I have the biggest love/hate relationship with fast-food chains. I’m always on the go and stopping to get a bite to eat is often a matter of convenience and taste. However, I’m torn by the lack of healthy eating options. I mean, who needs the 2,000 calorie fat-bombs like triple-decker cheeseburgers and jumbo-sized fries? Yet, believe it or not, there are some surprisingly healthy fast food meals to choose from that will make your taste buds smile.
The trick to ordering wisely is to watch your portion sizes, avoid trans fats and excessive saturated fat, and try to come away with some sort of nutritional value in the form of high-quality protein, fiber, or vitamins and minerals. Below are 10 suggestions to get you started…
#1 – Chick-Fil-A: Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap (350 Cal.)
Forget the iconic chicken sandwich and instead go for a satisfying grilled chicken breast rolled with lettuce, shredded cabbage, carrots, and cheese in a flaxseed flour flatbread. According to the Chik-Fil-A website, the Cool Wrap is one of the most difficult meals to prep, and there is a trick to folding it perfectly. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy this healthy fast food meal!
#2 – Starbucks: Classic Oatmeal (160 Cal.)
Hearty, traditional, and healthy. The classic oatmeal from Starbucks is an easy way to fill up on fiber and protein in the morning. Best of all, the dried fruit, nuts, sugar, and other toppings are all provided on the side so you get to control how sweet you want your meal to be.
#3 – Taco Bell: Crunchy Taco Fresco Style (170 Cal.)
My spouse turned me on to this crunchy taco and now I’m a big fan. I would eat these tacos even if I wasn’t trying to eat healthily. They’re delicious! Just order a crunchy taco over soft to save on the sodium.
#4 – McDonald’s: Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich (380 Cal.)
Unfortunately, this item is currently NOT available on McDonald’s menu. Due to COVID-19, McDonald’s has cut certain meals that are difficult to prepare in-house. This means that items such as their Southwest Salad and the Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich are not available at this time. However, McDonald’s promises to bring both menu options back at a later date so remember this healthy fast food meal for the future.
#5 – Subway: Roast Beef Sandwich (290 Cal.)
A 6-inch sub on whole wheat (more fiber!) without dressing will run you about 300 calories. If you’d like to pile on the veggies, ask for cucumbers, green peppers, lettuce, onions, spinach, and tomatoes. Yum!
#6 – Chipotle: Salad Bowl (395 Cal.)
I’m a big fan of Chipotle’s Salad Bowl. I recommend ordering without the rice and beans and instead opting for a delicious protein with fresh tomato salsa and roasted chili-corn salsa. If you sprinkle on the cheese, you won’t even need salad dressing. This delicious Salad Bowl keeps me coming back to Chipotle time and time again!
#7 – Panda Express: Broccoli Beef (150 Cal.)
My daughter loves Panda Express, but I’m always torn because I’m always tempted to order something unhealthy, such as their Orange Chicken with fried rice. However, I’ve learned that when it comes to fast food Asian fare, simple is often healthiest. That’s why I’ve come to enjoy the broccoli and beef tossed in a ginger soy sauce. And instead of fried rice, I now substitute it with a side of mixed vegetables.
#8 – Dunkin’ Donuts: Wake-Up Wrap (190 Cal.)
I love Dunkin’s coffee, but if you’re trying to eat well this place can be the worst! However, there’s one healthy option: You can start your day off right by ordering the ham, egg, and cheese version of Dunkin’s Wake-Up Wrap. It has less sodium and saturated fat than other options, and it tastes great, too.
#9 – Panera: Ten Vegetable Soup (110 Cal.)
If you’re looking for a healthy and vegan-friendly option, try Panera’s Ten Vegetable Soup. According to the menu’s description, the soup contains, “Tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, onions, corn, carrots, celery, spinach, poblano peppers, garlic, seasoned vegetable stock, and more. I mean, it’s essentially a garden in a bowl!
#10 – Wendy’s: Harvest Chicken Salad (320 Cal. Half Size)
Wendy’s has a pretty nice assortment of salads, and the half-size of their Harvest chicken salad makes the perfect mid-day meal especially when paired with a small cup of chili. If you’ve never tried it, now is the time — the chili at Wendy’s is surprisingly good. Together, you’re looking at just 480 calories. Enjoy!
Was there a healthy fast food option that I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, this can’t be a definitive list, but it’s enough to get you started on the road to a healthier lifestyle while eating out.
For more articles on nutrition, I encourage you to read Healthy Cool Treats for Hot Summer Days. And be sure to subscribe to the Heart & Soul Blog Newsletter to receive more great tips straight to your inbox each Friday.