, 26g carbs, 13g protein
- Chicken Garden Salad (Grilled): 520 calories, 33g fat, 17g carbs, 17g protein
Don’t let Subway’s marketing fool you: A lot of the things on this menu are not actually healthy. If you’re willing to skip the cheese and load your sandwich up with vegetables instead of meats and condiments, though, you can definitely find some great nutrition at this fast-food restaurant. You can find the full nutritional information here, but here are some of our favorite options (all listed without cheese).
- Veggie Delight: 230 calories, 2.5g fat, 44g carbs, 9g protein
- Turkey Breast: 280 calories,3.5g fat, 46g carbs, 18g protein
- Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki: 370 calories, 4.5g fat, 58g carbs, 25g protein
- Black Forest Ham Wrap: 430 calories, 12g fat, 57g carbs, 27g protein
When you’re looking for breakfast on-the-go, Panera is an obvious choice. To keep the calories down, swap out cream cheese for their Basil Pesto Sauce (which only has 30 calories) and you can always choose a flat bagel, which will cut down the carbs quite a bit. They list all their nutritional information on their website if you have any questions!
- Steel Cut Oatmeal with Almonds, Quinoa & Honey: 300 calories, 7g fat, 51g carbs, 8g protein
- Ham, Egg, Cheese & Roasted Tomato on Whole Grain Farmstyle Bread: 320 calories, 15g fat, 21g carbs, 22g protein
- Avocado, Egg White & Spinach on Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat: 410 calories, 14g fat, 52g carbs, 21g protein
- Spinach & Artichoke Soufflé: 520 calories, 33g fat, 29g carbs, 18g protein
When it comes to ordering your coffee at Starbucks, definitely avoid the sweetened drinks! Any of your favorite, sweet-treat coffee drinks will run up your daily calorie count, all without filling you up. They do have some great options (like Skinny lattes, regular coffee, or teas) along with some great grab-and-go breakfast options. Like most of the companies on this list, they give you access to the full nutrition on their website.
- Classic Oatmeal: 160 calories, 2.5g fat, 28g carbs, 5g protein
- Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon & Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Sandwich: 210 calories, 5g fat, 26g carbs, 18g protein
- Sous Vide Egg Bites (Bacon & Gruyere): 310 calories, 22g fat, 9g carbs, 19g protein
- Chicken Sausage & Bacon Biscuit: 450 calories, 22g fat, 35g carbs, 26g protein