Healthy fast food seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that lots of fast food chains have caught on to the idea that most people don’t want to eat processed garbage and prefer something healthier. While it would be ideal to make all of your meals from scratch every day, most people resort to eating fast food at least every once and awhile due to time restraints.
Luckily, you have more options today than you ever have before when it comes to hitting a healthy drive through. Even some of the notoriously unhealthy fast food joints have healthy food options hiding somewhere on their menu. You just have to know how to order! Here are some of the healthiest fast food options to get you through a meal without regretting it afterward when you’re in a pinch.
1. Panera Bread Green Goddess Cobb Salad
When it comes to healthy fast food, Panera should be your go-to choice. It offers several dishes with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Plus they make their own bread from scratch and provide antibiotic-free chicken, which is a step in the right direction. Find a location with a drive-through, and you’ll have a healthy meal delivered right to your window without even getting out of the car. The Green Goddess Cobb Salad from Panera Bread contains 550 calories, 33 grams of total fat, 720 mg of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, and 42 grams of protein. It features ripe tomatoes with pickled red onions, chicken, avocado, bacon, and a cage-free hard-boiled egg. If you’re looking to save on calories, try ordering it without dressing.
2. Chick-Fil-A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl
If you’re looking for a tasty and filling breakfast on the go that won’t cost you a ton of calories, then look no further than the Chick-Fil-A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl. It features sliced Chick-Fil-A nuggets, scrambled eggs, crispy hash browns and a blend of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese. According to the restaurant’s website, the bowls are made fresh every morning, so you don’t have to worry about getting leftovers. They are also served with Jalapeno salsa in a convenient bowl, so you don’t have to bring your own Tupperware. The entire dish contains 460 calories, 29 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrates, and 31 grams of protein. Plus it has 1 gram of sugar, 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, 20 percent of your daily intake of calcium, and 15 percent of your iron needs.
3. McDonald’s Pico Guacamole with Artisan Grilled Chicken
Even McDonald’s has healthy food options or at least foods that are better for you than a burger and fries. The Pico Guacamole with Artisan Grilled Chicken sandwich is sure to meet your hunger needs without wrecking your waistline. According to McDonald’s website, it features guacamole made with real Hass avocados, Pico de Gallo made fresh with Roma tomatoes, onions, and lime and cilantro flavors, buttermilk ranch sauce, white cheddar cheese and leaf lettuce on a grilled chicken breast with all white meat. You can choose from a sesame seed bun or an artisan roll. The entire sandwich contains 550 calories, 20 grams of fat, 50 grams of carbohydrates, and 42 grams of protein. Looking to make the sandwich healthier? Ask for no ranch dressing. With all the other flavors in this sandwich, you don’t need the dressing anyway.
4. Carl’s Jr. Antibiotic-Free, All-Natural Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
If you’re looking to fuel up on clean meat only, then the Carl’s Jr. Antibiotic-Free, All-Natural Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich is a step in the right direction as far as fast food goes. According to Carl Jr.’s chief marketing officer Brad Haley, the chicken filet in this sandwich has received no antibiotics ever. This is important to note because some cows are initially given no antibiotics but are administered them later in life. Stating that the meat has had no antibiotics ever is a good sign. This sandwich features a charbroiled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and tangy BBQ sauce on a honey wheat bun. It has 370 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1210 mg of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber and 33 grams of protein.
5. Wendy’s Chicken Tenders
Can chicken tenders be healthy? Well, not entirely. But these chicken tenders come in the perfect portion size to help you satisfy your craving without overeating. If you get a three-piece order of chicken tenders from Wendy’s, it will only cost you 300 calories, 22 grams of protein and 14 grams of fat. This is a good food to practice mindful eating on. Try eating them slowly and enjoying every bite, especially if you don’t treat yourself to fast food often. Be careful if you dip them in a sauce as it will tack on the empty calories and sugar content. Or choose a healthier dip if you can, such as marinara sauce or guacamole. Pair these chicken tenders with a big green salad, and you have a fast-food meal that’s not all that terrible.
6. McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Tenders
Not to be outdone by Wendy’s, McDonald’s has their own Buttermilk Crispy Tenders that will make you swoon. According to the restaurant’s website, these tenders are breaded and battered to perfection and made with all white chicken meat that contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. While this isn’t as good as organic, antibiotic-free chicken, it’s a good start for a fast food joint. Then the tenders are paired with a sweet and tangy signature dipping sauce. A four-piece order features 500 calories, 27 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbohydrates, and 39 grams of protein. Keep in mind that this nutrition information probably doesn’t include the dipping sauce, so you’ll want to tack on those calories if you indulge.
