Generally speaking, fast food is very unhealthy. For the most part, fast food is processed, high in sodium, high in “bad” cholesterol and high in calories. But sometimes, if you’re travelling, have that craving, or just want to drown your sorrows into a fatty, salty burger, you might end up at one of the many fast food restaurants out there. Here are some pointers on healthier fast food that won’t make you feel guilty after you eat it.
- “Veggie” doesn’t necessarily mean healthier. Make sure to read the nutrition facts before you order.
- The Fast Food Calorie Counter ($1 for iPhone or Android) lists more than 9,000 menu items which makes it easy to make an informed order.
- Don’t just look at the main menu. Smaller portions on kids’ menus can save you calories. Dunkin’ Donuts has an all-day breakfast menu with many nutritious picks. Panera Bread also has a secret menu with healthy egg-white bowls and a steak lettuce wrap.
- Not all condiments are created equal. A ketchup packet has 10 calories, but a packet of honey mustard or barbecue sauce of the same size contains 60 calories and 50 calories, respectively.
Healthier Fast Food Restaurants
Panera Bread. This bakery-café restaurant has a comprehensive menu of healthy choices for every meal. Customers have whole-grain bread and fruits (instead of chips) as options. Portion-control is a breeze with their half-size soups, salads and sandwiches. Panera bread uses antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken as an added bonus!
Chipotle. Buffet-style, Chipotle gives you complete control over your burrito, taco or salad. This restaurant uses fresh, local ingredients and has committed to using organics, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, and produce sourced from local suppliers.
McDonalds. Among the bigger burger chains, McDonalds is taking the lead for making their menu more heart- and waist-friendly. They offer apple dippers instead of fries, low-fat milk or fruit juice instead of soda, and their fries are now made in a healthier canola blend oil.
Healthier Fast Food Meals
Power Chicken Hummus Bowl (Panera Bread). Dress this with a little bit of lemon instead of dressing and the bowl has 330 calories, 13g fat, 2g saturated fat, 590mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, and 33g protein.
Barbacoa and Guacamole Salad (Chipotle). One of these salad has 585 calories, 31g fat, 11.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 1215mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate, 19g fiber, and 37g protein.
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Fruit Cup (Chick-Fil-A). One of these sandwiches (without the sticky, sugary sauce) with the large cup of fruit contains 400 calories along with 3.5g of fat, 1g of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 55mg cholesterol, 1120mg of sodium, 65g of carbohydrate, 6g of fiber, and 30g of protein. You can get healthy chicken sandwiches at Carl’s Jr., Wendy’s and McDonald’s as long as you are ordering it without mayonnaise or creamy sauce and making sure it’s served with a whole grain bun.
Potato with Chilli (Wendy’s). It’s not on the menu, but you can buy the potato and chilli separately. Make it yourself and you’ll have a satisfying meal with protein (21g), carbohydrates (80g), fat (6g) and half of your RDA of fiber (12g). This chili potato contains 460 calories, 40mg cholesterol and 855mg sodium.
Chicken Breast (grilled) with a side of Mashed Potatoes and Corn (KFC). This meal amounts to 430 calories, 10g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 90mg cholesterol, 905mg sodium, 49g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, and 41g protein.
Breakfast Chick-n-Minis (Chick-Fil-A). The best breakfast fast food because it’s lowest in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol. One of these has 260 calories, 10g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 40mg cholesterol, 650mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, and 14g protein.
Chicken Teriyaki Bowl (Jack in the Box). Choose this one over the steak, which has more sodium and saturated fat. The chicken has 585 calories, 6g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 36mg cholesterol, 1461mg sodium, 106g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, and 25g protein.
Chargrilled Chicken Cool Wrap (Chick-Fil-A). Since the honey mustard version of this dressing is fat free this wrap contains 470 calories, 12g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g transfat, 55mg cholesterol, 1510mg sodium, 64g carbohydrate, 10g fiber, and 33g protein.
Southwest Salad and Fruit N Yogurt Parfait (McDonalds). By sticking with grilled instead of fried and light dressing, you can’t go wrong with salads. This salad (without dressing) contains 480 calories, 11g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 75mg cholesterol, 1045mg sodium, 61g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, and 34g protein. Other great salad choices are Chick-Fil-A’s Chargrilled and Fruit Salad, Burger King’s Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad, and Carl’s Jr.’s Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Salad.
Veggie Burger and Garden Salad (Burger King). This burger and salad combo, without mayonnaise and half of the light dressing, contains 450 calories, 12.5g fat, 4.2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 10mg cholesterol, 1320mg sodium, 52.5g carbohydrate, 10g fiber, and 26g protein.
Veggie Delite Sandwich and Tomato Orzo Soup (Subway). A 6 inch sandwich paired with this soup contains 360 calories, 3.5g of fat, 1g of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 5mg of cholesterol, 820mg of sodium, 69g of carbohydrate, 7g of fiber and 14g of protein.
Chicken Fresco Burrito Supreme and Pintos ‘n’ Cheese (Taco Bell). This combo contains 520 calories, 15g fat, 5.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 40mg cholesterol, 2140mg sodium, 69g carbohydrate, 17g fiber, and 28g protein.