Medical expert Richard Han, MD, of JustAnswer.com, is a board-certified physician with over 15 years of clinical experience. He regularly counsels patients about healthy fast food choices. “When it comes to fast food, thankfully, there has been a growing demand for healthier choices and an improved response on the part of fast-food chains.” Lighter salads and grilled chicken are almost always a safe bet, but here are some other better-for-you options you can find popular fast food chains.
1. Taco Bell: Fresco Crunchy Taco
Coming in at just 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 370 mg of sodium, this is one of the best healthy fast-food menu options available. Though most tacos fall to the 170-300 calorie range, be sure to check out the sodium and think about what sauces you are adding. If you feel like you need more nutrition and flavor, salsa is a healthy choice. Want Mexican food from the comfort of your own home? Check out these options.
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2. KFC: Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad
Without croutons or dressing, this comes in at 190 calories with 6 grams of fat and 740 mg of sodium. This is also a high protein dish, but remember, this may be more of a side, so be sure when looking into healthy fast food, you might consider having snacks available to you like fresh fruit and vegetables to complement the dish and keep you full. Want the taste of Caesar salad without the salad? Try this Grilled Caesar Chicken.
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3. Culver’s: Chicken Noodle Soup
Low in calories but high in comfort, this Midwest favorite comes in at 110 calories and 2 grams of fat. If you’re watching your salt intake, this might not be your best bet, as it has a whopping 1100 mg of sodium. Love chicken noodle soup? Make one of these 30 recipes from around the world this weekend.
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4. Subway: Veggie Delite Sandwich
Have a 6-in. veggie delite sandwich on whole-wheat bread (hold the cheese and the sauce) and you will come in at 230 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 280 mg of sodium. Though this is a low calorie, low fat option, it may not tide you over until your next meal, so consider adding low-fat cheese or grilled chicken to add protein. Just be sure to check the fat and calories that this will add to your meal!
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5. McDonald’s: Hamburger
Surely one of the most accessible and popular American fast-food restaurants, when searching for healthy fast food at McDonald’s, many head toward a salad. But note that the southwest salad with grilled chicken has more calories and sodium than McDonald’s basic hamburger. With just 250 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 520 mg of sodium, this is the choice that most diets recommend. Still craving fries? Stick to a small or even better, a child’s size. (Read more to find out why McD’s has such craveable fries!)
6. Burger King: Whopper Jr. or Hamburger
Be sure to hold the mayo on either of these protein-packed options and you’ll consume just 290 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 500 mg of sodium.
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7. Arby’s: Ham and Swiss Melt
Though Arby’s is known for its roast beef, other meat options are best. A ham and Swiss melt is filling, and at just 300 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 1,030 mg of sodium, it is one of the most recommended healthy fast-food items at this restaurant. Note that many menu items at Arby’s are high in sodium, so if you’re trying to keep your salt intake down, you may want to choose one of the fast-food establishments in the Top 5!
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8. In-N-Out Burger: Share with a friend!
Are you a fan of the In-N-Out burger? Share a hamburger and an order of fries with a pal and you’ll get the yummy flavor you’re craving, but with just 393 calories and 448 mg of sodium. If you’re a big fan of burgers, make these decked-out patties at home.
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9. Sonic: Junior Burger
Sometimes when we’ve been traveling, the only option seems to be Sonic! Their junior burger is one of the better options on the menu at 450 calories, 27 grams of fat, and 560 mg of sodium.
Photo: Shutterstock/Jonathan Weiss
10. Chipotle: Vegetarian Burrito Bowl
Are you a huge Chipotle fan? Though many menu items may sound healthy, they’re not. Read the nutrition info before choosing. Your best bet from Chipotle is the vegetarian burrito bowl, which clocks in at 470 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 1595 mg of sodium.
Another thing to consider when eating healthy? Dr. Han notes that beverages can add to the calorie count and detract from what you might think is a healthy fast food option: “Water is always the healthiest choice, followed by lower sugar or sugar-free alternative drinks such as diet soda.”