7. Starbucks Teavana® Shaken Pineapple Black Tea Infusion
If you’re looking to wet your whistle with something sweet yet healthy, then Starbucks has got you covered. The Teavana® Shaken Pineapple Black Tea Infusion features tropical pineapple flavors made from Starbucks botanical and fruit blend combined with their premium Teavana® black tea. Then, the tea is lightly sweetened with liquid cane sugar. It makes for a refreshing drink on a hot summer day. If you’re looking to cut down on the sugar, ask if you can have the drink made without the liquid sugar. If not, try asking for half water and half tea to cut down on calories. A grande sized order contains 45 calories, no fat, 11 grams of carbohydrates, and 25 to 30 mg of caffeine. Ingredients in the infusion include water, apples, natural flavors, licorice root, orange peels, citric acid and chamomile pollen.
8. Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Wrap
If you’re noticing a theme among fast food joints, it’s that chicken sandwiches and wraps are usually a safe bet. They contain fewer calories than hamburgers, and they tend to be leaner, too. The Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Wrap contains 370 calories, 2 grams of fiber (thanks to the wrap), 18 grams of protein and 20 grams of fat for the entire sandwich. They also have a Grilled Chicken Wrap that contains 270 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 20 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat for the perfect meal. The wraps come with a grilled chicken breast on a bed of lettuce, and cheddar cheese with smoky honey mustard sauce rolled up in a flour tortilla. It’s easy to eat on the go and won’t put a wrench in your dieting goals.
8. Taco Bell Chicken Soft Taco
For some people, finding healthy food at a Taco Bell is a late-night dream come true. The Taco Bell Chicken Soft Taco is an excellent choice to feed your hunger. It contains shredded chicken, lettuce, and cheese in a soft tortilla shell all for 170 calories per taco. You can even upgrade it by adding tomatoes, onions, guacamole, or black beans for a boost of fiber. If you’re starving, you can even get two or three tacos, and it would only cost you 510 calories, which is less than most burgers and fries combinations would be. The best part is that these tacos are $1.99 each, so you won’t break the bank trying to cash in on some healthy fast-food.
10. Starbucks Smoked Turkey Protein Box
As far as fast food goes, Starbucks is another fairly healthy restaurant where you’re likely to find something good on the go. The Smoked Turkey Protein Box features three small sandwiches that are made with applewood smoked turkey (raised without antibiotics), swiss cheese, pickled peppers, lettuce and tangy cream cheese. The sandwiches are paired with apple slices and baby carrots, so you get something that not many fast food options offer: fresh fruits and vegetables! Each serving contains 360 calories, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, no trans fat, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of protein. Try pairing this meal with one of their tea infusions for a lunch you can feel good about.
11. Arby’s Roast Turkey Chophouse Salad
If you’re trying to eat low-carb, then a salad is the perfect meal for you. But some salads can be really boring or lackluster. Not this Arby’s Roast Turkey Chophouse Salad. It’s flavorful and filling and features tasty ingredients such as roast turkey, shredded cheddar cheese, pepper bacon, mixed lettuce greens, shredded iceberg lettuce, and chopped tomatoes. A 285-gram serving contains 230 calories, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 22 grams of protein. Pair this salad with one of Arby’s brewed ice teas for a low-calorie lunch without even getting out of your car.
12. Panera Bread Vegan Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl
Need a vegan dish for lunch or dinner and don’t want a boring salad? Check out this Vegan Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl from Panera Bread. It features organic brown rice and quinoa, a lentil blend, fresh kale and spinach, tomato sofrito with a lemon wheel in Panera’s soy-miso broth. It’s filling, tasty, fresh and healthy- just like most of the dishes on Panera’s menu. The bowl contains 270 calories, 7 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of plant-based protein. The fiber in this dish is key. Unlike other fast-food joints, Panera knows that fiber helps keep you full for longer, which helps you eat less so you can achieve your weight loss goals. You also get flavonoids, B vitamins and antioxidants from this plant-based dish to help reduce inflammation and leave you feeling great afterward.
