10 Healthy Fast Food Places for When You’re Too Busy to Cook
We're here to give you some peace of mind next time you're pulling up to the drive-thru.
Is There Healthy Fast Food?
The short answer—yes! The long answer—yes…if you know what to order. Fast food companies have done a lot in the last 20 years to present healthy options and improve the nutrition of existing options. Whether you consider yourself a (fast) foodie but are trying to improve your diet, or you’re a strict health-nut whose only option on the road trip is a burger or starvation, read on for our list of healthy fast food places.
The best part about Subway’s high ranking is that they have stores virtually everywhere, so it’s usually a super accessible option. Go for the Black Forest Ham, which has 260 calories, 4 grams of fat and 19 grams of protein. If you really want to keep it lean, the Veggie Delight is only 200 calories with 2 grams of fat, but it comes in with only 9 grams of protein. Just avoid the obvious calorie bombs, which are pretty clearly flagged by the word “Ultimate” in the name.
Although Chipotle is often criticized for menu items that can quickly accumulate calories with additions, the ingredients in Chipotle food are, by and large, good for you. Skip the burrito if you’re concerned about calorie intake, and opt for the burrito bowl or salad. Double up on beans, nix the rice, and ask for some spicy salsa to speed up your metabolism. A steak bowl with black and pinto beans, fajita vegetables, romaine and tomatillo green-chili salsa runs about 450 calories, with 9 grams of fat and 38 grams of protein.
As far as buckets-full of chicken go, the grilled chicken breast at KFC is not a bad option. Each serving has 210 calories, with 7 grams of fat and 38 grams of protein. Pair it with a vegetable—green beans, corn on the cob or even mashed potatoes—for a meal that’s pretty close to what your “healthy” meal prep box would send you anyway.
You may have heard the news—Taco Bell is considered by many to be the healthiest fast food option. And it’s true! A Steak Fresco Soft Taco has only 150 calories and 10 grams of protein, with a mere 4 grams of fat. Even the Beef Fresco Crunchy Taco contains just a few more calories, and has even less sodium than the soft tacos.
Starbucks can be a bit of a nutrition trap, since a lot of the menu items seem healthy. The Spinach, Feta and Cage-Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap is actually good for you, with 290 calories, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein. While it has a higher fat and calorie content than the oft-recommended Sous Vide Egg Bites or oatmeal, the higher protein and fiber content will keep you satisfied until lunch.
You’re actually better off skipping the salads at this fast food kingdom, since the sandwiches are lower in calories and, let’s be honest, much more satisfying. Choosing between the burger or chicken? Go for the chicken. While technically a burger is less calories, the grilled chicken sandwich makes up for it in protein. Each sandwich contains 430 calories, with 11 grams of fat and an impressive 40 grams of protein.
McDonald’s has done a lot over the years to improve its image with parents and nutritionists, with the result that there really are great, healthy options on the menu. The Artisan Grilled Chicken sandwich has 380 calories, with 6 grams of fat and 36 grams of protein. You can even indulge a little and get the hamburger—it’s only 250 calories and 8 grams of fat, with 13 grams of protein. And if you’re indulging a lot, there’s no better place to pick up fast food dessert than McDonald’s, where a small plain sundae is only 170 calories.
You wouldn’t expect great healthy options from a place that literally has “Donuts” in its name, but Dunkin’ Donuts’ breakfast items are perfect for the healthy rise-and-shiners. The Veggie Egg White sandwich has 290 calories, with 9 grams of fat and 14 grams of protein. And if you just can’t resist those donuts (we don’t blame you), opt for a french cruller at 220 calories, or a classic glazed donut at 260 calories.
Compared to some other fast food places where the salad looks like a sad pile of discarded garnishes, Wendy’s salads are pretty robust. Their full size Harvest Salad has 570 calories, 24 grams of fat and a plentiful 43 grams of protein. This puts it higher up on our list than the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, which has slightly less protein. Read up on all of Wendy’s salads here.
While you may head to Panera for their bear claw pastries or signature muffies, the fast-casual eatery offers a variety of healthy options you can grab in a flash. Try their Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken for a refreshing dish that’s packed with 29 grams of protein. Request for the dressing on the side, or better yet, make your own copycat recipe at home to cut down on the added sugar.