13. KFC Kentucky Grilled Chicken
Craving some finger-lickin’ good chicken but don’t want to feel weighed down after eating all that fried food? Try a bucket of Kentucky grilled chicken. One drumstick contains 90 calories, no carbohydrates, and 4 grams of fat. The chicken is marinated and seasoned to perfection and then slowly grilled for a perfect juicy finish, according to KFC’s website. A small bucket comes with two large sides and four biscuits. Skip out on the biscuits and choose green beans and seasoned potato wedges as your sides. Wash it down with an unsweetened iced tea. Share the bucked with a coworker to make sure you don’t overeat and you’ll gain a friend without gaining inches to your waistline.
14. Pizza Hut Veggie’s Lovers Personal Pan Pizza
Picture this. You’re on your way home from work, and you’re starving. You don’t have a lot of cash in your pocket, but you need to pick up something for dinner. Pizza seems like the perfect choice (doesn’t it always though?), but you’re worried about wrecking your diet. Here’s an idea. Get the Pizza Hut Veggie’s Lovers Personal Pan Pizza and eat half tonight and half tomorrow as your lunch. One slice of pizza contains 140 calories, so you can eat two without feeling guilty. The Veggie’s Lovers pizza comes with Roma tomatoes, black olives, red onions, green bell peppers, and mushrooms. Throw in a large tossed salad for some greens, and you’re good to go.
15. Tim Hortons Chicken Fajita Grilled Wrap
Tim Horton’s isn’t just a place to grab a coffee or tea on the way to work anymore. They have a decent menu that doesn’t just taste good. Some items are even good for you, like the Chicken Fajita Grilled Wrap. It contains 430 calories for the entire wrap along with 19 grams of fat, 39 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 28 grams of protein, 40 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, 35 percent of your daily calcium needs, and 15 percent for iron. Need something for breakfast to go with that coffee? Skip the donut or bagel and try a mixed berry oatmeal bowl for 210 calories, 3 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.
16. Subway Black Forest Ham Sandwich
Need something for lunch for don’t want a chicken sandwich? Try a Black Forest Ham Sandwich from Subway. A six-inch sandwich contains two servings of vegetables. It contains 290 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber 18 grams of protein and 30 percent of your daily recommended calcium intake. Not to mention it has 25 percent of your vitamin C requirements, 20 percent of vitamin A, and 15 percent of iron. Other good options at subway include the turkey breast and spinach wrap, the sweet onion chicken teriyaki sandwich, and the rotisserie style chicken salad. Ask for extra veggies whenever possible and try a side of apple slices instead of chips.
17. Jimmy John’s Turkey Tom Sub Sandwich
Jimmy John’s promises to deliver your food to you in a freaky fast manner, so why not sit back and let the healthy food come to you for once? Try the six-inch Turkey Tom Sub Sandwich with fresh sliced turkey topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a delicious sub bread. It contains 505 calories, 19.5 grams of fat, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, and 25 grams of protein. Want to make this sandwich even healthier? Order it as a lettuce wrap instead of on bread to cut down on carbs. Ask for some sprouts for a bit of a health boost and tasty addition to your sandwich. You can also have them hold the mayo and use avocado instead.
18. Taco Bell Black Bean Burrito
Eating more plants is something everyone can benefit from, especially if you’re in a hurry and only have a few bucks in your pocket. The Taco Bell Black Bean Burrito is packed full of black beans, seasoned rice, red sauce and a three cheese blend, all packed into a flour tortilla. It’s about as filling as you can get for $2.29. This burrito contains 390 calories per wrap, along with 11 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein. You can upgrade it by taking on some guacamole, chicken, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. Or try ordering it without the sauce to cut down on some of the calories and sugar. If you’re going vegan, ask for no cheese.
19. Starbucks Za’atar Chicken & Lemon Tahini Salad
The Starbucks Za’atar Chicken & Lemon Tahini Salad features slow-cooked herbed chicken and a nutty Za’atar spice, which belongs to the same family as oregano. The salad also comes with hearty ancient grains, marinated carrots, chunky cucumber tzatziki, and lemon tahini dressing. This meal is served over a bed of chopped romaine lettuce. The best part is that the chicken contains no antibiotics, which is harmful because it has been shown to cause resistance to certain antibiotics in humans. In other words, eating meat that includes a bunch of antibiotics means that the medication won’t work as well for you should you ever need it. The salad contains 460 calories per serving with 25 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, and 21 grams of protein.